Michael J. Baines was born in Scotland, and moved to Sweden when he was 2, but most of his best friends live in Thailand. More specifically, on the streets.
As the chef and general manager of Carrot, a restaurant in Chonburi, Baines hs made a name for himself in the Thai culinary scene, but he earned his nickname, “The Man That Rescues Dogs,” in 2011 after a stray female showed up at the restaurant’s back door. She had just given birth and was badly injured.
“I started to feed her and that was the start,” Baines told the Dodo in 2016. “I looked into her eyes. In [them] she said, ‘Help me. I’m hungry.’ She touched me. I started to see how they suffer and how friendly they are. I started to interact with them more, and started to feed them. It escalated and now it’s [been] five years.”
In Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, it’s estimated that at least 300,000 stray dogs are roaming the streets. Outside the city, thousands more wander homeless, as well. Moreover, these animals are disregarded as trash, and often treated cruelly. There are very few animal shelters in the area, and those in operation have a hard time of adopting out pets.
“All the people here say there are too many dogs and want to shoot them,” Baines said. “People in Thailand say it’s a dog problem. I say it’s a people problem. If they start to educate, the people problem will slowly go away, and the dogs will live happily ever after.”
Baines is working diligently to change those cultural norms. He has been rescuing these animals, helping them recuperate, getting them spayed or neutered, treating them with antibiotics, and making sure they have food and clean water.
“A few of them are really friendly,” he said. “I can hug them and play with them. Some are really scared, even after two years. One of the best feelings is when you have an old dog who has been abused all her life and you can actually touch them and hug them. It can take two years, but when it happens, it is amazing.”
Occasionally, he will find dogs who, whether because of injury, illness, or otherwise, cannot survive on the streets any longer. In those cases, he’s not above adopting them as his own. He doesn’t have a lot of space to keep them, so some of them are eventually adopted out to loving forever families.
While they are with the Swede, however, they are in good hands. In 2016, Baines was the proud parent of nine dogs.
“Nine is not crazy, but 10 would be crazy,” he said in 2016. “Nine is a good number.”
He has since added at least one for each year that has passed.
“I have 13 dogs myself,” he told the Animal Rescue Site. “14 would be crazy.”
One of Baines most touching rescues involved a dog who had been seriously injured in a car accident. He took the animal to a veterinarian, who helped set its broken spine. Baines named him “Coke,” and though he’ll live the rest of his life out in a wheelchair, Coke is enjoying his new life.
Since starting this mission to help the street dogs of Thailand, Baines’ operation has grown quickly. He has helped hundreds of dogs, and now manages the local shelter where at least 250 are currently lodged, along with 60 others with special needs. Baines also helped expand the shelter, adding a medical clinic to provide even greater assistance to strays, getting them the treatment they need, food and fresh water, and spaying and neutering them faster than ever.
“We managed to raise money and open the clinic in January 2019,” Baines told the Animal Rescue Site. “We have a full time veterinarian onboard since November 2018. We have 370 dogs in our shelter and there’s always something happening.”
Opening their organization’s own clinic helped save both money and time, resources any shelter needs to facilitate proper medical care. Baines’ facility also offers free health care for pets, as long as their owners have had them spayed or neutered.
“Opening a clinic was a no-brainer,”Baines said. It amounts to “thousands of dollars saved yearly, time saved, and less stress for the dogs, as we don’t need to drive them to an external clinic.”
The clinic sees between 5 and 10 animals a day, treating wounds, TVT cancer, vaccinating rescued puppies, checking the health of senior dogs, and more. A veterinarian stays at the clinic all day, waiting for each case to arrive, and spends hours outside the clinic, rescuing animals off the streets, often offering treating the animals on the spot, and making home visits. And, though a chat app, local pet owners can get helpful advice from the vet at any time of day. Baines and his team also make sure important pet medications are being restocked at shelters around the country.
They are doing important work helping thousands of pet owners every year, and saving many more animals from needless pain and suffering. The Man That Rescues Dogs will have an even greater impact once their newest shelter building is completed.
More than 50 dogs currently waiting in a temporary municipality-run shelter will have first dibs on the new facility, as will some of the overflow from Baines’ current bank of kennels.
“At the same time we are making a bigger kitchen to prepare the food more easy,” he said, adding that the roadmap includes further pans for development, even beyond the shelter extension. “We will have to expand even more, as more dogs needs our help.”
“Other municipalities next door have been here looking at our place and want to make the same in their areas. I can help if they want,” Baines said. As we trying our best to decrease the numbers of strays with monthly spay and neuter campaigns, it’s not enough. That’s why we have to expand. Last year we snipped around 800 dogs in our area.”
And there are many, many more. As Baines explained, most locals are not necessarily cruel to animals, they are just unprepared, or unwilling, to take care of them. Before Spring 2019, his shelter had already taken in 80 puppies, all under 3 months old.
“The problem is that the locals dump their unwanted dogs/puppies of different reasons. Could be old age, sick, injured and not want to spend money on the clinic costs,” he said. “Puppies are always dumped. The responsibility is not high amongst the locals. That’s what is hurting the dogs.”
There is a lot of work ahead for The Man That Rescues Dogs; a lot of animals still homeless and in need of medical care. Thankfully, Baines is up to the challenge.
“Hopefully we will keep doing what we do and save as many as we can,” Baines said. “I’m hoping to get involved more in animal welfare on a higher level then only the local government, as I would like to see harsher punishments for animal cruelty, education in schools, traveling around schools and teach them about responsibility and how to care and treat a dog. Most of all I wish the dogs wouldn’t need us, but they do, sadly. ”
Learn more in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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