Social media critics this week roundly condemned an animal lover pictured dining out with his pet dog at a public restaurant. The clip showed a cute chow chow, seated at a table, being fed morsels of food and lapping from a regular water glass. The critics rightly slammed it as unhygienic and the restaurant has apologised. But if that incident had a satisfactory ending, the week also brought a grim reminder that pampered pooches are in the minority here. Had it not been for quick action by police in Nakhon Phanom, 1,200 other dogs would likely have ended up on the menus of food shops in Vietnam.
They were being inhumanely transported in cramped cages in scorching heat on the back of trucks and were dehydrated and in poor medical condition when the convoy was intercepted. Their number will almost certainly include stolen pets because dog smugglers do not discriminate between pets and strays. The survivors will now join more than 2,000 other dogs in the province's animal quarantine centre which lacks sufficient funds to properly care for them. They will also have to contend with a lack of skilled veterinary care and shelter from the elements. Little of a deterrent nature will happen to the dog traffickers as the law banning the export of dogs for meat carries a maximum two-year jail sentence and 40,000-baht fine.
Many of Thailand's canine problems are rooted in overpopulation and humans bear collective responsibility for allowing matters to get out of control, creating so many strays or "community" dogs. The relationship usually starts off well with an adorable puppy catching someone's eye and subsequently gaining a name, a nice home and an owner with whom it bonds. A year or so later the puppy has grown into a boisterous dog with a bothersome bark, the cuteness factor has waned and the owner is losing interest as vaccination, vet care, registration and microchipping charges and food costs mount. Now the household pet has entered a danger zone. It could be doomed to become a stray through no fault of its own and destined for a life of trauma and hardship.
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