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Hello! I am thrilled to introduce my first SPOTLIGHT feature focusing on the incredible Soi Dog Foundation and Marketing Team Leader, Steff. I first heard of Soi Dog thanks to their help when my own dog, Hastings Alyosha, needed medical treatment after being rescued from a dog meat slaughterhouse. We’ve been grateful ever since and so I was thrilled to connect with Steff so I could share some more about Soi Dog with you all. Enjoy!
Steff, How did you get involved with SOI DOG?
I was heavily involved with animal rescue in my home country of England, and had always planned to visit the Soi Dog shelter during my backpacking trip round Asia. I was already aware of Soi Dog Foundation and had always wanted to see their work first hand.
Once I arrived, I quickly realised it would be difficult to leave! I volunteered for 8 weeks before a paid opportunity arose within the Fundraising Team. I was over the moon when I found out I was successful, as I had never planned on moving to Thailand permanently but it was an opportunity I could not let pass me by.
A year later, I then moved onto my current position as Marketing Team Leader.
Many folks think we should be focusing on dogs and cats in our local shelters and communities. How do you answer the need to help the dogs and cats in Asia?
Soi Dog Foundation is based and operational in Thailand. We adopt many dogs and cats into loving homes here every year. We also adopt dogs and cats into loving homes throughout Europe, Canada, the US, and other countries around the world.
Ultimately, it is up to an individual whether they choose to adopt a rescue dog or cat from an organization abroad or from within their home country, e.g., the US.
Many of the dogs and cats in our care have endured a great deal of trauma and suffering, as a result of years spent struggling to survive on the streets. Others have been rescued from the dog meat trade, which involves brutal torture prior to killing dogs for their meat. Still others were rescued from neglect and abuse situations. Because spay/neuter is relatively uncommon in Thailand (though we are actively trying to change that and to date have sterilised more than 315,000 dogs and cats), there is an enormous stray dog problem. In Bangkok, for example, there are approximately 640,000 stray dogs. This means that many dogs are born on the streets into a lifetime of suffering.
Many people who choose to adopt from another country, such as the US, do so because they want to give a second chance to a dog or cat who has suffered significantly. It is not uncommon for our adopters to also have rescue dogs and cats from local shelters as well. In other words, they care about saving the lives of animals both locally and internationally.
Have you adopted from SOI DOG? How was the transition for your dog/cat?
I am a hospice carer for dogs at the shelter. This means I care for ones who are terminally ill to give them life in a home for their final chapter.
I currently have two. Pola is a 7 year old pitbull mix with lung cancer, and Fides is a 10 year old boxer mix with skin cancer and a problem with her hind leg so she struggles to walk. They both settled in right away! Pola did have an owner previously so was already house trained and used to a lead etc. Fides was a street dog so it took a while for her to understand the house was not a toilet!
Seeing them happy in a home far outweighs the sadness I feel when they pass, although palliative care is definitely not for everyone as it can be very difficult.
How do dogs and cats get to the UK if they cannot be flown there with flight volunteers?
For animals to be adopted to the UK from Soi Dog, they travel on a journey we call the ‘Super Six.’
This is a long and complicated journey which is why flight volunteers can’t be used, and instead only experienced members of shelter staff. Two members of staff accompany six dogs as this fits with regulation limits for the flight from Phuket to Bangkok, then Bangkok to Amsterdam.
Once in Amsterdam they are met by kind volunteers who host them for the evening with all 6 dogs.
The next afternoon, they travel by ferry to the UK, and meet the adopters at Harwich port.
It takes around 48 hours in total and this journey happens around 6 times a year depending on the amount of animals that are adopted to the UK.
I have done this trip myself, and it was one of the most fantastic experiences of my life. I will never forget the emotional feeling when we walked through the doors in the UK greeted by excited adopters ready to embark on a new journey with the animals.
SOI DOG has been fortunate to have the backing of celebrities such as Dame Judi Dench, Laura Carmichael, Ricky Gervais. Were they paid for their appearance in the SOI DOG video advertisement?
No, they were not paid in any way. They offered to feature in our video as they are compassionate towards animals and want to see the end of the dog meat trade as soon as possible.
Can you tell us a bit about your team at SOI DOG?
There are around 250 paid staff who work for SDF, and many volunteers. The marketing team consists of 7 people who are all very talented and compassionate towards animals. We have a graphic designer, a photographer, a PR person, a person who deals with admin, and three people who design merchandise, the brand and marketing campaigns along with social media.
What is your most pressing need for volunteers at SOI DOG?
Volunteers are absolutely essential and are the true hero’s at the shelter. Their primary role is to walk and socialise the animals. This is very important to finding them new homes.
We also have volunteer vets and vet nurses who assist in the hospital, and many volunteers around the world who provide home-checks, assistance to adopters and fundraising events.
All of our board members are also volunteers.
What advise do you have for anyone who feels called to make a difference by starting their own non profit or charity?
While the knee jerk reaction to animal suffering is often to set up a shelter, shelters are very expensive, limited in their capacity, and once they are full they are full. Shelters may need to be registered as well with the government, depending on your location. I’d urge you to consider programs which involve curtailing the stray dog population issue such as a spay/neuter program, community outreach/education program, or potential [sic] a low-cost clinic.