It was only a few years ago that Som Kanjanaporn Bartlett, from Thailand, and her husband Joe K. Bartlett, from Texas, USA, rescued their very first stray dog, Pocky. Abandoned at a local temple, the dog was suffering from serious skin problems. Charmed by her friendly personality and her incredible intelligence, the couple took her in and nursed her back to health.
Though Pocky was saved, Joe and Som couldn’t ignore the fact that hundreds of other sick or injured dogs were still wandering the streets, helpless and alone.
Their passion becomes a mission
So, the dog-loving couple started taking more and more strays in, until their home was over-flowing with canines.
Soon, Som and Joe realised they couldn’t keep taking care of the dogs by themselves. Natalie Thomas and Mikey Lawlor, friends of the couple working at the Green Acres Animal Rescue of Wales, suggested they create a foundation to help fund the work they were doing.
And so, the Hope for Strays Foundation was created. Today, the large gated area in East Pattaya currently holds 197 dogs, 39 of which are living in Som and Joe’s house, due to lack of space at the shelter.
Som, who now runs the shelter, explained just a few of the things the Foundation does for dogs: “We spay or neuter them with help from the Soi Dog Foundation. We also vaccinate them, check them for any diseases, and treat them for ticks.”
“We do street work as well as in-house care,” adds Lottie, a regular volunteer at the shelter.
Indeed, due to lack of space, only the animals that are truly in need are taken into the shelter. Despite this, Som goes out every morning to feed the strays that are still roaming the streets.
Those that are taken in are often orphaned puppies, dogs with serious wounds or infections that need treatment, as well as animals having been left paralysed after being hit by cars (unfortunately a common occurrence there).
A stray dog population that is ever-growing
Strays are everywhere in Thailand. When we asked Som why, the explanation was simple: “Thai people have dogs, but they don’t neuter or spay them. So, when they have puppies, they just go dump them around, and so they just become more strays.”
Lottie added: “In Thailand, they have dogs as pets, but their idea of pets is very different from how Western people think of pets. They kind of have them outside as guard dogs.”
“We had a dog recently who had an owner, who got hit by a car, and it’s spine completely snapped in half, and became paralysed. The owner saw the accident, but immediately wanted nothing to do with it, because it’s expensive and it’s a lot of work taking care of a paralysed dog. So, we have that dog now!”
While the number of dogs at the shelter continues to rise, the amount of dogs coming out isn’t so high: “We have about 20 adopters per year,” Som told Wamiz.
In fact, despite a large majority of the dogs at the shelter having been cleared for adoption, only 1 was adopted in the last 2 months.
An arm and a leg for hundreds of dogs
Joe and Som feel it is their duty to help the strays in Pattaya. But this is evidently very costly, both financially and emotionally.
Including the cost of water, electric, food, vet bills, and paying the staff, it costs about 150,000 baht (£3,737) a month to run the shelter.
“About 30% of our funds come from donations but the rest comes from my husband. He’s 72 years old now but he’s gone back to work,” Som explained.
To make matters even more challenging, the dog to staff ratio is quite un-even: “We only have two staff at the shelter. We don’t have much volunteers either,” she says, looking to Lottie with a smile.
Lottie, from Surrey, England, came to Thailand with her partner Connor to teach English. Both being huge animal lovers, it wasn’t long before they found out about Hope for Strays. Now, they spend their days off doing what they can for the Foundation.
“It’s so rewarding. Obviously, at times it can be emotionally tolling, but it’s definitely worth it. Through the struggles, it’s worth it to know that you’re helping a dog become healthy, or to know that you’re helping to fix a much bigger problem.”
We can all help save the strays
Hope for Strays needs more space to house the dogs in need, more volunteers to help in caring for them, and more donations to help pay for everything from food and vaccinations, to wheelchairs for their paralysed residents.
“Just £20 can pay for 3 months of blood parasite pills – it covers all of the pills. So even a tiny donation like £5 would take care of a bunch of pills that these dogs have to have daily. A tiny donation goes a long way,” Lottie said.
With a few more helping hands and the right funding, Som hopes to attain her ultimate goal: “that we won’t see as many stray dogs here in the future.”
If you would like to see the shelter for yourself (visitors, volunteers, and students are always welcome!), you can visit their website here.
If you would like to donate to help Joe and Som save the strays, you can do so through this Paypal link.
We thank Som, Joe, and all their wonderful staff and volunteers for their hard work and dedication to helping the stray dogs of Pattaya, and wish them the best of luck in the future.