Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lanta Animal Welfare

As with the elephants living at Elephant Nature Park (ENP) north of Chiang Mai, the dogs and cats who pass through the doors of Lanta Animal Welfare (LAW) on Koh Lanta have experienced injustices that no animal should ever experience.

If there's one thing we've all learned from watching The Price Is Right, other than guessing an item's worth within a dollar, is how to control the pet population: have your pets spayed or neutered. That's all well and good back home where animals generally are pets, and people often have the time, money, and inclination, but on Koh Lanta most of the cats and dogs are not pets, and the prevailing local sentiment is that dogs are filth and should be eradicated. It's common practice for animals to be drowned, knifed, and have hot oil poured over them. As well, locals put out little piles of "bait" food that's laced with poison and fish hooks. And these aren't just once or twice occurrences. It happens every day. And there is no penalty for it.

Walking around the centre and hearing story after story of this, I had a very hard time understanding how there could be a value system where such torture of animals is ok. But that's my value system talking.

Thankfully Junie Kovacs created Lanta Animal Welfare to rescue and rehabilitate injured animals, and offers free sterilization, rabies vaccines, as well as education to the local community about how and why to care for animals. She also operates a local cooking school and restaurant, Time For Lime, where all profits go to support LAW. Her goal is to sterilize all the dogs on the island, and to date, she's sterilized about 80% of the population. All the animals are also up for adoption, because the bottom line is, they're not safe until they get off the island.

I recommend a visit to LAW to everyone, to see the amazing work that's taking place, and the extraordinary commitment and passion of the volunteers. You can volunteer here for a month or more, or drop by for a tour, and to walk the dogs and cuddle the cats. After a tour, we opted to take some dogs for a walk. We went out with a lovely couple from England who had been on the same tour, and we had a great chat, when I wasn't lagging behind trying to convince my dog, Belle, not to go in every culvert or roll around in every tasty smelling garbage pile... Belle dragged me (I'm clearly not so good at this dog walking thing...) into a restaurant on the beach where he refused to do anything but sit there and charm the dining patrons (who were compelled to visit LAW after their meal).

My dog, Belle, sitting on the floor of the beachside restaurant. This is where we spent most of our "walk."

Mark with Dok Dek, me with Belle.

For the purposes of this photo, we switched dogs, because Belle and Dok Dek refused to move...


  1. OMG. OK, I have to admit, when I posted my last comment, I hadn't yet watched the video, so my "can't stop smiling" comment may have seemed odd, given that during and after watching the video I'm nearly in tears. What a beautifully produced video for such an amazing cause! Such sweet puppies and kitties! That's always one of the hardest things I've found while traveling - the major cultural differences in how animals are generally regarded.

    1. Yeah, I know what you mean. I've been having a really hard time seeing so many uncared for and unwell animals... It's all very hard to see and not be able to do anything about. Asia definitely needs more places like LAW - sterilization would go a long way to prevent the population from increasing. Just a short walk down the street here in Bangkok, for instance, and I easily saw 50 dogs, all in rough shape (limping, mangey, hungry). And that's just one street in one city...