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Calls to shut down Chatuchak pet market following horrific fire

PHOTO: MGR Online

There are growing calls for the pet market at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market to be shut down forever following a horrific fire that killed at least 1,000 animals trapped in cages with no chance of escape.

The fire broke out at around 4am on Tuesday, June 11, killing around 1,000 animals, including dogs, cats, birds, snakes, and rats. Many were burnt alive in their cages, while others died of smoke inhalation. Over 100 shops where both wildlife and domestic animals have been sold for years were gutted in the blaze.

Long before the devastating fire, the conditions in which the animals were kept had been called into question, with several petitions to shut the facility down circulating to no avail.

Animal campaigners routinely raised the fact that animals were permanently kept in tiny cages, many far from their natural habitats, such as iguanas, who normally bask in the sun in open spaces.

Meanwhile, dogs and cats continued to be bred for sale at the market, in a country where millions of homeless animals roam the streets or languish in overcrowded and underfunded government shelters.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s devastating fire, many animal lovers say the only silver lining to the horrific blaze is that the animals that died are no longer suffering. Meanwhile, there are growing calls for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and Governor Chadchart Sittipunt to step up and shut the facility down forever.

In a statement on the website of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, founder Edwin Wiek slams Chatuchak pet market for its “senseless cruelty”.

“Chatuchak market is a shame on the city of Bangkok. It has been allowed to continue selling animals unethically and often illegally for far too long. The BMA needs to act and stop this senseless cruelty to animals.”

Critics argue that the market has no interest in the welfare of animals, or in serving genuine animal lovers, rather they accuse it of profiting from suffering.

For years, the BMA has turned a blind eye to the conditions at Chatuchak pet market – as have officials ignoring cruel pet markets elsewhere in the country.

In Phuket, there has yet to be any comment from the authorities about similar living conditions for prospective pets at the Naka Road Weekend Market.

The section of the market called the “pet zone” advertises that “tourists and expats” can buy food as well as “lizards, parrots, dogs”. Some of the species being sold are allegedly exotic and could require a licence for local people to purchase such animals.

Like Chatuchak, these “pet shops” have an assortment of pets on display in confined spaces and cages taking advantage of impulse purchases.

Meanwhile, the horror of the Chatuchak fire has placed Thailand’s animal welfare record firmly back on the international stage, with the blaze covered by the BBC, the Guardian, CNN, the Washington Post, Australia’s ABC, CBS, and Time magazine, among others.

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