Gill Dalley, co-founder of the world-renowned Soi Dog Foundation, has died after a short battle with cancer. She was 58 years old.
“It is with profound regret and unfathomable sadness that we announce the passing of Gill Dalley,” said Soi Dog Foundation in a release issued today.
“The inaugural winner of the Canine Hero of the year award at the 2011 Animals for Asia conference in Chengdu, China, and the first non-Asian by birth to be named an Asian of the year by Channel News Asia Singapore in their annual awards, Gill passed away after a short battle with cancer,” the release said.
Having retired with husband John to Phuket in 2003, from her native Yorkshire in the UK, John and Gill were determined to do something about the horrendous stray dog and cat problem they had witnessed previously on holidays.
They teamed up with Margot Homburg, a Dutch retiree who had registered Soi Dog Foundation as a Dutch foundation the year before and had been sterilizing dogs in her home city of Bangkok, before moving to Phuket.
Working together as dog catchers and nurses the three of them started to run mobile clinics, utilizing volunteer vets from overseas, mainly at their own expense.
Barely a year later, in 2004, Gill, who had been weakened by a broken rib, darted after a dog that ran into a flooded former rice paddy. In retrieving the dog, she unknowingly became infected by a rare soil borne bacteria. She developed septicemia a few days later and was given a 10 percent chance of survival.
She beat the odds for survival but lost both of her lower legs and suffered damage to her arms in battling off the septicemia. In December 2004, she discharged herself from the hospital determined that she would be home by Christmas.
Three days after discharge the Asian tsunami struck in 2004, killing her best friend and volunteer Leone Cosens. Dalley, still wheelchair bound, initially counseled survivors and relatives of victims before commencing to work at mobile clinics throughout the area.
She taught herself to walk again, and for the past 12 years, except in rare circumstances refused to use her wheelchair, despite her stumps often being covered with blisters and ulcers, and enduring the pain that involved.
With Dutch partner Homburg forced to take early retirement due to ill health, Gill became the driving force in expanding the work of Soi Dog Foundation, including establishing its first shelter. Whilst husband John focused on the illegal Thai dog meat trade, it was Gill who took the lead in expanding Soi Dog’s sterilization program, preventing literally millions of unwanted puppies and kittens being born with no future, and at the same time fulfilling Leone’s dream to establish a shelter for dogs that had been victims of cruelty and abuse, and discarded puppies too young to fend for themselves.
Over the past three years she designed and oversaw the building of the largest hospital entirely dedicated to street dogs in Asia, and a shelter facility that is probably unmatched anywhere in the world. A perfectionist by nature, everything had to be right, even to the type of screws used to attach fittings. Every building at the shelter, including the cat hospital, was designed by Gill, determined to provide the best possible care for those dogs and cats that had nowhere else to turn.
A diplomat she was not. She had no interest in politics. To Gill, only the animals mattered and anybody who failed to meet her standards was soon gone.
The hard work and unwavering fight against cruelty to animals from John and Gill gained support from A-list actors in the creation of an awareness campaign featuring no less than Ricky Gervais and Dame Judi Dench as well as Peter Egan, Laura Carmichael and other stars of Downton Abbey, calling for an end to the dog meat and skin trade.
Today Soi Dog Foundation is the largest foundation in Asia working with stray dogs and cats. Currently employing nearly 200 staff, registered in seven countries and aiming to achieve 100,000 sterilizations per year, and end the cruel Asian dog meat industry, it is expanding its operations to other countries in the region as well as throughout Thailand.
“Without Gill and her determination to carry on and beat the odds, Soi Dog Foundation simply would not exist today, and the stray dogs and cats of the region have lost one of their greatest champions. Sadly, despite fighting bravely for the past few weeks she faced a battle that even she could not overcome,” said the foundation’s release.
Gill leaves husband John to continue their work and her family of rescued dogs and cats.
John is devastated by the loss.
Soi Dog Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation established in 2003, is a legally registered charity in Thailand, the United States, Australia, Canada, the UK, France and the Netherlands. Its mission statement is to improve the welfare of dogs and cats in Asia, resulting in better lives for both the animal and human communities, to create a society without homeless animals, and to ultimately end animal cruelty.
Story: The Phuket News