Global recognition for Soi Dog Foundation
PHUKET, Thailand––John Dalley, co-founder and president of Soi Dog Foundation International, was on October 10, 2020, the official birthday of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for service to animal welfare in Southeast Asia.
The term “Soi Dog” means simply “street dog” in Thai––and it is a long way from the life of a typical Thai street dog to Buckingham Palace.
Membership in the Order of the British Empire, formally presented by the Queen at a Buckingham Palace ceremony, is the highest national honor presented to British civilians, and is essentially a lifetime achievement award.
“Generous donors & volunteers”
Appointees are recognized in five ranks, from Knight or Dame Grand Cross down through Knight or Dame Commander; Commander; Officer; and Member.
Appointments above the level of Member are usually presented for outstanding accomplishments subsequent to first winning admission to membership.
A selection of British citizens and citizens of other British Commonwealth nations who are widely recognized as leaders in their respectively fields are honored by the Queen each year.
Typically from one to three honorees are honored for achievements in animal welfare.
Said Dalley, “I would like to make it clear that this honor is in recognition of what has been accomplished through the support of generous donors and volunteers who have made this work possible over the past 17 years.”
“Hit hard by COVID-19 crisis”
“Like many non-profit organizations, the Soi Dog Foundation has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis,” wrote Tony Gardner for the Yorkshire Post.
The Soi Dog shelter in Phuket “has faced severe overcrowding this year, with abandoned animals arriving in droves,” Gardner recounted.
Yet, Gardner wrote, “The foundation has refused to close its doors to animals in need.
Construction of new dog enclosures and the purchase of additional land is ensuring that the work continues. In addition, a brand-new education center is soon to open at the shelter, emphasizing the importance the foundation places on educating the next generation.
“The foundation plans to expand operations in Vietnam and Cambodia,” Gardner mentioned, “but Thailand will remain the focus until the Soi Dog goal of having no more unwanted dogs and cats and no more rabies has been achieved. Dalley said he remains confident that, with the cooperation of local and national governments, these goals are entirely achievable.
Regrets that late wife Gillian could not share in the award
“He said his only regret was that his wife, who died in 2017 aged 58, was not alive to share in the award,” Gardner finished.
Gill Dalley, the first winner of the Canine Hero of the Year award at the 2011 Animals for Asia conference in Chengdu, China, and the first non-Asian by birth to be named an Asian of the year by Channel News Asia Singapore,” in 2008, died from cancer on February 13, 2017.
Married in Phuket and frequent visitors to Phuket for several years afterward, Gillian and John Dalley were a bank employee and a chemical engineer, respectively, in Yorkshire, England.
The Dalleys retired together to Phuket in 2003, bought a home near a newly built country club within a short walk of the ocean, and as they often told media, expected to spend the rest of their lives golfing and scuba diving.
“Retired” to dog rescue
John Dalley acknowledged going diving just once. Neither Dalley ever swung a golf club. Instead, they discovered streets full of homeless dogs, and became acquainted with two fellow expatriates, Leone Cosens and Margot Homburg Park, who had become involved in street dog care and rescue.
As most Thai street dogs have regular human feeders, and are often quasi-pets, along with consuming refuse and hunting rodents, the dogs’ major needs are for neuter/return, vaccination, parasite control, and treatment of injuries.
Cosens, from New Zealand, had moved to Phuket with her husband Tim Cosens Jr. in 1992. Together they operated a “guest house” at Yanui Beach, which might have been described as either a large bed-and-breakfast or a small hotel.
A cofounder and director of the Phuket Animal Welfare Society, Leone Cosens later “was fired because she was treating and sterilizing too many dogs!” recalled Park.
Gillian lost leg saving dog
Park, originally from the Netherlands, helped Cosens to start the Soi Dog Foundation in 2002. The organization grew through an early merger with Atigiro, an organization of similar purpose founded by Alison Montgomery of Hong Kong.
The Dalleys helped Cosens and Park as volunteers.
In October 2004 when a dog who was unexpectedly groggier than most after being sedated for sterilization bolted into a muddy water buffalo pasture. Sinking into the muck, the dog was at risk of drowning, until Gill Dalley waded in to retrieve him.
The seriously polluted muddy water harbored an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection. Within days Gill Dalley was critically ill.
Both of her legs were amputated below the knee to keep the infection from spreading up into the rest of her body, where it would have killed her.
Indian Ocean tsunami
Gill Dalley was still struggling to recover when on December 26, 2004 the Indian Ocean tsunami slammed into Thailand. Unleashed by the third largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph, the tsunami killed from 230,000 to 280,000 people in 14 nations. More than five thousand people were killed and another three thousand people disappeared without a trace along the Thai southern peninsula. Whole Phuket neighborhoods were obliterated.
Leone Cosens, then 52, rushed to the aid of nine British guests at the Cosens’ Yanui Beach guesthouse, who had reported flooding. Unaware that the high water was the result of a tsunami, Leone Cosens apparently ran right into the highest wave. Her father-in-law, visiting from Slidell, Louisiana, which was hit hard just nine months later by Hurricane Katrina, found her remains in a nearby rice field the following day.
Margot Park and John Dalley initiated rescue efforts on behalf of injured and displaced animals, but Park found herself treating more people than animals, while John Dalley helped to recover, identify, and wrap the human dead. Gillian coordinated operations from her wheelchair.
Built Soi Dog Foundation from aftermath of disaster
Along with other animal charities in Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Kenya, and even Myanmar, the Soi Dog Foundation mounted an extensive aid program serving all of the victims, both animal and human, for weeks before the major international charities were on the scene with an effective presence.
After outside help arrived, having been delayed by the holiday season in the western world, Park fell ill, leaving Phuket in early 2006.
The Dalleys, meanwhile, turned to directing the Soi Dog Foundation full time.
Originally incorporated in the Netherlands and Thailand, the Soi Dog Foundation added fundraising affiliates in the United Kingdom and the U.S., then expanded into Bangkok, the Thai capital city, through a merger with a slightly older charity, Soi Dog Rescue, founded by expatriate Sheridan Conisbee.
Stopping dog exports to slaughter
When the Indian Ocean tsunami hit, the Soi Dog Foundation had sterilized 1,470 dogs. It has now sterilized nearly half a million, including in Yangon (formerly Rangoon), the capital city of Myanmar.
The Soi Dog Foundation has also continued to do disaster relief work, for example, taking the lead in animal rescue operations during flooding that immobilized much of Bangkok in October 2011.
Encouraging the Thai government to begin cracking down on the illegal export of dogs to slaughter in Vietnam, the Soi Dog Foundation has since 2012 accepted responsibility for the care of dogs rescued by border inspectors. Relieving the inspectors of the responsibility for either feeding the dogs or making euthanasia decisions within a few years helped to cut the dog export volume by more than two-thirds, the Thai Veterinary Medical Association estimates.
“No high paid execs”
Building on that success, John Dalley in 2014 joined representatives of the Animals Asia Foundation, Change for Animals Foundation, and the Humane Society International affiliate of the Humane Society of the U.S. in helping to broker a deal to suspend transborder dog traffic among Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
“We will reach 500,000 animals sterilized some time in December,” John Dalley told ANIMALS 24-7 in September 2020, “and would have been there already if not for COVID-19, with 250,000 of those being in the last two years.
“Add on the thousands treated at our dog and cat hospitals, and by our community outreach teams, and that amounts to a lot of dogs and cats.”
Fundraising, Dalley said, “is a necessary evil if you want to grow. You can only do as much as the funds you raise. With 300 full time staff to pay these days,” almost all of them in hands-on animal care capacities, it is even more important.
“We have no high paid execs, though, and I remain a volunteer,” Dalley finished.
Where are opponents of sport hunting?
ANIMALS 24-7 has assembled, below, a partial list of Members of the Order of the British Empire who have been honored since 1974 for contributions to animal welfare.
It is an illustrious roster, but appears to conspicuously omit animal advocates who have been chiefly known for opposition to sport hunting––especially fox hunting, bird shooting, and trophy hunting, the hunting pursuits for which the British royal family have long been especially notorious.
Major General Peter Davies, an outspoken opponent of sport hunting, was honored for his military service before becoming known in the animal welfare field; Queen guitarist Brian May, also an outspoken opponent of sport hunting, was honored “for services to the music industry and for charity work,” with no mention made of his animal advocacy.
Brian Davies may be most conspicuous omission
International Fund for Animal Welfare, Political Animal Lobby, and Network for Animals founder Brian Davies, arguably the most influential animal advocate worldwide over the past half century, especially among British citizens, and especially influential during the past 25 years in opposition to fox hunting, “has never been named to the Order of the British Empire,” longtime Davies associate Paul Seigel confirmed to ANIMALS 24-7.
“However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that that in my opinion––and no doubt in the opinions of most who are familiar with all that he has accomplished for animals––this seems an egregious oversight,” Seigel said. “But he has not been nominated. I don’t think he is hurt by the oversight. This said, I can assure you he would be honored to be recognized.
“Congratulations are definitely in order for John Dalley!” Seigel finished.
Previous recipients of Queen’s Birthday honors for animal advocacy & welfare:
1974: Wildlife film maker and author David Attenborough.
1980: Donkey Sanctuary founder Elizabeth Svendsen.
1982: Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Jersey Zoo founder Gerald Durrell.
1992: Major General Peter Davies, then Colonel Commandant of the Royal Signals, honored for his 25 years in military service. Davies went on to head the Royal SPCA for eleven years, and the World Society for Protection of Animals for seven years, along with chairing the board of trustees for the Brooke Hospital for Animals, serving as president of Eurogroup for Animal Welfare, and heading the Animals in War Memorial Fund.
1995: Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Foundation, promoted to Dame Commander in 2004.
1998: Animals Asia Foundation founder Jill Robinson.
2002: Michael Balls, a trustee of the Fund for Replacing Animals Medical Experiments beginning in 1979, who headed the organization from 1981 to 2013.
2003: Clarissa Baldwin, longtime chair of Dogs Trust, who was also made a Dame of the British Empire (see Humane innovator Clarissa Baldwin retires from Dogs Trust); and Belinda Wright, founder of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (1994).
2004: Virginia McKenna, who played Joy Adamson in the 1966 film Born Free and went on to cofound the Born Free Foundation with her husband Bill Travers and their son Will Travers. Will Travers was honored on the Queen’s Birthday in 2004.
2005: Care For The Wild founder Bill Jordan, now heading the Bill Jordan Wildlife Defence Fund; and Brian May, Queen guitarist, “for services to the music industry and for charity work,” not mentioning his leading role in opposition to fox hunting.
2006: International Animal Rescue cofounder Alan Knight, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust founder Daphne Sheldrick (see Daphne Sheldrick, 83, showed Kenya that wildlife is worth most when alive); the late Stella Brewer Marsden, founder of the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Association sanctuary in Gambia; and primatologist and film maker Ian Redmond.
2008: International Primate Protection League founder Shirley McGreal,
2009: Jean Gilchrist, who for 50 years headed the Kenya SPCA in Nairobi, Kenya.
2012: Trevor Weeks, founder of East Sussex Wildlife Rescue.
2013: Elizabeth Oliver, who in 1990 founded Animal Refuge Kansai in Osaka, Japan; Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre founder Jan Salter, who died in 2018 (see Jan Salter, 82, mastered the arts of animal & human aid in Kathmandu); and Will Travers, who in 1984 cofounded the Born Free Foundation with his parents, actors Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna. Both Oliver and Will Travers continue to head their organizations.
2016: British Hen Welfare Trust founder Jane Howorth.
2017: Michael Calvert Appleby, formerly World Animal Protection chief scientific adviser; Mary Barton, board member, Royal SPCA of Australia since 1999; Sally Jane Hyman, chair of trustees, Royal SPCA Llys Nini Branch; and Helen Jones, first female president of the Australian Veterinary Association (1982), vice chair of the World Veterinary Congress organizing committee 1979-1983, and trustee, SAVE the African Rhino Foundation.
2019: Christine Townend, founder of Animal Liberation Australia (1976); cofounder, Animals Australia, 1980, and trustee since 2017; founder, Darjeeling Goodwill Animal Shelter (India), 1980, and trustee since 1993; joint managing trustee of Help In Suffering (India), 1990-2007.