Guest article by Amy Blyth of London Vegan Diaries and Our Big Fat Travel Adventure.
Looking for a way to help stray dogs in Thailand?
A number of dog shelters and rescue projects operate throughout the Land of Smiles. You can find them everywhere from the forested north of the country to the sun-drenched southern islands.
Here are five of the top places to volunteer with dogs in Thailand and how to apply.
How To Volunteer With Stray Dogs in Thailand
Before You Volunteer
Volunteering abroad can be a great way to enrich your travels. However, it’s important to make sure the project you devote your time to is ethical. To ensure you help rather than harm the local community, do some research on the organisation first.
Find out if it’s a non-profit and search for volunteer reviews. And if you have to pay a fee, understand where that money goes.
It’s also vital to be realistic about what you can achieve when you volunteer abroad. You won’t change the world in a few weeks. Over time, though, the work of hundreds of volunteers like you will make a huge impact.
Here are some other key things to remember before you volunteer with dogs abroad:
- Always make sure you have travel insurance
- Check your travel vaccinations are up to date
- Be prepared to work in a potentially hot, humid environment
- Bring suitable clothes, closed shoes, bug spray and sunscreen
Ready to jet off to Thailand now? Here are five of the best dog projects that accept volunteers from all over the world.
Top Places to Volunteer with Stray Dogs in Thailand
Lanta Animal Welfare
Location: Koh Lanta
Cost: free. Volunteers must arrange their own accommodation, food and transport. Check here to compare accommodation options on Koh Lanta.
Requirements: there’s no age limit, but volunteers do need a good level of English and must be committed and passionate about helping animals.
Apply to volunteer at Lanta Animal Welfare
If you’re visiting the south, Koh Lanta Animal Welfare is the perfect place to volunteer with dogs. The rehoming and healthcare centre for stray cats and dogs was set up by Norwegian expat Junie Kovacs back in 2005.
Since then, the team has sterilised and treated over 15,000 animals and dramatically reduced the island’s street animal population. Additionally, they’ve managed to rehome hundreds of animals locally and overseas.
What’s great about Lanta Animal Welfare is that you can simply visit the centre if you don’t have time to volunteer. Take one of the hourly, volunteer-led tours to meet the resident cats and dogs and learn about how the shelter is run.
You can come between 9am and 5pm to cuddle and play with over 30 cats in the Kitty City. Or you can offer to walk the dogs in the morning or late afternoon.
Longer volunteer placements are more beneficial for Lanta Animal Welfare, preferably for at least a week. You can apply for one of the following opportunities:
Volunteer Opportunities at Lanta Animal Welfare
· General volunteer – to socialise with the animals, walk the dogs, clean enclosures, do some gardening or complete general maintenance tasks.
· Volunteer host – if you’re outgoing and fluent in English, you can volunteer to lead visitor tours. This means spending one day per week behind the scenes to learn about the animals, so you can share their stories when you show tourists around.
· Media volunteers – create video and photo content for the Lanta Animal Welfare website and social media channels. You need your own equipment for this role such as a laptop, camera and editing software.
· Vet and vet nurse volunteer – for qualified vet and vet nurses with at least three years of experience who can commit to longer stays to help the resident Thai vets.
· Flight volunteers – are needed to help animals who’ve been adopted get to their rescue home abroad. There’s no cost involved and Lanta Animal Welfare will arrange all the paperwork and procedures.
The Dog Rescue Project
Location: Elephant Nature Park (ENP), near Chiang Mai
Cost: from 7,000 THB per week
Requirements: valid passport, insurance and up-to-date vaccinations. You must be an enthusiastic adult (16-and-17-year-olds should be accompanied by a legal guardian) who loves animals.
Apply to volunteer at the Dog Rescue Project
Want to live among elephants in northern Thailand? Then volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park’s Dog Rescue Project.
Set in a valley an hour from Chiang Mai, the park was established in the ‘90s by a Thai woman named Lek. She has spent her whole life rescuing abused elephants from the logging and tourism industries.
The elephants are given medical treatment and left to roam the valley. They are never forced to work or give rides to tourists.
In 2011, Lek and her husband Darrick also launched the Dog Rescue Project after saving over 2,000 dogs from the Bangkok floods, many of whom they rehomed at the ENP. Since then, they’ve also rescued dogs suffering from disease and abuse in the local community.
Many of these dogs wander freely among the elephants, while others live in large outdoor dog runs with pools and play equipment. There’s also an animal hospital with a full-time vet and Thai mahouts who tend to the animals daily.
Volunteer placements at the Dog Rescue Project run from Sunday to Sunday (lasting up to four weeks), and the 7,000 THB per-week fee covers transport to and from the park, comfy accommodation shared with other volunteers and buffet meals.
The buffet is always fully vegetarian with lots of vegan dishes from Thailand, Southeast Asia and beyond. Work days run from 8am to 5pm with a 90-minute lunch break, and duties include:
- Walking the clinic dogs who are caged while they receive care
- Cleaning out their cages
- Feeding the clinic dogs (some may require hand-feeding and medication)
- Socialising with the dogs
- Bathing and de-ticking animals
- Helping with office tasks or site maintenance
Visitors from all over the world also adopt dogs from ENP. While some owners are able to fly back with their dog, many have to travel ahead while the dog completes his or her vaccinations and travel procedures.
So, the project often needs flight volunteers to travel with the dogs from Thailand to their new home. There’s no cost for this, and the project will arrange everything for you, including check-in at the airport, and at the other end, you’ll be met by the dog’s new owner.
Koh Chang Animal Project
Location: Koh Chang
Cost: free. Volunteers are responsible for their transport, food and accommodation. There are plenty of hotels and guesthouses on Koh Chang to suit all budgets. Check here to compare hotel prices.
Requirements: the project is always looking for help from vets, vet nurses and general volunteers who love animals.
Apply to volunteer at Koh Chang Animal Project
Koh Chang lies just a few hours south of Bangkok, so it’s the perfect volunteer destination if you’re on a short trip to Thailand and can’t travel far. American Nurse Lisa McAlonie set up the project in 2002 after visiting the island and witnessing the difficult lives street dogs face.
Locals have known Lisa for over 16 years now and trust her to provide emergency care, vaccinations and sterilisations for their pets.
While Lisa and her vet team provide services for free, supported by private donations, locals pay for the medicines and materials or donate what they can.
Work includes wound management, emergency services, parasite control and of course sterilising and vaccinating animals to keep the island’s stray population healthy and under control. Lisa also does some great work educating local people on how to care for their animals.
Koh Chang Animal Project is a smaller facility, covering 120 square metres, with a clinic, surgery and lab, ICU and four large outdoor dog kennels. To volunteer, email Lisa directly (email@example.com) and give as much or as little time as you can.
Volunteers need to arrange their own accommodation, transport and food. This is a more intimate volunteer placement, and you’ll likely help with cleaning, feeding and socialising the animals.
Soi Dog Foundation
Cost: free. Volunteers must pay for their food, accommodation and transport, although there is a shuttle service to and from town to the sanctuary for 100 THB per day. Check here to view accommodation options in Phuket.
Requirements: unaccompanied volunteers must be at least 16 (those under 18 need written consent from a legal guardian) and have medical insurance. Accompanied volunteers eight and over are also welcome.
The shelter is busy in high season from November to April, so there’s a greater need for volunteers in low season from May to October.
Apply to volunteer at Soi Dog Foundation
Soi Dog Foundation has been helping street dogs and cats since 2003, offering treatment, rehoming, rescue and vaccination services.
To date, the foundation has also managed to spay and neuter about 80 percent of the stray population in Phuket and also has mobile sterilisation clinics that operate across Thailand.
An important part of Soi Dog’s work involves campaigning for animal welfare rights across Asia and fighting to end the region’s dog meat trade.
Over 800 volunteers come to Soi Dog Foundation each year, and their primary role is to spend time with the dogs and cats so that they grow to trust people and are more adoptable. The work schedule is Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm with a one-hour lunch break.
You’ll start with an induction morning, which includes a tour of the centre, and then you’ll be introduced to the run of dogs you’ll be responsible for during your placement. Each run holds around 25 dogs, all former street animals.
The main duties are to walk the dogs so that they get used to being on the lead and can enjoy some quality time outside of their run each day. There’s a selection of dog walking routes around the shelter, as well as a great off-lead area where the dogs can play.
There’s also a chance to spend time in the cattery to cuddle and play with the cats. Soi Dog Foundation also welcomes volunteer vet and vet nurses and is always looking for flight volunteers.
Phangan Animal Care for Strays Foundation
Location: Koh Phangan
Cost: free. Volunteers are responsible for travel, accommodation and food costs. The Foundation may be able to offer discounted accommodation for longer volunteer stays. Check here to see more accommodation options on Koh Phangan.
Requirements: volunteers need to be at least 21 years old and committed to helping animals.
Apply to volunteer at Phangan Animal Care for Strays Foundation
Koh Phangan might be known for its crazy full moon parties on the beach, but the island is also home to this great foundation that helps stray cats and dogs.
Founded in 2001 when there was no vet service on the island, the clinic now focuses on reducing the suffering of stray and wild animals. This includes spaying and neutering to keep the population under control.
The foundation provides excellent hospital care for temple, stray and wild animals, many of whom may have been involved in traffic accidents or sadly, been poisoned.
Staff also work to educate locals on responsible pet ownership and what to do when they encounter injured animals. Every animal admitted to the hospital is vaccinated for rabies, distemper and parvo.
Phangan Animal Care for Strays Foundation relies on donations and volunteers to run, as there are only three full-time staff members. The project is always looking for clinic assistants, vets and vet nurses to work alongside their full-time team.
General volunteers usually work Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm and help to feed, clean and provide general love for the animals.
Such a good deed to volunteer helping stray dogs when you are traveling – I commend you and great to see this is being done, even more so in an ethical manner.
Volunteering when traveling can be a really fulfilling way to give back to the places you visit. It’s definitely important to make sure it’s done ethically, though, as some volunteer placements end up doing more harm than good.
This is a really comprehensive article. I’m so happy that there are people who take care of the street dogs. A while back we spent time in a town in India, and there are people there doing similar things. It’s really good work.
I do like to work with dogs because it’s good to keep them safety and to avoid them to eat from dusbeen because sometimes the can eat a poison