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Kim Cooling

Kim CoolingIn 2000 Kim Cooling single-handedly brought a halt to the annual slaughter of tens of thousands of street animals in Bangkok. Today she continues her groundbreaking work, raising awareness of animal cruelty around the world.
2006 column
2002-2005 column

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Kim's 2006 Column

I have been very busy since writing my last column here and have lots of experiences to share.

Firstly, Rama our first rescue dog from Thailand is still going strong (see previous column). She is now 10 years old and her black nose has turned grey. However, she remains fit and active, still enjoying her long walks in Epping Forest and embracing every day of life with joy and gratitude. Peggy, the other Thai dog from Bangkok is also well and healthy and as mischievous as ever.

I now have 7 dogs living with me in London. My latest additions are an elderly almost toothless apricot poodle called Tinky, whose elderly owners sadly died of cancer within months of one another. Poor Tinky was sent to the re-homing block in the kennels where I quarantine my rescue dogs. He was pining for his owners and barely eating. He was just a bag of bones really. When he came racing over to me and I heard his story, I took him home with me. Tinky soon regained the will to live when he met my 6 female dogs and has fallen in love with Lavinia our rescued stray from Sri Lanka. So much so, I had to take him to the vets for possible castration. Because of his low body weight and slow heart beat this was deemed too risky, so instead he has had some injections to reduce his testerone levels. He has now gained weight and is the character of the household.
Lavinia is the first dog I have rescued from Sri Lanka. Her plight prompted my subsequent animal welfare work there, although I still visit Thailand and recently brought 4 strays back to the UK with me. Lavinia entered my life around 3 years ago. Whilst feeding the strays near the famous Mount Lavinia Hotel near Colombo, I noticed a small grey dog race out of nowhere and grab some food. This dog was in the most appalling state I have ever seen. She had a massive cauliflower type tumour on her private parts that was raw and bleeding. She vomited up her food and was passing blood from her back passage. She was so emaciated every bone in her body was protruding through her coat which was mangy and covered in ticks and fleas. The suffering of the strays never ceases to break my heart, their suffering continues until they die.
The next day I took the dog I called Lavinia, to the best equipped vets in Colombo and against the odds and after intensive treatment, she survived. I had to leave her at the vets for 3 months. She underwent 2 operations including being sterilised and surgery to reconstruct her vulva. During Lavinia's sterilisation the vet found she was in the early stages of pregnancy. Lavinia never would have survived the birth due to her weakened state and the large tumour caused by TVT (transmissible veneral tumor) She would have died in agony. Lavinia received chemotherapy for this and also treatment for a tropical disease she was suffering from. I had to leave her in Colombo but was reunited with her months later in a quarantine kennels in London.


Lavinia - before treatment

I also saved a dear little puppy called Lily who was living in an awful dogs homes in Sri Lanka. Her leg was snapped in half and she could not compete with the other dogs to get to the bowl of food in time. She had given up the will to live and was curled up in a ball awaiting death. She spent her 6 month quarantine period with Lavinia and when she was out, I arranged to have her leg operated on. The vet fees were tremendous, but when you see this happy little dog racing around with her new owner, it makes all financial hardship and sacrifice worthwhile. Lavinia is now a white little fun loving dog that is unrecognizable to that sad little grey creature so near to death on that dusty street in Sri Lanka. Of all the dogs I have rescued, she remains the happiest little soul. Dogs never forget what they have endured in the past and will always love those who offer them love and compassion. Lavinia's tail, which was hacked off by a local (for fun) is a reminder of the huge challenge faced by those involved in hands-on work with the strays and how education and changing a culture that is inherently cruel to animals is the Everest of endeavours. Lavinia's pain and suffering is typical of the plight of all the strays in this world and it is why neutering and sterilisation programmes are so important. Sadly in most countries cruel and quick fix methods are used to control the strays and Sri Lanka is no exception.


Lily and Lavinia ... home and happy

Sadly my dream to open a clinic for the strays in Bangkok never materialised. A national newspaper were prepared to help me raise some funds for the clinic (The Mail on Sunday) but only if the large international welfare organisation who are supposedly 'active' in Thailand would help with some of the costs of the spay and neuter scheme. This organisation openly advertises for funds using images of dogs being electrocuted and tortured, stating they believe in neutering not killing. However, they informed me at the time that their policy had changed and that humane slaughter of the strays would be better. This was the beginning of my negative experiences with some of the large animal welfare organisations and the deceit that betrays those who make their coffers flow and pay their fat-cat salaries. The animals are always the losers and after travelling extensively around the globe and witnessed animal suffering first hand, I feel that some of the large animal welfare groups have a lot to answer for. They simply could have achieved more with the funds they have available.
Those doing hands on work with the animals with no hidden agendas always have my full support. There is a small group of western women who live in Bangkok, Thailand who have founded a small organisation called Soi Dog Rescue. They work tirelessly to spay/neuter and vaccinate the strays in Bangkok and have recently had to abandon their work due to lack of funds. Those who are actively involved in hands on animal welfare work are in my mind, making the greatest contribution to animal welfare in this world. This group have recently run out of resources and desperately need financial support to continue their excellent work with the strays in Bangkok. Their website details are www.soidogrescue.org
Since the rescue of Lavinia my wonderful friend Morag Longmuir and I have been visiting Sri Lanka at least twice a year to work with the strays. Without any outside funding we spay/neuter/worm, and provide veterinary treatment to many dogs that have no chance of help or compassion from humans. We also bring animals back to the UK at great expense because it is difficult to find good homes for them in Sri Lanka. We know that the dogs that come over will live long and happy lives.
Few dogs in Sri Lanka have long and happy lives. The odds are against that. Despite the population of Sri Lanka being Sinhala Buddhist who believe an animal has the same right to live as humans themselves, thousands of strays are destroyed every year by the most barbaric ways. Strychnine poisoning is rife in the suburbs. Men jump out of vans and chase the strays with a long stick at the end of which is a needle carrying the poison. The dogs are stabbed and die an agonising death writhing in pain and howling. In towns like Colombo, the dogs are placed into gas chambers, huddled together in fear. The larger and more robust strays sometimes survive the cyanide gassing and are beaten to death when they emerge from the chamber. The Colombo Municipal Council are probably the most barbaric, and it is in this area where we concentrate our work. Pet dogs are also collected in vans to be gassed, even when sitting outside their homes. It is a scenario we hear about time and time again. Some locals are also particularly cruel to the strays. They scold, stone and throw fuel over the dogs on a daily basis.
Lavinia and another dog I saved near the Mount Lavinia (a dog called Sooby) had their tails hacked off. This abuse is common in Sri Lanka. Some pet owners in Sri Lanka would never dream of taking their animal to the vets, if they do they are usually at deaths door. Yes people are poor there, and this is why we assist some poor families. But, some wealthy Sri Lankan's will not take the trouble to save their pets. The Sri Lankans are obsessed with pedigree breeds like German Shepherds. These long haired breeds are not suited to the climate there and without any tick treatments, often succumb to tick fever (Canine Babesiosis) I always remember the sight of a dying husky dog being completely shaved at the vets. The dog's skin was covered with ticks and was dying from tick fever. The owners who were not poor and had only bought the dog to the vet when it was literally at deaths door. General ignorance and indifference to animal welfare and suffering beggars belief.

The Thai's are generally kinder and more considerate to the strays-they often provide food and embrace the compassionate teachings of Buddhism more openly than the Sri Lankans. To address the ignorance that prevails, our work in Sri Lanka also entails educating the locals about animal welfare. It is common for locals to give their pets sharp bones to eat. Time and time again we hear about dogs dying a painful death from these bones being stuck in their gullets. We provide dog food/cat food to poor families, tick/ flea/worm treatments and have their pets blood tested for tropical diseases caused by ticks and mosquitos. These diseases are rife in many countries of the world and are yet another challenge these poor animals have to contend with as well as abuse by their greatest foe... man.

Up to the present date, and including Lily and Lavinia, 12 Sri Lankan strays have been brought over to the UK for a new life as well as 8 stray dogs from Thailand. Each dog costs around 2000-2500 each which covers all the quarantine/vet and airfares. This Easter (2006) our latest batch of rescued dogs are leaving the quarantine kennels for a wonderful new life in the UK. In a few days, more arrive from Sri Lanka including a poor dog called Sid, rescued on the last day of our trip in November. Sid staggered over to us when we came out of our hotel and collapsed in a heap at our feet. He was covered in mange and had bowed legs (which turned out that he had been beaten and his legs were fractured) and was obviously unwell. He is a big boned dog, although emaciated like most of the strays, and trying to lift him almost gave us hernia's. We just had time to take him to the vets and remove some of the ticks in his ears. We had his blood tested for blood parasites and discovered he had Dirofilaria (heartworm) as well as the usual skin ailments and malnutrition. We left him at the vets and I never thought we would see that dog again. But, when given the chance of life, these dogs regain the will to survive.
We will be reunited with Sid this week (April 2006) when he arrives in the UK to start his quarantine. It will be a truly emotional moment and one that makes all our hard work and financial sacrifice worthwhile.
Morag and I have to work full time to help fund our animal welfare work, therefore we have to juggle our busy lives and do our animal rescue work abroad during our holidays. Returning back to work in a busy Social Services department after working relentlessly in Sri Lanka during my holiday is draining, but without funding for our animal welfare work we have no choice but to continue doing what we can. Our plight is typical of those doing the hands on work in countries where animal welfare is abysmal. The renowned international charities get all the funding. Few people know about the selfless efforts made by individuals who make the greatest sacrifices and the greatest difference to animal welfare in this cruel world.

Due to my experiences in Thailand and Sri Lanka, I became aware that dogs with tropical diseases are entering this country without any screening whatsoever. Quarantine is strictly around rabies control, not tropical diseases. With the Pet Passport Scheme, many more dogs are entering this country without blood parasite screening. I became concerned about this subject when Rama was in quarantine in 1998. She had heartworm, which fortunately for her was diagnosed by a vigilant vet in Bangkok. We purchased the treatment for this in Thailand because the drugs are not licensed in the UK. We were informed by kennel staff that some dogs had died in quarantine of heartworm because the vet failed to diagnose the symptoms and was previously treating the dogs for pneumonia. Coughing and heavy breathing are classic signs of heartworm infection in dogs. The dogs were only diagnosed when an exploratory operation took place. A simple blood test should have been conducted. It is hard to believe that any animal in quarantine or indeed any animal imported into the country from a place where these diseases are rife, are not routinely tested for blood parasites if they display symptoms of infection. It is evidence that tropical diseases are not fully understood here in the UK, simply because animals are not exposed to them here. However, with the Pet Passport Scheme and the quarantine system purely focusing on rabies, animals are entering the UK on a regular basis without adequate screening, and with no easy access to drugs if they become ill, because the drugs are not licensed in this country. After hearing about more pets dying needlessly after entering the UK with these treatable diseases, I felt compelled to write to the Veterinary Times and they published an article based on my concerns on 27/6/05. DEFRA are burying their heads in the sand about this issue and are placing the emphasis on the owners having a knowledge about these diseases prior to travel. Sadly many people are not knowledgeable about these diseases including the quarantine vet who was caring for Rama. Sadly, pets are paying the ultimate price. I would like to alert anyone who is considering taking their pets abroad to speak to their vets about the risks they may be exposing their pets to. Leishmaniasis, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, Dirofilariasis (heartworm)-parasitic diseases caused by tick, mosquito and sandfly bites are now prevalent in the Mediterranean and other countries world-wide. The majority of the dogs I have rescued have tested positive for one or other of these diseases. A cheap blood test prior to importing pets to the UK could save their lives because these diseases will ultimately kill the animal if they are infected and left untreated. I have witnessed many animals dying of these diseases in Sri Lanka and it is a terrible and needless death especially when the animals have owners and the blood test is so cheap and quick. My sister recently saved a dog from Italy-this dog has Leishmaniasis, which is rife in Mediterranean countries. It is a common dilemma but not commonly acknowledged as one by DEFRA. Without a greater knowledge about these parasitic diseases on all levels, pets will continue to die needlessly.

Kim's 2002-2005 column
Read the Kim Cooling Story here at Looking-Glass and VeggieGlobal

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