NAKHON PHANOM — The livestock department Saturday denied the situation inside a Nakhon Phanom rabies quarantine center is as bad as represented by a dog rescue foundation.
Sorravis Thaneto, director general of the livestock department said Saturday he would invite the press in to see if conditions are as bad as Soi Dog Foundation has said and also allow its vets inside the facility. The foundation has said many dogs that were taken to the shelter have died due to carelessness and neglect.
Recent photos and videos obtained Friday by Khaosod English showed emaciated, unhealthy animals, some with open wounds and others appearing to be dead or dying at the facility in the far northeast of Thailand.
“It’s better that the press see it for themselves. The press must see it for themselves if it’s as bad as claimed or not,” the director general said. “I was surprised that it was depicted as bad.”
He did not commit to setting a date for the visit.
Soi Dog founder John Dalley expressed disbelief at the denial.
The foundation believes thousands have died since the March rabies scare, and Dalley said the department’s claims the animals are fine – and that Soi Dog has “misunderstood” the situation – were “quite unbelievable.”
“Almost as crazy as his predecessor announcing that 80 percent of all Thailand’s dogs would be vaccinated by the end of May,” he said in a statement. “Clearly he has not visited himself or seen his own management figures.”
The director general said he has assigned senior veterinary officer Theerawut Sawathanachao to inspect the center next week. He said he would visit the center Thursday and that the press would be allowed on the site at a date yet to be specified. He denied that the delay in allowing the press inside was to allow them to clean up the evidence beforehand.
Theerawut said the dogs are not dying at the rate claimed by the foundation.
“As far as I know, this is not the case. Right now we only have one problem, which is many have been taken in and it’s not well managed in terms of cleanliness.”
The vet said there are currently 2,500 dogs at the center. He said there are two vets on site among seven officials and five more temporary workers hired to look after the dogs and cats. Theerawut said the temporary workers may not be as kind to the animals.
“They may not hug the dogs or give them love and feed them. [The foundation] may construe this as not giving love but there are many [dogs and cats] and love can take place in a different forms. Those people may make mistakes as they have to care for many. Instead of pointing a guilty finger at us, they should just talk to us,” the vet said.
Theerawut doubted whether the photos of dying, skeletal dogs were recent or actually taken at the site. He said he was puzzled by the latest claims, as the department works in tandem with the foundation.
The source who provided the photos to Khaosod English said about half were taken this past week. The rest were date-stamped April 18, as did the electronic metadata of the files. One photo clearly shows a shelter – empty and being used to store supplies – with a sign that says it is a Livestock Department quarantine facility in Nakhon Phanom.
Speaking on the phone from Phuket, Dalley said the foundation has received a green light from the department to fly in 14 of its staff – including two vets from Phuket and Bangkok – on Monday to the Nakhon Phanom center.
Dalley insisted that the information he received from his staff shows an average of 30 dogs were dying daily about three weeks ago, with the number since falling to 10 per day.
“Still, that is far too many. We are sending more vets up,” Dalley said, adding that the foundation will vaccinate the dogs and surviving number of cats.
Dalley said offers to have a team of vets from the Philippines and India flown in had not been approved. He said his team was given permission to come in Monday on the condition they did not take photos.
Dalley described the situation, saying some dogs had open, infected wounds that are not being treated.
He said the place was overcrowded, and that the animals were being starved, adding that weaker dogs could not access.
“A lot of them can’t get to food. Our aim is trying to save as many dogs and cats as possible,” he said, adding that there’s a lack of medicine to care for them. “They said they don’t have enough budget. They don’t have enough staff.”
Additional reporting Todd Ruiz