JOHN AND GILL DALLEY
Driving force behind the Soi Dog Foundation, tackling the plight of street dogs and cats in Thailand.
In 2003 there were an estimated 70,000 strays living on the streets of Phuket in appalling conditions.
John, then 53, and his late wife Gill, 44, had retired early to Thailand that year after falling in love with the country on their honeymoon. But far from taking it easy, they realised that the next chapter in their lives would involve helping thousands of street dogs and cats.
He says: "After Gill and I got married here in 1996, we talked in the following years when we came here on holidays about trying to do something about the horrendous problem that existed with stray dogs.
"In those days there were an estimated 70,000 stray dogs, the conditions of them were appalling. Most of them were skeletal and covered in mange, on every street corner you’d see stray dogs. We decided the only humane way we could do something about this was through large-scale sterilisation."
They met a Dutch woman who had set up a charity called the Soi Dog Foundation and joined forces, deciding that the best long-term solution to the street dog and cat problem was a mass spay and neuter programme.
One year on they faced a heartbreaking setback - while rescuing a dog from a flooded field, Gill contracted a rare form of septicaemia and lost both her legs.
But she continued to work alongside John, building a huge complex of shelters to help rescued dogs and establishing an overseas adoption programme.
They were also among the first foreigners involved in drafting legislation to make it illegal to eat dog and cat meat.
John adds: "We have grown a lot. During that time we’ve managed to achieve a lot of other things. Thailand now has an animal welfare bill and the consumption of dogs and cats is now illegal. We helped put an end to the dog meat business and the trade of dogs from Thailand to Vietnam, as well as the local consumption and skinning of dogs for fur."
Hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats have been neutered since Soi Dog Foundation’s inception, including more than 80% of the stray dog population in Phuket.
In 2019, Soi Dog Foundation achieved over 100,000 spay/neuter procedures and is now neutering and vaccinating more stray animals than any other organisation in the world. They also run the largest and most comprehensive dog and cat hospital in Asia.
Gill passed away in 2017 but John is committed to carrying on their commitment to the street animals of Thailand.
Coronavirus has affected the tourism trade of Phuket, meaning many people with dogs have fled the island to find other work and left their animals behind.
But John says the generosity of supporters has kept the charity afloat.
"Thanks to all of our wonderful supporters in the UK and around the world, we have managed to keep our doors open. I made a pledge not to close our doors to animals that needed us. I'm accepting this award on behalf of all of you.
"I want to thank everybody who supported us. I am just sad Gill can’t be here to share it with you."