Could Thailand's Stray Dogs Be Transformed Into Street Guardians?

A local street dog | © Edahn Small/Flickr
A local street dog | © Edahn Small/Flickr
There’s good news on the horizon for Bangkok’s soi dogs (street dogs). A new pilot project – currently in its testing phase – is set to transform stray dogs into Thailand’s street guardians. Culture Trip takes a look at ‘Smart Vest’, a new tool designed by a Bangkok advertising agency that could help change the fortunes of Thailand’s neglected animals.

Stray dogs have not always had the best time in Thailand. Despite the implementation of an Animal Welfare Law in 2014 (which carries a maximum of two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 40,000 baht ($1,205) for animal abusers), dogs living on the streets have continued to be subject to immense cruelty. However, all that could change with the introduction of the ‘Smart Vest’, a new initiative from the Cheil advertising agency.

These blue vests – intended to be worn by dogs who roam the streets – have high-visibility stripes and are equipped with a hidden video camera and a sensor. When the dog barks, the vest will transit a live stream video showing what the dog can see in real time via a mobile phone and computer application. Considering the vast number of strays in most Thai towns and cities, Cheil believes this technology could greatly improve the safety of local communities, as well as the quality of life for the dogs themselves. Launched in March 2017, this is still in its test stage, but will hopefully be introduced into communities for trail runs in the not-so-distant future.

A spokesperson from the creative team at Cheil, Pakornkrit Khantaprap, said: ‘It will make people feel that stray dogs can become night-watches for the communities.’ The project has received a positive response so far, with managing director of the Phuket-based Soi Dog Foundation, Martin Turner, welcoming the initiative. The Soi Dog Foundation, established in 2003, has been at the forefront of the care and advocacy for Thailand’s soi dogs and cats. Their ultimate aim is to find long-term, loving homes for these animals.

The project is a positive turn for Thailand’s street dogs and demonstrates that the soi dogs can not only benefit local residents but also become more integrated, valued members of the community.

A Bangkok soi dog © ElsieNessie/Flickr