John Dalley, co-founder and president of Soi Dog Foundation International, has been made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to animal welfare in Southeast Asia.
Mr. Dalley was named alongside a host of celebrities, medical staff, key workers and volunteers in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List which was published today (October 10).
Asked to comment on the award, John made it clear that he saw this more as recognition of the work done by the foundation and the tens of thousands of supporters and volunteers who have made that work possible over the past 17 years.
He added that his only regret was that Gill, his late wife and fellow co-founder, was not alive to share in the award. Gill herself received numerous awards during her lifetime, including being the first non-Asian by birth to be named Asian of the Year in the Channel News Asia annual awards.
Soi Dog – “soi” being the Thai word for “street” – has seen remarkable growth since its humble beginnings in 2003. Founded by John and Gill on their retirement to Phuket alongside fellow retiree Margot Homburg, Soi Dog now directly treats and sterilises more animals than any other organisation in the world. In December, the foundation is forecast to see half-a-million animals sterilised and vaccinated across the country since its founding, with nearly 250,000 of those carried out in the past two years alone.
The award comes at a particularly challenging time in Soi Dog’s history. Like many non-profit organisations, Soi Dog has been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis, and its shelter in Phuket has faced severe overcrowding this year, with abandoned animals arriving in their droves. Despite this, the foundation has refused to close its doors to animals in need, andconstruction of new dog enclosures and the purchase of additional land is ensuring that this will continue to be the case.
Challenges and obstacles have never stopped Soi Dog in the past. Whether it be natural disasters, Gill losing her legs in 2004, Gill’s untimely passing at the age of just 58 in 2017 or winning the war against the dog smugglers selling hundreds of thousands of Thai dogs to the meat markets of Vietnam every year – Soi Dog has never given up.
John commented that he continues to believe that legislation, education and large-scale sterilisation are the best hopes for a brighter future for the animals of Thailand and beyond. With this in mind, Soi Dog continues to work with the Thai government to strengthen the country’s Animal Welfare Act, which the foundation helped to introduce in 2014. In addition, a brand-new education centre is soon to open at the shelter, emphasising the importance the foundation places on educating the next generation in respect for both stray and domestic animals.
He added that, although the foundation plans to expand operations in Vietnam and Cambodia in particular, Thailand willremain the focus until their goals in the country have been reached: no more unwanted dogs and cats and no more rabies. He remains confident that, with the cooperation of both local and national governments, these goals are entirely achievable.
Soi Dog Foundation today is a classic example of what very ordinary people can accomplish if they are determined to make a difference.
Chutima Srisawang (Oum)