Michael J. Baines first fell in love with Thailand’s stray dogs in 2011 -now he feeds 80 of them every day. Baines makes more than a dozen stops on his three-round journey each day: Stopping before, during, and after work. The dogs are fed dry food and boiled rice cooked with bouillon and chicken, fish or pork for taste. Once a month, Baines adds in a powder that prevents ticks, worms and fleas.
Thailand’s capital alone sees an estimated 300,000 strays wander the streets every day – and this man is a huge part of how and why they survive. Born in Scotland, Baines and his family moved to Sweden when he was two years old. After spending some time in Thailand on holiday, he moved to the country and found a job. Now 49, Baines is the general manager and chef of Carrot, a restaurant in Chonburi, about 100 km south-east of Bangkok.
Baines first started caring for dogs five and a half years ago, when he was the manager of a restaurant in another part of Thailand. A dog, emaciated and covered in wounds, showed up behind the building he was working in.
“I fed her that afternoon and she came back the same time every day. That was the start, and then I kept going,” he said. Now Baines cares for over 200 dogs: 80 on the streets, 80 in his pound, 40 in his foster home and 11 of his own – all rescue dogs.
This year alone, Baines and his team have rescued 104 dogs. While some of them are too old or too sick to be adopted, Baines says the organisation’s re-homing rate for dogs who can be adopted is 100 per cent. Along with the strays he feeds, the 49-year-old also has nine dogs of his own at home, all from the streets of Thailand. But taking care of them is not cheap. Baines says the upkeep of taking in strays and medicating them is, on average, around 250,000 Baht per month – or $7,400.
In a country that does not take too kindly to dogs, this man is their savior. All across Thailand, abandoned pets roam the alleys, streets and beaches in search of food and shelter. From Bangkok to Krabi, these dogs are often sick, hungry and covered in sores – and they’re an ever worsening issue. “People refer the stray dog situation here in Thailand as a dog-problem, I think it’s the people that are the main problem,” Baines said.
The reason for Thailand’s dog problem is simple: Owners are not educated. They fail to spay or neuter their pets and will frequently abandon them – leaving the dogs to find other strays and have puppies. The education of an entire country will take time, but for now, Baines and his team are making notable progress. Over the past two years, his non-profit organisation The Man That Rescues Dogs has successfully spayed and neutered around 100 dogs.
Before getting involved, Baines says the pound gave stray dogs very little medical attention and social interaction, and kept them caged within 160 square metres of concrete floor. After raising $35,000 in three weeks, he now plans to extend the area to 1800 square meters and add grass, trees, a pool and a veterinary room to the pound.
Not all heroes wear capes…