Bangkok to Halt Roundups, Take New Approach to Stray Animals

Sick animals packed into cages at a government animal shelter in December at Bangkok's Prawet district. Photo: Watchdog Thailand / Courtesy
Sick animals packed into cages at a government animal shelter in December at Bangkok's Prawet district. Photo: Watchdog Thailand / Courtesy

BANGKOK — Bangkok’s governor on Tuesday promised new policies to address stray animals in the capital, signaling an end to transporting them to shelters where thousands have died.

Acknowledging that its public animal shelters lack the space to accommodate all strays, Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang said local administors have been asked to work with private animal organizations to regularly vaccinate and sterilize the animals instead of shipping them off to the city’s sole shelter in Prawet district.

Speaking after a meeting today with groups including Watchdog Thailand, The Voice Foundation, Soi Dog and The Hope Thailand; Aswin said animals that are snipped and vaccinated would be tagged and set free. He expects the administration will be able to process 600 dogs and cats per week.

Read: Cats & Dogs Die by Hundreds in Disease-Infested Bangkok Shelter

The Prawet shelter is able to hold up to 1,000 animals, while another one in Uthai Thani province can accommodate 8,000, Aswin said. That’s just a fraction of the dog population, which Aswin conservatively estimated to be 150,000.

John Dalley of the Soi Dog Foundation welcomed the announcement, as the policy is aligned with what his organization has long advocated for controlling the street animal population.

“It’s a very positive move,” he said. “It’s the only that will work.”

A network of animal welfare groups assailed the city in November after it resumed the roundup of strays across the capital, citing complaints. City Hall later backtracked after being threatened with legal action.

Pictures and videos taken inside the Prawet shelter last month showed sick cats and dogs packed in small cages. Watchdog said hundreds were killed within weeks by various diseases contracted in the shelter.

Public animal shelters are often called out by animal rights groups over mismanagement, poor treatment and a lack of proper equipment, resulting in large numbers of animals dying once sent there. A Khaosod reporter in May found a mass grave at a shelter in Nakhon Phanom province after animal activists alleged thousands had died there after being rounded up due to a rabies scare.

Going forward, City Hall will only catch those that are too dangerous to be let loose in communities, Aswin said. He added that they will undergo some kind of expert training before being set free.

According to Aswin, new protocols for handling strays will be drafted, and private-sector shelters will be allowed to open. He said the new policies should make an impact on the population of stray dogs and cats within two years.