The location of my small apartment in Patong, Phuket Thailand is situated next to a vet surgery. I often sit on my balcony watching a procession of pet owners dropping off & collecting their pets, mostly dogs of all breeds.
I've been fascinated at the ways in which the animals are transported, which is for the most part on a motorcycle with their owner/s. Sometimes they are in a small plastic basket (cats mostly) while larger dogs are often standing on the base plate of the motorcycle without a collar or any type of method for securing the animal. How they make it to the Vet is a mystery in & of itself.
Wikipedia defines animal euthanasia (euthanasia from Greek: εὐθανασία; 'good death' as the act of putting an animal to death or allowing it to die by withholding extreme medical measures. In the context of domestic animals (pets) for the purposes of this article I will restrict the definition to the below extract of the article.
It cites the reasons for euthanasia to include; incurable or especially painful conditions or diseases or lack of resources to continue supporting the animal. Euthanasia methods are designed to cause minimal pain & distress.
Euthanasia in many societies is considered distinct from animal slaughter & pest control, although in some cases the procedure is the same. In domesticated animals this process is commonly referred to by euphemisms such as 'put down' or 'put to sleep'.
Pet Euthanasia In Western Society
In the context of a western society the above definition for the most part rings true however in many parts of Asia this is far from the case. In Thailand for example, Buddhism plays a significant role in Thai culture & society with over 94% of the population identifying as followers of the religion whose beliefs differ in many ways from other religions including Christian & Catholic for example.
As a consequence, many day to day activities are practiced differently to that which expats now living in Thailand may expect. Once such enigma is often played out when a family pet becomes old or very sick & the decision is made to put a much-loved pet to sleep in order to relive it of any further suffering. The animal may have contracted rabies, been involved in a car accident or simply become old & unable to cope with the classic symptoms of old age.
Oh, the humiliation!
Many expats bring their family pets when relocating to Thailand while others may choose to acquire a new furry companion when they arrive here. Most are oblivious to the potential conflict in the beliefs around euthanasia in Thai society.
Buddhism practice relates that karma plays a significant part in the decision making process of Thai society including that the taking of a life will remain with them in their future lives, no matter if the act was carried out as a compassionate measure or otherwise. As a result, it can be extremely difficult to find a veterinarian to euthanize a family pet once the decision has been made by the family.
In Buddhism taking a life, any life is prohibited which can make things difficult for many practicing Buddhist pet care professionals. Most refuse to euthanize pets no matter the level of suffering they are experiencing, fearing their ability to prevent the animal from suffering will prevent the animal from extinguishing their karma, leading to a poor rebirth.
A small minority of pet care professionals may consider performing euthanasia with the knowledge that they have to accept the taking on of the negative karma may impact their own rebirth. In consideration of a Vet for example, this may be many hundreds of deaths throughout their entire career. A burden which many are not prepared to carry.
This makes euthanasia a big issue with Buddhist pet caregivers. Some Buddhists just like the Thai Buddhists allow their pet suffer to their last breath no matter how severe the pain is due to teachings which include 'to cut short an animal's suffering prevents them from extinguishing their karma leading to poor rebirth'.
Other Buddhists unable to cope with the pain their beloved pet is enduring, might consider euthanasia with the understanding that they are taking on the negative karma of taking a life.
In Thailand many Vets refuse to engage in the practice of 'death' with many selling the drugs used to euthanize the pet to the pet owners with instructions on how to complete the task themselves.
Some Thai people without the means to pay for expensive medication for their pets will often deliver their pets to a nearby temple with the knowledge their pet will be fed & looked after by the resident monks, until their death has come. This provides comfort to many pet owners knowing their pet will be granted a new & better life in the future.
Any first-time visitor to Thailand will quickly notice the number of dogs & cats roaming the streets. During the daytime hours soi dogs are generally placid as they doze off in the humid weather on the sidewalks or near shops or on the sandy beaches where they may be rewarded with some food by strangers or vendors. Worst case, they may wait for the rubbish to be put out on the street & rip open the plastic rubbish bag to find any edible treats inside.
Source/Credit: Pattaya Unlimited
Dogs of all sizes cruise the streets looking for food & the danger periods for coming into contact with these animals is during the early morning hours & at night, where often times they form into packs roaming the streets & challenging anyone or anything that comes within their territory. The internet is filled with examples of people who have been attacked by the dogs, where they inevitably come off second best. Many of these dogs have rabies which can present additional problems well beyond a superficial injury.
Conversely the web is also filled with suggestions of how not to get bitten by a soi dog, such as this one by Zebraman on YouTube.
There are a number of animal rescue organizations who are doing all they can to counter this ever-increasing problem including the Soi Dog Foundation amongst many others.
The foundation treats the animals in conjunction with external services including local Vet surgeries to treat conditions including Distemper, Parvovirus infection, sarcoptic and demodectic mange & canine transmissible tumors (TVT). These diseases which are rarely seen in the west remain prevalent conditions throughout Thailand. Other common cases include infected wounds, fractures due to vehicular accidents, various skin diseases and tick-borne diseases. The foundation estimates they usually have 150-200 dogs & approximately 100 cats in treatment at any one time.
In my personal experience, the best way to protect yourself from a soi dog attack it to avoid them altogether. I'd much rather back away from a potential territorial scrap with a pack of wild dogs than take the risk.
Many times now I've employed this strategy even if it means taking a longer, less preferred route to reach my destination on foot. Don't approach the dogs or attempt to pet them like this guy did or feed them, it could end badly for you.