It's uncommon to see a villa compound jam-packed full of hundreds of dogs and cats in Phnom Penh. But these stray animals have been adopted by Kim Loan, who took them in after they were left behind by their owners or abandoned in the streets and pagodas of the capital.
Kim Loan relocated to the Kingdom with her Cambodian diplomat husband in 2005, and soon after she dedicated her life to the salvation of animals.
Today she has more than 170 dogs and more than 70 cats living in her home in Phnom Penh’s Vietnamese enclave of Koh Norea village.
The 62-year-old runs a centre called the Cambodian Animals Protection Association (CAPA) for stray dogs and cats.
It is supported by two French NGOs: the Fondation Brigitte Bardot and Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis, both of whom donate $5,000 per year that contributes towards funding vaccines, health care, food and caretakers, as Kim Loan is becoming too old to take care of the hundreds of animals.
Speaking Khmer, Kim Loan (commonly known as Madame Loan) told The Post that she decided to launch CAPA to promote animal welfare in the Kingdom.
“I have been doing this since I arrived here in 2005, and in 2012 I created CAPA to spread the word of our work. I sold my hotel and house in France to support it. In one month, I spend about $3,000 [of my own money] on top of the donations from the two NGOs,” she said with several cats perched on her.
“People throw away dogs and cats and they have nothing to eat. I take mostly sick and pregnant cats, which I then castrate after they give birth using funds from the Fondation Brigitte Bardot,” she said.
Visitors to her home are surprised when they open the small gate and see several dozen dogs barking away. And inside the home the surprises don’t stop, with the fluffier and more docile dogs inhabiting the first floor of the centre.
Now an old woman with aching knees, Madame Loan struggles to keep hold of her helpers as most of her staff struggle to cope with the more than 200 stray dogs and cats, which require constant cleaning and attention from 8am until midnight.
“I am worried as the helpers cannot stand working here for long. I can’t stand the bad smell in the house. And if it’s dirty the animals get sick and I have to pay for healthcare. So I have to spend much of my time cleaning from the entrance to the second and third floor of the home, as well as bathing the animals,” she said.
Simply keeping up with each animal’s vaccination records and health checks is a mammoth task for Madame Loan.
“We have books with each animal’s names and vaccine records. We have two NGOs who help with the cost of vaccination and castration, and if it is not enough I pay from my own pocket. I pay half and they pay half,” she said. “The cost for cats is much higher as their vaccine costs $35, while the dog vaccine is only $15. We want to have all the cats vaccinated, but it is not possible to cover all expenses.”
Feeding the animals is also a daily struggle at CAPA.
“Instead of buying expensive processed food, for one day we buy 10kg of fish and 15kg of animals’ lungs. Occasionally we receive some food from a charity. And when we posted on Facebook previously, people raised money to buy 12 packs of food that supported us for a while. But it is long term that is the issue,” she said.
Though Madame Loan struggles to raise hundreds of stray animals in her home, she only agrees to give away the pets for adoption if she knows they are going to a good carer.
“Some people ask for dogs for adoption and throw them away. So now I observe their behaviour to the animals and decide if they can bring them home with them,” she said.
Madame Loan and her husband currently share a home next to the river, but with ever shrinking space they plan to relocate to a suburb of Phnom Penh where they will not disturb their neighbours.
“We don’t want neighbours since the dogs bark loudly and are smelly. We’ve decided to find a bigger space around Kean Svay [in Kandal province]. The bigger space means we can build new separate houses between the dogs and cats,” she said.
With resources stretched and her ailing body, a main priority fort Madame Loan now is finding a way to sustain her animal shelter.
“Please those who can help the foundation please provide a donation. We welcome you to visit the orphaned dogs in Madame Loan’s house. A little donation for food and medicine, as well as volunteers from any fields, are very much appreciated. Many of our animals are waiting for a loving family,” she said.
“We are always in need of volunteers to help with the cleaning work, feeding and having fun with the furry friends at the centre, as well as financial support and food supplies.”
For more information, you can visit CAPA’s Facebook page (@CAPACambodianAnimalsProtectionAssociation), their website (www.capa.asso-web.com) or contact Kim Loan by telephone (012 280 060).