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The Kim Cooling Story

Kim CoolingIn 2000, our news site LGGN published a brief report about the astonishing work of Kim Cooling, who had single handedly brought a halt to the annual slaughter of tens of thousands of street animals in Bangkok. Until now, Kim's groundbreaking work in Thailand has been rarely documented through the media. Looking-Glass and VeggieGlobal realigns this oversight and exclusively brings you the story of KIM COOLING, a true heroine of animal compassion ....

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Looking-Glass and VeggieGlobal exclusively brings you the story of KIM COOLING, a true heroine of animal compassion ...

Kim to the rescue
On a holiday visit to Thailand in 1998, Kim Cooling observed the terrible plight of the country's dogs and cats. But unlike like many western holiday makers, who simply put the experience behind them when returning to their cozy western homes, Kim did something about it. She could not bear to leave the plight of these animals behind her and put into plan an action that was to end up saving the lives of thousands of street animals.

"It all began when I befriended a stray dog in Phuket who I named Rama, says Kim. "That year, 90,000 street dogs in Bangkok alone were rounded up, caged and starved for a few days and then fed the poison, strychnine. We rescued Rama from Phuket where the dogs were also poisoned on the beaches."
Kim found out that many pet dogs also ate the poison and died.
"Rama was in a terrible state, says Kim, "I fed her every day and in return she never left my side. When I heard Rama was to be poisoned, I decided to bring her home with me. I couldn't bear to just leave her to die. It cost £4,500 to save her, but Rama is the most wonderful dog and is our devoted friend and companion."

During that first visit in '98 Kim also learnt that in an area of Northern Thailand 30,000 dogs are brutally slaughtered annually for their skins which are used for luxury items.
"There is also deception around the labeling of these products", says Kim. "Ambiguous names are used in the marketing process, so the public are unaware that the fur is from cats and dogs".

Ironically, the same year that Kim adopted Rama, the King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand himself had adopted a stray dog. "I later learnt that the King's dog was picked up from the streets of Bangkok and given to him by a member of his staff. The King has many dogs but his favourite is Tongdaeng, the street dog. Coincidently, the name of my dog, Rama means 'King' in Thai!"
The story goes that as the street pup was being taken to the King's palace she whimpered and cried constantly but, as soon as she was presented to the King she stopped whimpering and crawled up to nestle on his lap. The dog is very famous in Thailand and a book called 'Tongdaeng' written by the monarch about his beloved stray is now a best seller there. Tongdaeng recently gave birth to a litter of 9 pups, who Bhumibol Adulyadej believes she can call to her side by telepathy. According to the King, Tongdaeng is one of the best mannered, considerate, respectful and grateful dogs. The King also feels that her pups are a lucky omen as he himself is the 9th Rama. 100,000 people queued to buy the book of Tongdaeng on the first day of its sale.
Kim says that the ultimate message from the King's book about the stray mongrel - which is significant for Thais - is "Even though you may be born into poverty, you can rise to the top".

Kim's return - 2000
On her visit in '98, Kim Cooling didn't know then that she would later return to Thailand to petition the King himself.
But it was in November 2000, that the former nurse from London traveled back to Thailand to present her petition which included 6,000 letters from the public. Her visit was covered by the local media, and at the time her story was briefly reported by other news organizations across the world. Shortly after her visit, the King gave his annual birthday speech, during which he lifted Tongdaeng the street dog up and lectured his people about being compassionate to animals and in particular the street dogs.
Kim's mission was a success.

She says, "The King responded to my pleas to end the barbaric killing of the dogs in Thailand. And now in Bangkok the strays are no longer poisoned. There is a now neutering scheme for the strays and a draft bill is being prepared to protect all animals from cruelty, which includes the slaughter of dogs for their meat and fur. The trade in dog skins has also ceased as a result of my visit. There are no dog skin/fur exports now, but dog meat is still eaten in that region and will continue until the legislation is in place."
But, the success of the poisoning ban further identifies a widespread public ignorance about animal welfare in Thailand, and its social acceptance is being challenged.
"There have been many complaints about street dogs by Thais who dislike them," Says Kim. "They used to make a phone call and the dogs were collected to be poisoned. But now the dogs are neutered and returned back to where they came from, which has led to many complaints. There are some interesting articles in the Thai newspapers about this. Those who dislike the dogs complain that they are told by the authorities that they can no longer kill them. It is such a change in attitude."
The dogs of Thailand still suffer dreadfully on the streets as many individuals poison the dogs themselves or beat them to death - thus the need for a shelter in Bangkok. Kim has so far raised £3000 through a newspaper towards opening a humane shelter/Veterinary clinic and education centre for the street dogs of Bangkok. There, many dogs also sustain terrible injuries through car accidents. They suffer until they die.
"There are no humane shelters in Thailand," says Kim, "The Thais have little idea of how to care for animals. I have also heard shocking reports about the way some of the dogs are being neutered. Many are dying from wound infections because they are returned to the streets too soon. The horrors go on, but at least the Thai's are trying. They just need support through education and example - thus my idea for the shelter".

There are what is termed as dog pounds in Thailand, but a recent investigation revealed that the pounds can prove to be even more iniquitous places for the animals than the streets themselves. At the Hualien dog pound in February 2002, animal rights activists discovered the gruesome reality of starving dogs who had actually resorted to cannibalism, because no food or water were provided for them.
Much money is needed to fund such a proper shelter project. Kim says that large animal charity operating in Thailand does not want to know. "They advertise for funds to neuter animals by showing shocking photos of a dog being electrocuted, but in reality they have told me they do not believe in keeping the dogs alive. If only people knew the truth about some of these charities."

Now and the future
Many reports you read through Looking-Glass and VeggieGlobal indicates that Thailand is certainly not the only culprit of these barbaric acts towards stray animals. There is still much to do in Thailand ... and then onwards to attempt change elsewhere - To dispel ignorant attitudes and educate the common communities of many other countries around the world, such as China, Korea, Philippines, Brazil, Eastern Europe and the Balkan countries.
But Kim Cooling has shown that gentle but firm tactics through the right channels can lead to phenomenal changes, with response from the most unusual places.

Still living in London, UK as a social worker, and still very much active in her animal rescue activities, Kim continues her mission to raise worldwide awareness about the plight of street animals in South East Asia and also Sri Lanka. "Animal welfare in that area of the world is abysmal", says Kim. "But as an individual I feel I have achieved a great deal. The neutering scheme in Bangkok is quite exceptional for South East Asia. My personal approach to the King was certainly very rewarding and effective."

America recently banned the import of cat and dog fur after a public outcry when an undercover film of the brutal trade was shown on television there. "My concern right now is about the reluctance by the British media to show this film here in the UK," says Kim. "Europe must also ban these fur products. If the film is shown here, I am convinced the ban will follow. The film exposed the fact that 2 million cats and dogs are skinned every year. It was a secret hidden by the fur trade for years".

Kim has recently adopted another street dog called Peggy. "She was born on a rubbish tip in Bangkok and is now living happily with me in London. Her mother, who I loved very much, was killed by a Thai woman I entrusted her to. I had no choice but to save her pup, Peggy", says Kim. "My two Thai street dogs are a constant reminder of the plight of the animals in South East Asia. I am just thankful that the King of Thailand shares my love for these exceptional creatures."

Read the Kim Cooling column here at VeggieGlobal

Photos - (from top to bottom):

Kim and Rama
Kim presenting her petition outside the Grand Palace with TV crew
Kim's most recent adopted steet dog "Peggy", at a vets in Bangkok

© 2003 Looking-Glass and VeggieGlobal

Kim's 2006 column here at VeggieGlobal
Kim's 2002-2005 column here at VeggieGlobal

Articles at the VeggieGlobal and Looking-Glass News Site

The Chinese Year of the Dog - by Kim Cooling - LGVN News

Animal Cruelty in The East - updates LGVN News

Animal Nation... Behind the façade of an animal loving UK - LGVN Opinion

EAST EUROPE ... they have a lot of catching up - LGVN Special Report Updates

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