koh lanta animal welfare
Although we were enamored with our traveling lifestyle, from time to time we talked about getting a pet once we settled down. Ryann is more of a cat person, while Devin is allergic to cats and loves dogs. During down time, we would search dog breeds that we both liked. Needless to say, we were hurting for some animal love.
Upon arriving in Koh Lanta, we looked for different things to do while on the island if we became tired of the beach (is that possible?). We stumbled upon an animal welfare organization that gave tours of the shelter, asking people to hold the kittens and take the dogs for walks. Fate played right into our hands.
Arriving to the Shelter
We rode our motorbike rental, following signs to turn down a dirt road. We finally spotted a sign displaying the adorable logo. But if we missed that, the amount of lovable kittens pouncing about would’ve been our answer.
We parked and made our way down to the entrance. Ryann immediately ran to the nearest kitten. It had been too long! She picked up a black one who had been rubbing up against her leg, holding it close to chest. Cooing and coddling was in the cards for the next ten minutes, minimum.
We made our way to the office where a backpacking volunteer greeted us. She informed us that the next tour wasn’t for another 20 minutes. Devin walked around taking pictures while Ryann greeted and gave a little love to all the kittens wandering around.
When it was time for the tour, there were roughly twelve of us. Because of this, we unfortunately couldn’t hear everything. But we gathered what we thought was most important.
First, we visited the “Cat House.” There were numerous cat beds and cages lining the walls. During the day, the cats and kittens were free to roam the grounds, but at night they all ended up in their beds. The volunteer explained that they try their best to keep the building sanitized and clean, but it still had a foul smell despite their efforts.
Next was a stop at a cage in between the shelter and the cat house. Covering the cage was a small blanket. What was under there? We learned that there was attack on a pet rabbit, at the hands of an unruly dog on the island. The shelter had tried their best to fix the pet rabbit for the owners, but in the end, decided they didn’t want to keep it. Due to the attack and the surgery, the rabbit’s head was now turned up, so it’s right eye was always looking at the sky. Poor thing.
After, we filed in the side entrance to the shelter. Hearing cries of mews and wails, we walked through where they kept the animals overnight, between vaccinations, surgeries and spaying/neutering. From the caged patients, a hall brought us to the volunteer staff area which included: a humble kitchen, a cot (for the person who has the overnight shift), and posted information regarding the adopted pets.
A board listed animals needing volunteers to take them on their flights to their new homes. The volunteer explained to us that many times because of the paperwork process, the people who adopted the pets couldn’t wait the entire time and flew home. The shelter would ask people on the tour if they could sponsor any of the pets on their return flights, in case times and places matched up for the pets and the new families. While we were leaving, we overheard a woman talking about sponsoring a dog to fly home with her to Vancouver!
Once we passed through the volunteer area, we walked around the dog kennels. On average, there were around 40 dogs. They had been separated and had areas of about 5-6 dogs. Some barked, some whined, but most looked up to us with hopeful, loving eyes. Our hearts broke for them! We were then informed because of the heat and hot temperate in tropical southern Thailand, we would have to wait another 2-3 hours to walk the dogs.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time in our schedule to wait or postpone, so we’d have to wait another day to walk a dog! We recommend this visit to anyone visiting Koh Lanta, the volunteers and staff work hard to keep the animals happy and healthy. And who knows, maybe you’d walk away with a new family member!
About the Welfare Center
After the tour, we learned a little more about how and why it all started. A tourist, Junie Kovacs, was visiting Koh Lanta and had noticed the number of dogs and cats running wild around the island. After a little digging around, she found that almost all were homeless and many animals weren’t spayed or neutered. Junie needed to help, but first she needed a plan and money!
She opened up a restaurant, called Time for Lime in order to better finance the welfare center. There, she also found volunteers interested to help at the welfare center. To this day, a percentage of the restaurant’s profits helps support the services and ambition of the welfare center.
According to the Koh Lanta Animal Welfare website, they have spayed and neutered around 8,000 pets on the island. Plus, there are about 150 animals total in their care at any given time. They rely heavily on expat volunteers and donations to keep the welfare running. To learn more about how to help, visit here.