22 Dec 2020
If you’re an animal lover, you’re going to love PAWS Bangkok, a non-profit organization founded in 2012. The woman who started it all is Amy Ann Baron. PAWS Bangkok actively helps the local community and its animals through spaying and neutering operations, vaccination programs, veterinary services, fostering and adopting and, most importantly, through education. Despite COVID, nothing is stopping Amy and her dedicated team at PAWS from continuing to grow their outreach.
As a qualified veterinary technician from the United States, Amy travelled to Thailand and started volunteering in 2008, but when the organisation she worked for shut down, she raised money and bought the equipment needed to start PAWS Bangkok.
“We’re not just rescuers, we’re sort of advocates of animal welfare and what we want to do is bring sustainable change to the animal welfare problems in Thailand, Bangkok, specifically for companion animals, especially cats,” Amy explained.
It generally takes at least 140,000 THB a month to run PAWS Bangkok. That includes electricity bills, rent, two full time Thai veterinarians, three full time Thai staff as well as 30,000 THB on medical supplies every month - vaccines, drugs for spay/neuter surgeries, anesthesia drugs, testing kits to test animals for diseases, antibiotics and depending on what cats come here. Some months the bill could run up to 100,000 THB. “We get a lot of animals that need the help we can’t give them here so we have to refer them to specialists at other hospitals.”
Looking into animals with special needs, Amy pointed at one of her many cats, “This guy has brain underdevelopment and it turns out that his kidneys are malformed from birth so he needs special care. We’ve also got a cat that has seizures other than being blind and deaf, we have lots of different special need cats.”
One thing Amy is really trying to do is to work with the veteran community in order to help people with lower incomes or no income get treatment for the animals that they care for and the community.
Cats come into Amy’s shelter every day but sometimes she doesn’t get a cat for a week. Generally, some cats are just left at the front door. Amy explained, “We have two upstairs that are going to be up for adoption at our kitten cafe, they were left at the front door and now they turned into beautiful kittens ready for adoption. PAWS Bangkok often receives contact from people with an animal they find, at the same time, they are trying to work with other rescuers and the Thai community. “There’s a lady officer who works for the Royal Thai Navy and we worked together for a very long time. She coordinates with a lot of different rescues and she wanted me to take this case because this cat had two holes where his legs used to be. The people that were caring for him couldn't afford treatment and that’s how he came to us. He’s just amazing and that is why we never put him up for adoption,” Amy laughed.
Another cat would have been euthanised in the West, but Amy saw that he could still move from one side to the other side to get comfortable despite being in a lot of pain. “I thought we could help this cat so we had a vet do a proper amputation, and within a week he had broken out of his cage and ran off, like it was nothing!” Amy said.
This year, PAWS brought in 343 rescue cats, not including animals that come in for spay neuter surgery for street cats. Nearly 300 have been adopted out.
PAWS Bangkok makes sure their cats go into suitable and loving homes by having a conversation with the adopters. Amy’s number one criteria is no balconies are allowed, Amy explains, “Cats do fall off balconies, it’s called high rise syndrome. We actually have a cat that fell off an 8th floor balcony, we’re not entirely sure how she survived. You can see how her jaw is kind of funny; she’s actually very happy and loves to play. However, she can’t pee on her own.”
Another important criteria is they strongly prefer homes that will not let their cats out. “It’s just too dangerous here, it’s not like in the West, not only are there other cats and dogs, we’ve got monitor lizards and pythons here. We also want to know that they’re going to try and make the attempt if they have to move countries they’ll take the cat with them. We also keep in mind that statistics worldwide up to 10-15% of adoptions fail for various reasons so we accept that, we’ll take the animals back. If there’s ever a problem, bring them back.”
PAWS Bangkok wants to focus on training more vets to do surgeries, especially spay/ neuter and to do them well. Amy explained, “The way my vet does surgery is he can do a female in less than 10 minutes, the incision is that small. There’s very little tissue damage, they recover quickly and you can release them to the street the next day. One of the things that is really important for us is to help vets do spay neuter.”
On the situation of stray cats in Thailand, Amy felt the first priority is to get them vaccinated for rabies and they need to be desexed. “A lot of people take animals and put them into shelters but I don’t think that’s really a good idea. It’s not good welfare, if you’ve been to many of these shelters that have hundreds of dogs, they aren’t living well. I even feel guilty for having too many cats here. The idea we have to get animals off the street is misguided. We need to work for what I call compassionate co-existence, they’re part of our ecosystem and we have to learn how to live with them,” Amy explained.
For people who want to help animals, Amy’s first suggestion would be to keep stray animals within their community. Not every animal on the street needs a home, they’ve got homes in the community. Amy continues, “If you find an animal that actually needs help, getting it desexed or vaccinated always helps, that’s in the case for healthy animals. For sick animals, you can take it to the vet, get treatment and put it back to where it came from, that’s the second way to help. The third way is supporting organizations like PAWS Bangkok and many other good organizations so we can help animals that aren’t able to return back to their community. Having empathy rather than sympathy and understanding that these community animals need to stay in their communities.”
Amy’s hope for the future includes turning PAWS Bangkok into an educational center. They will always do adoptions and rescues because the community needs these. However, Amy really wants to bring animal welfare education to students, to community members as well as veterinarians. “As much as we can help animals, educating people, developing empathy and compassionate co-existence, this is what the community needs, and I hope to help some more animals!”
People can visit adoptable kittens at the Kitty Adoptable Cat Cafe held almost every Sunday. If you want to help out PAWS Bangkok, you can donate either financially or with food and supplies. Other than their volunteering program, people can also foster, “Foster for Paws Bangkok” is their Facebook page where they announce when animals come up. Other than that, just share and like PAWS Bangkok on Facebook!