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article imageOvercrowded Thai dog shelter blames coronavirus for drop in donations

By AFP     Apr 6, 2020 in World

Cramped tooth and claw in vast cages, hundreds of dogs pass the day sleeping, fighting, or waiting to be fed at a controversial Thai shelter that does not believe in adoptions and blames a drop in donations on the coronavirus.

Launched in 2013, "Aunt Ju's Shelter for Stray Dogs" has long relied on donors to feed more than 2,000 stray canines and 300 cats living under their care.

Fights frequently erupt between the animals at Auntie Ju's shelteroutside Bangkok
Fights frequently erupt between the animals at Auntie Ju's shelteroutside Bangkok
Mladen ANTONOV, AFP

But there has been a massive decrease in donations in recent months, and they have taken to Facebook to appeal to animal lovers with photos of dogs in their crowded facilities.

"It may be... due to the COVID-19 outbreak that has made people donate less," caretaker Yutima Preechasuchart told AFP, during a recent visit to one of its sites in Pathumthani province, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from central Bangkok.

A caretaker at the dog shelter says they refuse to let them be adopted because they worry the animal...
A caretaker at the dog shelter says they refuse to let them be adopted because they worry the animals won't be loved
Mladen ANTONOV, AFP

Hundreds of dogs are packed into humid rooms behind a rusted fence, where playful fights and territorial clashes occur as the shelter's employees attempt to clean the concrete floors with a hose.

New arrivals are kept in cages until they get used to conditions at Auntie Ju's shelter
New arrivals are kept in cages until they get used to conditions at Auntie Ju's shelter
Mladen ANTONOV, AFP

Some suffer from gashes and are kept in small cages, where the staff redress their wounds with gauze.

The dogs go through more than 60 bags of food daily, costing between 20-30,000 baht a day ($600-$910), Yutima says, but current donations only gets them 30 bags a week.

She defended her shelter's policy of refusing to adopt them out.

A dog looks out from a cage at Auntie Ju's shelter near Bangkok
A dog looks out from a cage at Auntie Ju's shelter near Bangkok
Mladen ANTONOV, AFP

"We cannot be certain that (the owners) will love them as much as we do," she says, and declined to elaborate on what plans her organisation has if they were to completely run out of food.

A non-profit based in Phuket said the conditions at Aunt Ju's were "ridiculously overcrowded" and questioned how hygienic the site can be with so many dogs crammed into a single, indoor room.

Critics of Auntie Ju's shelter say the animals are kept in cramped and unhygienic conditions
Critics of Auntie Ju's shelter say the animals are kept in cramped and unhygienic conditions
Mladen ANTONOV, AFP

"If you don’t believe in an adoption program... then that's just hoarding," said Soi Dog Foundation's operations director Sam McElroy.

The foundation -- which found homes for more than 900 animals last year -- is itself in "uncharted waters", says McElroy, due to the province-wide lockdown to curb the spread of the virus.

Thailand currently has 2,220 cases of coronavirus infections, including 26 deaths.

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