There are at least 100,000 stray dogs in Bangkok alone, city officials are focusing their meagre manpower on key tourist sites and venues for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
“We don’t want these dogs to embarrass our leaders. We’re catching them and taking them up country,” said city official Sompop Chatraporn, who heads a team of 70 canine catchers.
Armed with burlap nets fixed to long wooden polls, Chatraporn’s men caught about 40 dogs sleeping under cars, hiding in parks and loitering outside busy shops on Monday.
“Don’t catch him, don’t catch him! He’s blind,” pleaded a sympathetic woman as one ageing hound was chased by city workers who can earn up to 30 baht ($0.75) per stray.
“They will get food and live the rest of their lives”
Younger, more street-wise dogs slipped through the dragnet.
“They have this instinct when they see us coming in the truck, they run away,” said Sompop, who aims to catch more than 1000 dogs before the 17-21 October summit.
It’s a dog’s life
Last year, Bangkok authorities went high-tech with a plan to put microchip implants in pet dogs carrying data about their owners to prevent them from abandoning their pets. But the legislation is still bogged down in debate, says Sompop.
In this latest crackdown, the dogs will be sterilised, vaccinated and driven to a government compound near the Thai-Cambodia border.
“They will get food and live the rest of their lives,” Sompop said.
Thailand has millions of homeless dogs, but unlike most countries, it does not kill them because Buddhists revere all forms of life.
In July, a Bangkok street vendor who confessed to poisoning 48 dogs living in a Buddhist temple because they stole his lunch was charged with cruelty to animals and fined $20.