Lanta Animal Welfare
By Maeve Henry
If you are an animal lover, then no holiday to Thailand can be complete without a visit to Lanta Animal Welfare (LAW), the number-one rated Koh Lanta attraction according to Tripadvisor. In a country where the wellbeing of animals is not exactly top priority, the difference made by this organisation is nothing short of phenomenal. If he could talk, Fatty, the handsome white tomcat somebody tried to slice in half with a butcher’s knife, would surely agree. As would sweet-natured Dok Dek, the dog who had burning oil poured on his head. Just two examples of many that wouldn’t be alive today, had it not been for this small powerhouse of volunteer vets and animal lovers.
But LAW is not just there to clean up the aftermath of appalling cruelty such as the poisoning, stabbing and drowning of animals – although such occurrences are all too frequent. “Ultimately, we share the same objective as everyone else on the island,” explains manager Kaja Madej. “Our primary goal is a reduction in stray animal numbers. So a big part of our work is education, demonstrating that our solution of sterilisation (spaying or neutering) is the most humane and effective one. We really need locals to work with us in identifying where there are animals that need to be sterilised, rather than taking matters into their own hands in truly horrific ways.”
Founded in 2005, LAW’s accomplishments are significant: 5,000 animals treated to date, including sterilisations, vaccinations and emergency medical treatment, on an island which previously didn’t even have a vet. Thanks in part to LAW’s policy of administering a free rabies vaccine to every animal it sterilises, that disease has been all but eliminated, it being over 15 years since the last case was detected on the island. In addition, LAW estimates that over 80% of Koh Lanta’s stray dogs are now sterilised, leading to a vast reduction in what would otherwise be an out of control population explosion.
However, all this is a very costly business. LAW receives no funding from the Thai government, relying solely on donations to continue its work. “We keep our prices for spaying and neutering very low, to encourage local pet owners to sterilise their animals,” Kaja explains. “We even carry out the surgery for free when someone genuinely cannot afford it. Yet the costs to us are still the same - drugs and medical equipment are never cheap.”
A portion of LAW’s funds are donated by Time for Lime, the local restaurant and cooking school which channels its profits into the animal charity. In addition, with the exception of one vet and three members of staff, everyone working at LAW is a volunteer, giving their time, energy and love for free. “We would be lost without our volunteers,” explains Maeve Henry, the charity’s Marketing, Volunteer & Adoption coordinator. “With over 30 dogs and 20 cats at our shelter, the level of hard work involved is tremendous. Without volunteers to clean out kennels and feed and walk these animals on a daily basis, we simply couldn’t do it.”
Help From Visitors
The support of tourists is also invaluable and LAW’s shelter near Pra-Ae (Long Beach) is open daily to visitors. Volunteers will take time out from their busy day to provide an informative tour of the facilities and visitors are welcome to spend as much time as they like with the animals. There is always the option of walking a couple of dogs on the nearby beach. “Dog-walking is one of the best ways holiday makers can help us,” Maeve continues. “We always ensure each of our dogs is walked at least once - preferably twice - a day, and given how busy each day is, any help we get is gratefully received! All our animals are child-friendly and want nothing more than a bit of love and affection.”
In addition to such hands-on assistance, financial help is also essential to the charity’s continued existence. Donations can be made in person or online through LAW’s website: http://www.lantaanimalwelfare.com/. Every donation received, big or small, goes directly to the provision of food and medical care for the shelter’s animals, funds treatment for stray dogs or cats on the island or helps with the purchase of much-needed equipment and medication. With the tourist dollar going much further in Thailand than it would back home, even a small amount can make the biggest difference.
“The Wow Factor”
So consider a visit to some real-life heroes on your next trip to Koh Lanta! The Tripadvisor feedback speaks for itself: “A holiday experience that makes a difference”, “Everyone must go here on a trip to Lanta”, “Great things happening at this place” – extracts from just three of the latest reviews. It’s clear that the work done by Lanta Animal Welfare has made a significant difference to the safety of both humans and animals on the island. The sterilisation of such a large number of stray dogs has led to calmer, less aggressive animals, making the beaches safer. Rabies has practically been eliminated. And yet, without financial support, they can’t go on. “This is why tourists are our lifeblood,” explains manager Kaja Madej. “Visitors to the island who take the time to understand and support our work are our only hope. Without their donations, we simply won’t survive.”
For more information on how you can help, please visit http://www.lantaanimalwelfare.com/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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