In 2005, Lanta Animal Welfare was officially born. The founder, Junie Kovacs, opened Time for Lime which is a beach restaurant/bar and cooking school and started to rescue animals using the profits, the animals stayed on the grounds of Time for Lime which was better than the cruel alternative of the streets but Junie wanted a permanent and separate base to care for the animals properly. Finally in 2010, Lanta Animal Welfare got their own land and property to do what they do best; sterilise, treat and care for animals in need.
Lanta Animal Welfare rely solely on the profits from Time for Lime and donations from the public.
Here is a fantastic video by Ross Fairgrieve from Where Next Photography explaining a bit about Lanta Animal Welfare. It’s very informative and touching and definitely worth 4 mins of your time. Please be aware there are some disturbing images but I urge you to watch.
When we were in Koh Lanta, Thailand in February, we spent a lot of time at Lanta Animal Welfare. I’d already learnt about them when researching our trip (they are also number one of things to do in Koh Lanta on Tripadvisor too!) and I knew we had to pay a visit. In the days prior to our first visit, people were raving about the place; not in the same way they would other tourist attractions or hidden gems in an excitable, happy manner but with much more emotion – love, sadness and gentle enthusiasm urging us to go and see for ourselves.
Now, I am an emotional person anyway and I am crazy about animals, especially cats. I’m that person who treats her cats like children and I ain’t ashamed to say it 🙂 So it was no surprise when I cried before I even walked in the door. Part of me was dreading it but I was also really excited to spend time with all these animals. I was nervous and I knew I would see some bad things and hear vile stories of cruelty but on the other hand I was there to help and I just needed to pull myself together, which I soon did.
As we pulled up on the moped, three little cats came running up from the bushes with curiosity written all over their faces. They were welcoming and eager to see us, then one by one more appeared, they were everywhere – was I in heaven?! The tears soon stopped and I had all these new cat babies to love, it was amazing! There was every personality, every size, every colour. Some had tails, some had stubs and a couple had little curly tails like pigs! Before we move on, I’ll explain the tail thing: a silly amount of cats on this small island have short stubs or short curly tails, this is down to inbreeding and genetics.
The cats are free to roam in the day and then sleep in the ‘Happy Cat House’ at night where they have tons of cosy beds. Although they roam around, they rarely leave the centre which says a lot for their happiness; as all cat lovers know, if they didn’t want to be there they’d be long gone!
We were just in time for one of their hourly tours. It starts with the story of Dok-Dek; a dog who came in with serious wounds to the head from hot oil and needing a lot of veterinary attention, and of course love. I cried – quelle surprise. Sadly this is just one story of many but I am pleased to say I never met Dok-Dek; he now resides with his new loving family in Copenhagen!
We were then taken to the cat area (well let’s be fair, as a cat – everywhere is your area) but to their official area where we witnessed feeding time – hilarious. Just imagine 30 odd cats running to you when you shake a bowl of food…it’s definitely an activity right up my street!
We were taken round the dog areas and learnt about their lives here and saw a few of the animals in cages either injured, post surgery or poorly animals just needing kennel rest. After the tour we had a chance to buy merchandise or discuss adopting one of the animals, the volunteers were very enthusiastic and knew their stuff.
We left in deep thought and rode back to the huts in total silence. There was a bitterness about how revolting and cruel humans can be, yet a strong feeling of utter gratitude and love for the people running Lanta Animal Welfare and those who help them, but above all, the warm feeling from meeting all those gorgeous animals and being privileged enough to get to know them even for a couple of hours. Funnily enough we went back many times after that day; we hung out with the cats, took dogs for walks, and learnt more about their work.
I was lucky enough to grab an interview with the co-ordinator, Claire. Like many other volunteers we had met in the previous days, she was absolutely besotted with the animals. Claire volunteered at Lanta Animal Welfare last year for two months, she went back home to England and they then invited her back for this role. So here she is again and this time for nine months. As she took us through to meet some of the dogs, it was clear she was 100% passionate about her job and loved helping these little guys. She spoke to them the same way I speak to my cats, I was going to get on with this woman! She took us behind the scenes where normal visitors don’t get to go so we were really lucky to hang out with the dogs for so long! She taught us all about the trials, tribulations and then also the nice side of running of Lanta Animal Welfare. We learnt more stories of the horrendous starts some of these dogs have had and how far they’ve come. It certainly wasn’t a traditional interview and the dogs took part too!
So you couldn’t keep away and you’re back again this year! What is the main objective of Lanta Animal Welfare and what are you guys trying to do?
“The most important thing is to reduce and control the population of stray animals on the island by sterilising not only the strays but pets too and educating the locals. We do drive rounds collecting strays from the street, people bring them in to us and we also do mobile clinics on different islands. There is one really lovely guy in particular who lives on a nearby island – he recently brought us 15 stray cats on a boat to be sterilised and then took them back. Our vet Vicky was amazing that day, he brought them in at 10.30am and they were all done by 4.30pm!”
Wow, good work! So you mentioned educating the locals is a major thing you guys do, how do you do that?
“Yes, we go around schools teaching children about the concept of pets, how to hold them, what to feed them etc. A lot of children here genuinely don’t know how to behave with a pet. We have to remember we are effectively coming into their country and culture and there aren’t really any animal welfare laws here. They don’t view pets the same way we do in more western society and can be viewed as commodities as opposed to pets so we have to be careful about how we broach certain subjects and be as productive as possible. We also educate adult locals and pet owners which has really worked over the years. Now a lot of people are aware of how to care for their pets properly, they bring them back for annual vaccinations or bring them for treatment if they’re poorly. We also have groups of schools come to visit the centre and we give them tours, sometimes the children even get to name the animals!”
Sounds great, education is definitely the key to making change! I’ve heard some awful stories from the staff the last few days such as people putting fish hooks in food bowls or tying dogs to a tree and abandoning them. What other issues to the animals of Koh Lanta face?
“We have some awful cases come through the door from poisonings, traffic accidents, hot oil burns or being attacked by other animals. Poisonings and stabbings are probably the most distressing to see. It’s really horrible, we had one dog here who just sticks in my mind. I sat with her in recovery, it got to the stage where she couldn’t lift her head so we were having to syringe water into her mouth, she started having seizures and it got to the stage where it was every few minutes, so in the end we had to put her to sleep because she’d actually got brain damage from it. This is why we educate where we can to show people that there are other ways of dealing with unwanted pets or nuisance strays and we are here to help, although we can’t take every dog in but if you were to sterilise it in the first place this wouldn’t happen in the same way.”
All the while we were surrounded by beautiful, friendly and loving dogs. Some were shy, cowering away in the shade of kennels, some sat up with us for cuddles while we chatted and some sniffing about not giving a second thought about us being in their enclosure! Claire was finding ticks and carrying out the swift removal. That’s something I’d really have to learn to cope with, I’m not great with things like that! It’s real, there is work to be done here and there isn’t the time to stop. It was also hard not to think about how they came to be here; some found in sacks in the jungle, some tied to trees, some much worse (can you imagine?) and some are here after a simple accident.
All these dogs are really friendly and seem to get on well with each other, how do you keep them so happy?
“Firstly we’re very careful and spend a lot of time getting them settled into the right packs. Sometimes, for no apparent reason they just don’t like other particular dogs, like humans I suppose – we can’t get on with everyone! For example, Oscar and Noodle who are siblings, we tried to put them in with Puiy, Sanchez and Yak who are the older group but Puiy and Noodle the two females, didn’t get on. Oscar was fine, he went in and had a little sniff, no problem, but Noodle and Puiy……we could never have put them together, they’re just two grumpy old ladies! So what we’ll probably do is try and put Oscar and Noodle with the puppy and the younger dogs that we’ve got because then they will automatically be the pack leaders. What we also do at 12 and 3pm is dog rotation which means they get moved on to the next enclosure, this way they don’t get territorial and they get new smells. We also do night duty on a rota, so we are able to take one animal in to our room and sleep with over night. I always choose Denver, he’s so sweet and cuddly, and misunderstood!”
At which point dog rotation happened and we got to meet a whole new set!
We walked a couple of dogs the other day, siblings Kobi & Millie – such sweethearts! I hear Millie has a home to go to but Kobe doesn’t which makes me sad, I’d love to be able to give him a home! Are there any dogs here you’re particularly gunning for?
“Most people tend to go for the puppies or the sweet young dogs and if they’re older or have ailments they get left behind. I’d love for Puiy and Sanchez to get a loving home; they’re both 7 and have been here a while. Puiy was dumped on the road along with her three sisters as a puppy, she had problems with her teeth and lost most of the front ones and she also has arthritis, bless her. She’s the only survivor of the litter; her sisters died of parvo disease. I’d also really love for Tammy to get a home with someone really active or into agility; she can jump that fence……!!!!! (said fence was about 8ft tall) so if there’s anyone out there who wants an active and very agile dog, Tammy is your girl!”
Unfortunately I couldn’t get a good picture of Puiy as she was resting but you can see her here on the adoption page right at the bottom
How easy is it to adopt and take an animal home? Aren’t they scared of long flights or do they have to sit in quarantine for weeks or months?
“It’s really easy. We do everything necessary to fulfil the quarantine rules from here and they have already been rabies titre tested in preparation for travel to the EU, they have their certificates and are ready to go so they don’t have to sit in quarantine for weeks. You have to bear in mind that most of them have had a pretty tough upbringing, so going on a plane really is not distressing for them at all.”
After very generously giving me an hour of her time, I left Claire to it. I was left feeling really privileged I’d got to spend time with these loving animals and learnt more about their stories. By now I was itching to take one of these little sweethearts home. Unfortunately I don’t have the room!
The work they do here is amazing and all with the profits from Time for Lime and donations from people like me and you, run by passionate and very loving people. Without them, I dread to think what state the animals of Koh Lanta would be in now. I fell in love with this place and I am considering going back there at some point and volunteer on a longer term basis.
How can you help? There are loads of ways and they don’t all cost money!
Donate. The amount doesn’t matter, just do what you can.
Adopt a pet. Can you give one of these animals a forever home? It’s easier than you think.
Become a volunteer. Want to travel and make a difference?
Become a flight volunteer. Again, easier than you think! I will certainly do this on my next Thailand trip.
Sponsor an animal. Would you like to pay for one animal to be cared for? You’ll receive photos and updates and you even get to choose which animal you sponsor if you wish.
SHARE, SHARE, SHARE THIS POST – Lanta Animal Welfare need as much publicity as possible. Share on Facebook, Twitter or any other place you can think of. Don’t belong to a social network? Copy and paste the link and email it to your friends! It’s really important we get the word out there so please share with as many people as possible. Hashtag #HelpLantaAW every time you share!
Or if you’re ever in Koh Lanta, why not pop along and cuddle a cat or walk a dog? They also need bedding and food so pop to the shop for some treats or when you’re done with your old beach towel, drop it down to them! Every little helps.
Eat or learn to cook at Time for Lime. Unfortunately they were fully booked when we were there, but friends of ours did a cooking class and said it was fantastic. All the profits from the cooking school, bar and restaurant go to Lanta Animal Welfare and the cocktails are good too 🙂
******The competition to win a Lanta Animal Welfare goody bundle and 6 months sponsorship of an animal has now ended and Buddy is pleased to announce the winner is………………………….*******
And congratulations to the four runners up who each receive a LAW bag – Donna Dyke, Kayley Freshman-Caffrey, Goh Peiming and Sigourney Chase.
(N.B I haven’t asked LAW to contribute anything except the time spent with us on our visits. I purchased this merchandise myself and will be paying for the sponsorship. It would be ludicrous for them to foot any bill!)
The competition may be over but our work doesn’t stop here. These animals still need to you to care, share and if you can – GO THERE!!! Please continue to spread the love about this wonderful place. These babies need you to just click on that mouse a few times!
As always, thank you very much for reading, it means the world! But especially this time, this is important and the more who read it the better things will become for these animals and maybe we can help re-home a few. You don’t have to do much, please just spread the word and together we can make a difference.
And thank you from these guys, they really appreciate it!