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Elfe’s World is a dog and cat refuge on Ko Samui where Elisabeth Feigl — known as Elfe — takes care of more than 300 dogs, mostly rescued on while being smuggled to Vietnam as part of an illegal international trade in dog meat.
Smugglers pass through small villages in northern Thailand, offering next to nothing — like plastic buckets — in exchange for pets and soi dogs to poor villagers. These dogs are then crammed into cages and transported across the border to Vietnam, where they are slaughtered and sold as cheap meat — the Global Mail had an excellent and disturbing report on the trade earlier this month.
Many trucks and boats have been intercepted, but once the dogs are rescued, the question as to what to do with these dogs — many with broken or severed limbs — arises. The dogs are taken to Nakhon Phanom quarantine shelter south of the area where the arrests usually occur (crossing the Mekong River), and the Soi Dog Foundation assists the Livestock Department with food, medical supplies and vets. Then independent refuge shelters such as Elfe’s World try to find homes for the dogs, either as pets, or sponsored in their shelters.
Elfe tries to find sponsors for the dogs, with initial costs being the medical bill for the dog and the cost of a flight to Samui. Thereafter, sponsorship is 800 baht per month per dog to cover shelter — on land amid a coconut grove on Ko Samui’s south — plus food and any medical bills. If you’re looking for a pet and wish to adopt a dog from her shelter, she will assist in arranging flights abroad for the dogs.
There are several runs and enclosures, as the dogs can’t roam freely or will fight, so they are grouped according to temperament. Bowls of food pellets are left out for the dogs to eat at will, avoiding a frenzy at feeding time.
Elfe has just one assistant to help her look after the dogs. Her day, she told us, typically starts at 06:00 when the 15 dogs who share her bedroom wake her. She attends to them and the other 50 dogs sharing her house, which is permanently open to the garden.
Around noon, when the dogs are content and tired, she puts around 10 dogs in her car and goes to see the rest of the dogs — the more than 250 in the runs on her land. Her helper, Fak, has already been up since early morning cleaning (that’s a lot of doggy doo), feeding, changing water and doing any repairs to the 28 runs on 12,000 square metres of land. She then makes a trip to the vet with any animals needing attention, before returning to groom, de-tick and prepare any special food for the cats and dogs.
Before it gets dark, she takes about 30 dogs for a half-hour walk in the plantation. The dogs settle in for the night on the benches and bamboo salas dotted around. She returns to play with the dogs at her home, who keep her up until around midnight. It’s “a life of fulfilment and happiness” she told us, though she never takes a weekend or holiday, as the animals need constant care and she can’t afford more help.
If you’d like to see more of what Elfe does to help these dogs (which are only a fraction of the bigger problem), visit her facebook page. For paypal donations, use firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Rosanne Turner
Last updated on 21st March, 2015.