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Tragic Chatuchak Pet Market Fire: Activists Demand Stronger Animal Protection Laws

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Firefighters hose down a pet shop in the fish and pet zone of the Sri Somrat market, following a fire that broke out early Tuesday morning in Chatuchak district of Bangkok. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)

Animal protection activists are urgently calling for reforms to the laws governing the sales of pets and exotic animals after a tragic fire at a pet market in Chatuchak district of Bangkok on Tuesday. The blaze roared through the Sri Somrat market, which sits behind the JJ Mall shopping centre on Kamphaeng Phet 3 Road. It erupted around 4:10 AM, and firefighters battled the inferno for a grueling 90 minutes before bringing it under control.

Heartbreakingly, it’s believed that thousands of animals, housed in 118 pet shops spreading over 1,400 square meters, perished in the flames. This bleak list includes many rare and exotic species, adding to the tragedy.

The following day, a coalition of 10 animal rights groups banded together to issue a powerful joint statement, calling for immediate and comprehensive measures to prevent such a catastrophe from ever happening again. Among these passionate voices were the Society for the Promotion of Animal Welfare Under Royal Patronage, the Thai Animal Guardians Association, the Thai Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Save Elephant Foundation.

They voiced grave concerns that the incident had cast Thailand in an adverse global spotlight, emphasizing the agonizing suffering endured by the animals. In their petition, the groups outlined three distinct demands: they called for a swift and thorough investigation into the Chatuchak incident, coupled with fair treatment for all parties involved.

Furthermore, they demanded the implementation of uniform safety measures for buildings where pets are sold. These safety measures should include stringent fire protection standards and other necessary security provisions. Additionally, they sought the rigorous enforcement of relevant laws, particularly the Agriculture Ministry’s Notification on Animal Welfare Arrangements in Pet Sales Locations, BE 2563 (2020).

In response, the Chatuchak District Office has secured the fire scene with fencing for a period of 90 days to facilitate an uninterrupted investigation.

A notable update came via a statement on the District Office’s Facebook page, mentioning that fifty-eight vendors have been recognized as official disaster victims and will receive support as such.

Somchuan Rattanamangkalanont, the director-general of the Department of Livestock Development, revealed that most of the animals met their tragic end due to smoke inhalation. Those fortunate enough to survive, such as roosters, Savannah monitor lizards, and bearded dragon chameleons, are currently receiving treatment at the Kasetsart Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

The heartbreaking scene was further highlighted by columnist Nitiphumthanat Ming-rujiralai, who shared a series of poignant photos on his Facebook account. One gut-wrenching image depicted a Mexican Black King snake that had tragically bitten its own tail prior to dying. This heart-rending picture ignited a wave of outrage among animal lovers and intensified criticism against the vendors who had kept the animals in such deplorable conditions.

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