PHUKET: Representatives from just five of the island's 13 local government bodies attended a meeting yesterday morning to address the island’s long-standing stray dog problem. At the meeting it was also announced that dog owners in two areas can now apply for “passports” for registered pets.
The low-key meeting, held at Phuket Provincial Hall and chaired by Phuket Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura, was organized by the Phuket Provincial Livestock Office (PPLO), which was represented by its Chief, Sunart Wongchawalit.
Only four or five people were present at the start of the meeting, including representatives from the Tambon Administration Organizations (OrBorTor) of Mai Khao and Sakoo, along with Kata-Karon Municipality. Representatives of Wichit and Rawai OrBorTor arrived later.
Notably absent were representatives of the many animal welfare organizations on the island, who were not invited to the gathering.
Gov Udomsak stressed the need to control the number of strays at beaches and temples, saying that they pose a threat to tourism.
“I get complaints from many tourists who are afraid of stray dogs roaming the beaches. It’s no laughing matter if a tourist gets bitten, because we have a tourism-based economy and we must ensure that it is safe for tourists here,” he said.
“The province will do what it can, but in the end success will come down to the effort of each local government body,” he said, looking with resignation at the many empty chairs in the room.
Weekly round-ups of strays will take place on Fridays, starting on January 13 in the Chalong Bay area. There will be 13 round-ups altogether.
The PPLO expects to remove some 380 strays from 12 beaches (Chalong, Rawai, Nai Harn, Kata, Karon, Patong, Kamala, Surin, Bang Tao, Nai Thon, Nai Yang and Sai Kaew) and 330 more from Phuket’s 11 main temples.
PPLO officials working with the relevant local government bodies will use tranquillizer guns to capture strays from beaches, which will then be taken to the Mid-Road Dog Shelter in Thalang for sterilization. Those rounded up at temples will be sterilized on site.
K. Sunart told the Gazette after the meeting that the Governor had limited the number of strays that the shelter could hold to 500.
There are currently 420-430 animals housed there, he said.
The shelter had enough resources to care for this number of animals. Some 200,000 baht has already been approved by the Governor under his discretionary CEO budget, and additional funds have been made available by the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) and private sector donations, he said.
He could not say when the 200,000 baht would actually be made available to the PPLO, however.
K. Sunart denied that any animals would be put down to accommodate new arrivals.
“If the number reaches 500 we’ll stop the round-ups,” he said.
It is unknown just how many strays there are on the island, but a survey conducted last year by the PPLO estimated the number at about 3,500.
Gov Udomsak said that special emphasis would be put on controlling stray dog populations in the north of the island, in Mai Khao and Sakoo Tambons, and that the Tah Chat Chai checkpoint would be monitored closely to prevent any new dogs from getting onto the island.
K. Sunart also told the meeting that the Livestock Department has approved Phuket as a pilot province for a “passport project”, under which all registered pet dogs would be implanted with microchips and issued with a permit by the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives that would allow the animal to travel internationally with its owners.
He said that Phuket was chosen because it is a small province and an island, which should make it easier to control the stray dog population and to microchip all registered dogs.
The project will begin in Sakoo and Mai Khao Tambons, the meeting heard.
When asked what role animal welfare groups would play in the effort to control the stray dog population, K. Sunart said he said he hoped they would help to publicize the need for owners to register their pets and to have them sterilized.