EDITORIAL: Pet registration fee will come back to bite us

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - High cost likely to force even more animals on to the streets.

The only thing not disputable in the whole animal registration issue is the cost. It’s expensive for a lot of pet owners or those who have opened their homes to abandoned cats and dogs. The pros and cons of licensing have been hotly debated, but one thing that is undeniable is that the majority of the “masters” are poor and not ready to pay the estimated Bt450 to register each animal under their care.
“It’s a mystery why so many people are against the law,” a government official said on Friday. He proceeded to endorse the positives of registration, saying it would promote pet owners’ responsibility and help prevent outbreaks of disease among animals.
If he had read comments on social media, he would have known why many are against the new requirements. The public outcry has centred on the high possibility of animals who had been rescued from the streets getting kicked right back out again. The new law, which has not yet come into effect and now faces a review, would force owners to pay for registration, ID books and labelling, costing about Bt450 per animal. Violators would face heavy fines of up to Bt25,000. This means a kind-hearted person who has sheltered 10 cats and dogs would have to pay about Bt4,500.
The cost is high for many people. This has prompted concern that pets that are “less loved” could be abandoned and some may face even more cruel fates. The big question still unanswered in the whole controversy is what happens to unregistered animals that don’t find their way into the shelters offered by temples or foundations.
Proponents of registration say the lack of legal controls has resulted in irresponsible behaviour and a lack of proper care. Pets have been starved and many are allowed to roam the streets where they are easily injured or killed. The new law would make people think well and hard before adopting a pet, they say.
Opponents insist that for registration to work as intended, measures should be introduced in phases, particularly the ones requiring fees. All-encompassing enforcement may backfire against animals that the proponents claim the new law seeks to protect, they say.
The opponents insist that Thailand’s unique circumstances, such as the culture of “pet adoption” whereby street animals are fed and cared for by local residents, should be taken into account. Pet registration measures cannot mirror those of more advanced societies, they say. Most of all, there are far more street animals in Thailand than in many other countries, and the reasons why registration is needed are different. 
There are other ways to deal with each problem caused by “impulsive” adoption of animals from the streets, the opponents argue. They include free large-scale vaccination campaigns. Registration, meanwhile, could be done in phases, with the government subsidising the expense to support poor owners. For example, citizens on low income could be offered a government subsidy if they adopt a lot of pets.
Statistics feature prominently in the debate, with both proponents and opponents making full use of them. A rabies scare this year prompted officials to hurriedly round up thousands of street dogs, many of which then died. An average of eight people a year die from rabies in Thailand.
These are the bare facts about cats and dogs in Thailand, which the authorities must consider carefully before taking action.


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