Friday, October 12, 2012

Pet Dog Abandonment and Temples in Thailand

In The Phuket Gazette (here) the abbot of a local temple answers a question from a casual carer about why some dogs apparently disappear from the temple grounds. His answer explains how some may wander away on their own accord as their movements are unrestrained while others may get adopted. He also clearly shows the genuine care that such temples give to stray dogs (and other animals) as illustrated by the following few quotes: “we feed them every day”, “a place to stay”, “We are always kind and sympathetic when we deal with them” and “The temple grounds are considered an animal sanctuary”. And this attitude is repeated in thousands of other Buddhist temples across the country.

However, this in itself is a big part of the problem in Thailand because everybody knows it to be the case. If people have become bored of their pet dog or behavioural problems have developed they can apparently abandon the animal at a temple and leave with a clear conscience knowing that their once-loved companion will get some level of care. And many, many people do exactly this with little or no sense of guilt.

But the level of care that a temple can offer is rudimentary and a situation quickly develops where a large number of dogs live in a comparatively small space, surviving on a poor diet of leftover rice, often with no healthcare. Perfect conditions for diseases and parasites to rage like wildfire. In my experience the mangiest dogs are almost always living in temples.

So, inadvertently, the temples are encouraging abandonment of pets often into a life of suffering.

But just to be clear: the problem lies with the attitude of the abandoners not with the actions of the temples.

My suggestion would be that temples (and others) focus more on encouraging pet owners to accept the responsibility of care that they have taken on. For example, notices could be displayed in temple grounds explaining the limitations of temple care and giving advice on looking after a pet dog that could avoid some of the problems that lead to abandonment. Paired photographs of a recently abandoned pet and the same dog in deteriorated condition a few months later could have a strong impression on potential abandoners. At the very least it may encourage them to donate something towards better care.

Learn more about the lives and issue of unowned dogs in my e-book ”A Stray View” available from Bangkok Books (readable as .pdf on any computer)

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