Kinship Circle
Feces, Muck, Despair

All Photos (c) Kinship Circle, Thailand Flood 2011-2012

A swamped temple with over 1,000 animals has many sick cats. Some hang from cages over slimy water.

A putrid stench rises from fecal piles. Dogs hobble on 2 or 3 legs. Wounds fester. (c) Kinship Circle, Thailand Flood

SCAD Foundation Operations Director Matt Backhouse (front) surveys temple grounds with SCAD's Lit (center) and Kinship Circle's Tracie Dawson (background). (c) Kinship Circle
Thailand Flood Report #12

DATE: Latter half December, 2011
LOCATION: Emergency Shelter in Bangkok, Thailand
Temple Sanctuary near Bangkok, over 1,000 animals
SUBMITTED BY: June Towler, Kinship Circle PIO
TEAM ON GROUND: June Towler, Tracie Dawson, Stephanie Naftal,
Ron Presley, Trisha Fravel Fur-less, Crippled, Sick And Dying
Kinship Circle's team splits today, with Ron Presley and Stephanie Naftal on food drops. Tracie Dawson, June Towler and Trisha Fravel — along with Corrine (Save Elephant Foundation) and Amy (a SCAD Foundation vet) assess a temple sanctuary some 2.5 hours away. The property, with 500 or more dogs, desperately needs help. We initially go to verify reports of sick cats.

Nothing prepares us for reality: More than 1,000 animals live in collapsing structures. Cats, dogs and pigs are swamped in a sea of debris, feces, muck. A putrid stench rises from fecal mounds that swarm with flies.

Many are injured. Dogs hobble on two or three legs. Wounds fester. Severe mange leaves some fur-less. A dog with TVT, Transmissible Venereal Tumor, roams freely. The entire population is at risk from this highly contagious cancer spead via sniffing and touch. Nearly all are emaciated. We've stumbled upon grand-scale hoarding, exacerbated by an influx of flood victims.

Previously submerged, some water has been pumped out. Still, a U-shaped building's courtyard is a stagnant swamp. We literally wade through huddled dogs. Caged cats hang from an upper-level ceiling, surrounded by dogs. Some dogs are draped over cat cages suspended from window-like openings. If cages fall, they'll plunge into water and sludge.

An animal occupies each bit of feces-urine soaked space. Sick, severely stressed cats are strung from cages. A lower floor is wall-to-wall dog. No words capture the horror, smell and tactile impact of this scene… We encounter language/cultural barriers with temple workers, but are eventually allowed to separate cats from dogs in a cattery we arrange outdoors.

We enter heavy clean-up mode and agree to send a next-day aid team. As heavy steel cages are yanked from the swamp, our feet are sucked downward. Once on stable ground, cages are cleaned and sanitized. We are told that Thai Agriculture Dept. personnel will be on site tomorrow, with numerous volunteers, to help clean. Matt Backhouse, SCAD Operations Director, says we may bring a limited number of animals back to the overcrowded flood shelter. We select worst-case animals. One dog has no back legs and a prolapsed penis.

June Towler Tracie Dawson From A Life Threatening Mess Comes Relief

Our team returns to the temple: Matt Backhouse, SCAD Operations Director; Katherine, a WSPA vet from Flordia; Toni, a vet nurse from New Zealand; and Kinship responders June Towler (top lt) and Tracie Dawson (bottom) from Canada. After more assessment, we convince temple staff to let us move cats to their own lower-level cattery.

About 50 volunteers and army personnel show up to clean, with some assigned to a downstairs cattery we build with fencing and a door to keep dogs out. We carefully untie cages to move hundreds of suspended cats from the upper level. One slip and a cat could drop into the swamp. Each is ferried through a glut of dogs and feces to a small, slimy metal staircase with no handrail.

Loss of balance is not an option, as the stairs end in knee-deep sludge. Dogs line the staircase…so we lower cats by rope. With so many cages, we eventually form a chain of hands to move cats down the steps. Amazingly, no humans or felines fall during the operation.

As we finalize cattery set-up, a local caretaker dumps dog food on the floor surrounding the cats! It becomes apparent that our primary concern to separate cats from dogs is misunderstood. We explain that dogs loose in the cattery is unsafe and stressful for cats, but they do not agree.

Our vets check as many injured animals as possible in a temporary field treatment site we erect in an open-sided pavillion. As nightfall descends, Kinship Circle's Tracie and June hold two mini flashlights to assist veterinarians Toni and Katherine.

With the most vulnerable animals taken to the Bangkok flood shelter, we finally return to our hotel weary, hot, frustrated.

Matt Backhouse Hungry cat over water In lt photo above, Kinship Circle responder Tracie Dawson wears rescue gear to search for escape-artist dogs who maneuver out of enclosures, but mostly roam flood shelter grounds. In lower rt photo, Kinship Circle's Ron Presley affixes bamboo posts to enforce shelter structures. (c) Kinship Circle, Thailand Flood 2011-12 Catching Dogs On The Lamb…Plus Pee, Poop And Germs At Flood Shelter

At the Bangkok emergency shelter — a donated industrial site in the Muang District, Samut Prakan — we clean poop, pee and germs. We feed, water and catch dogs who make a break. But with plenty of food, water and love here, escapees eagerly greet us curbside.

Shelter director Matt Backhouse of SCAD Foundation (lt photo) enlists Kinship's Tracie Dawson and June Towler, plus volunteer Pong, for retrieval of dogs on the lamb. Two breakout artists flee into grassy fields by a water tower overlooking a canal. Pong and Matt scale a barbed-wire top fence to catch them.

We recover a beautiful white Shepherd mix. He is snarling, but calms down once crated. June catches a second dog outside the fence. We recover a beautiful white Shepherd mix. He is snarling angry, but calms down once crated. June manages to snag a second dog outside the fence.

Tomorrow, 30 more evacuee surrendered dogs will leave. Tracie and June plan to arrive even earlier to round-up escapees and help run a shelter now sparsely populated with volunteers. Above, Kinship's Stephanie Naftal on pup patrol.


Thailand Photo Diary

Dec 2011, June Towler

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Photo (C) Kinship Circle. Thailand Flood 2011-12
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