John and Jill Dalley, of the UK, are the founders of Soi Dog Foundation (SDF) in Thailand, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving the stray dogs and cats of the nation. “Soi” is a Thai word for “side street,” a place where these abandoned animals wander aimlessly day and night. The Dalleys have devoted the last decade of their lives fighting for justice and humanity in the animal welfare sector.
Describe the process of how SDF was birthed.
Soi Dog Foundation began in 2003 when my wife and I decided to do something for the community after coming to Thailand for a number of years on holiday. We’d like to put something back into the community. Nearly all [the dogs] were hairless or semi-hairless and nothing was seemingly done about it. We met a Dutch lady who had been living in Bangkok. She was keen to do something similar in Phuket so we joined forces. Working hard we sterilized a thousand dogs in the beginning through a spay neuter program. My wife Jill lost both of her legs trying to rescue a sedated dog that would have perished in a buffalo field a year after SDF was started.
What do you like about your work?
Seeing the difference you make. You can get dogs in horrendous conditions. Seeing those dogs released [from bondage] many of them get a new chance of life from the dog meat trade. You can’t turn away and let it all go to dust. We were able to raise badly needed funding early on and began to expand by 2005. Over the following years various things have happened. We established what is now the Soi Dog Foundation. Soi Dog has always been run and managed by volunteers at their own expense. It’s growing very rapidly by 50,000 followers a month via social media in the last few years. We have a full-time staff working on the illegal dog meat trade issue in Thailand.
How would you improve your contribution to the community?
Working with other animal welfare organizations to design a national soi dog day would be a good way to spread awareness about the issue to get more people involved in the fight to help the animals. Then this could result in curbing the proliferation of the dog population in Thailand. Also, getting the local livestock department to leave the animals where they are instead of relocating them. When you have that many neglected dogs, there’s nowhere to put them. So they must remain where they are once we can get them sterilized.
Describe a hurdle or failure you faced that deepened your commitment to your community.
Dealing with the local livestock department that removes the dogs has been an ongoing issue. This is a long-term project and the dogs should be left in place. Where are you going to put, nationwide, 10 million stray dogs? There are no shelters for them. Thai dogs make wonderful pets. I’d like to see a change in that situation. Thai people tend to gravitate toward foreign pets but neglect to see the value in their own domestic ones. We need more education and awareness that will help local people to understand the importance of taking care of the local pets. As a result, it will help to fix the widespread problem of these homeless animals.
Where do you envision SDF in coming years?
We can reproduce what we’re doing in Phuket now with the sterilization program. Expanding to other areas throughout Thailand could take a lot of investment. We just want to keep raising awareness about the issue in order to control the dog populations throughout the country. As well as continuing to improve the dog meat trade situation.
For more information about how to get involved and to learn more about the predicament of Thailand’s stray animals, visit www.soidog.org. New volunteers and sponsors are always welcome to assist in any way. The Soi Dog documentary can be viewed on the foundation’s website.