Looking-Glass and VeggieGlobal exclusively
brings you the story of KIM COOLING, a true heroine of animal compassion
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
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 -
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.
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
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."
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
- (from top to bottom):
Kim presenting her petition outside the Grand Palace with TV crew
Kim's most recent adopted steet dog "Peggy", at a vets
Looking-Glass and VeggieGlobal
2006 column here at VeggieGlobal
2002-2005 column here at VeggieGlobal
the VeggieGlobal and Looking-Glass News Site
Year of the Dog - by Kim Cooling - LGVN News
in The East - updates LGVN News
Behind the façade of an animal loving UK - LGVN Opinion
... they have a lot of catching up - LGVN Special Report Updates