Samui Wining & Dining
Pet Loves
The Dog Rescue Centre eases the plight of stray animals
on Samui – with the help of volunteers and donations.

 

Pet Loves“It’s a 25-hour day,” says Werner Gomm, who, with his wife Brigitte, runs the Dog Rescue Centre on Samui. “We start at nine and finish after midnight, and that’s still not enough time.”

 

The Centre is the only place on the island caring for the many stray dogs and cats here. It’s a hectic place where dogs are everywhere and there’re cats snoozing on the chairs. Werner and Brigitte are based at the Chaweng centre, where there are about a hundred dogs, but the main centre at Ban Taling Ngam has over 300 dogs and around a hundred cats. The Dog Rescue Centre looks after them all.

 

Stray dogs have always been around on Samui. In 1999, when Werner and Brigitte opened the centre as a small clinic in Chaweng, the stray dog population on Samui was increasing by an estimated 10,000 puppies a year and there were ten times as many dogs on the island as there are now. These huge numbers were ‘managed’ by poisoning the dogs, and those that weren’t poisoned often died agonising deaths from infection, disease and accidents.

 

And then Werner and Brigitte arrived on the island. They were both travellers, never normally wanting to go to the same place twice, but Samui was, “Maybe somewhere we could live,” Werner says. Whilst they were thinking about returning long term, Brigitte had a brain stroke and was given only a ten per cent chance of survival. When she recovered, she and Werner decided to stay on Samui and help their friend, Dutch woman Danny van Urk, help the stray dogs here.

 

“At the time, everyone was talking about how bad it was for the dogs here, but no-one was doing anything and there were no vets here,” Werner says. “It was just talk talk talk. So we thought, don’t talk, just do. We got a motorbike, hired a vet to come down from Bangkok, and opened a clinic. With this, we thought we could save the world.”

 

The Dog Rescue Centre is now a vital part of the island, and a well-known charity on Samui. It’s been covered in documentaries and in newspapers from Germany to Canada, and has had dozens of volunteers working for it from all over the world. From those small beginnings in 1999, the centre now employs 18 full-time staff, and started taking in cats in 2002. Its aims are to vaccinate all dogs and cats on the island against rabies, neuter all stray dogs and cats, treat dogs suffering from mange, de-worm all dogs and cats, and to treat all strays that are injured or sick and give them somewhere to recover and rest.

 

But, as Werner points out, caring for all those dogs and cats is an expensive business.

“We need around 500,000 baht a month,” he informs. “Between 100,000 and 150,000 of that is for medicine for the animals, and we also have to pay our staff, buy 5,000 kg of food for the dogs and cats, pay for gasoline, pay rent, pay for repairs and construction ... it’s a lot of money.”

 

It’s a lot of time, too. The staff and volunteers start their day at nine, cleaning the big compounds at both centres and giving medicine to any dog or cat that needs it; usually around a hundred at any one time. Wounds have to be cleaned and overgrown nails clipped. In the afternoons, spare food is collected from restaurants which donate to the centre. Once the staff and volunteers finish their day at 6:00 pm, Brigitte and Werner work on, answering emails, writing press releases and doing the day-to-day admin needed to look after 400 animals.

 

Two long-term volunteers, Jay and Linda, also go around the temples once a week, providing medical treatment to dogs and cats living there, giving vaccinations, and treating conditions such as mange. Antibiotics often have to be given to animals twice a day, which is when the monks at the temple help out. All the animals have to be healthy and vaccinated before coming to the centre for neutering and spaying.

 

And neutering is a big part of the work at the Dog Rescue Centre. Werner says they neuter or spay six animals a day, six days a week. After the operation, the animals stay at the centre for at least a week until they’re recovered. Tourists contact the centre about stray dogs in their area, or drop them off outside to be found in the morning, and the centre also relies on locals to bring as many strays to it as possible. Bringing all these strays in, every day and every year since 1999, has drastically cut the stray dog population on Samui and stopped a lot of suffering in the process.

 

So, how can someone help this essential centre? Well, whilst volunteers are always welcome, Werner says that the most useful thing is cash donations. “Sometimes people bring food for the dogs and, of course, that’s very welcome, but with that money we could buy twice the amount of food,” he says. “Any help is very welcome, but cash is what we really need.”

 

Having said that, Werner and Brigitte are also happy to have some helping hands at both shelters. You can call just for a few hours, or work there for a month or a year; all that’s needed is a willingness to help. Fundraising when back home is another way to help out, or you could do what several tourists and volunteers have done over the years, and take a dog or cat from the centre back to your home country. Hoppy, a dog from Koh Tao, is now living in sunny California, whilst former stray dog, Simba, now lives in Germany. You can also be a ‘godparent’ and foster one of the animals, or sponsor one of the dogs or cats living in Ban Taling Ngam for around 650 baht a month.

 

Whatever you want to do – adopt, sponsor, donate or volunteer – everything helps. And Werner, Brigitte and 400 dogs and cats will thank you.

 

Laura Canning

 


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