Western animal lovers are often shocked and dismayed at the treatment of animals they might come across in Southeast Asia. It might be due to the high visibility of homeless strays in areas that lack the out-of-sight-out-of-mind shelters that they are familiar with “back home”. The Langkawi Animal Shelter and Sanctuary Foundation (LASSie) was set up by one such animal lover; it receives, rehabilitates and cares for neglected, abused and needy animals on the Malaysian island.
The foundation shelters numerous dogs and cats on their limited premises due to their wish to avoid euthanising animals. They also care for animals whose age, disposition or disabilities makes them unfavourable in the adoption arena. Many of these animals are victims of road accidents or various other traumas in which they need special care and attention, giving these animals an opportunity to live out their lives with dignity.
The foundation also runs the Langkawi Island Animal Clinic, a charity project aimed at the sterilisation of the local stray cat and dog population. Both are non-profit ventures staffed primarily by volunteers and a rotating team of veterinarians (some volunteers) and veterinary students. Volunteer vets often stay for up to a month and work in the clinic assisting the two resident vets. Most of the work consists of neutering the island’s stray population and the pets of local clients, as well as treating the sanctuary’s resident cats and dogs.
Stray animals are sterilised for free at the clinic. Many a family can be counted on for feeding strays and often refer to them as “mine”, not necessarily a “stray”. But the responsibility generally ends there. Through community education and resources the clinic hopes to convey the message that “strays” are taken care of free of charge. But the clinic is also quite generous in offering discounted or free services for actual family pets from low-income homes.
Stray cats on the streets are trapped and sterilised then returned to that particular area (if safe) to keep them in their accustomed natural surroundings. An adoption centre is also in operation in hopes of finding loving homes for the more adoptable cats and dogs. Quite a few family pets (local and foreign) or entire litters of kittens and puppies are abandoned at LASSie’s doorstep on a regular basis, adding to the ongoing need for new homes through adoption or temporary fostering. Animals put up for adoption are spayed/neutered, de-wormed and vaccinated at the clinic’s expense.
LASSie welcomes up to four live-in volunteers at a time. Shelter volunteers walk lots of dogs and help with feeding and cleaning, as well as monthly flea and worm treatments. Most of the work is with dogs, so an affinity with them is very important, but plenty of cats here need human contact as well. Basic accommodation is provided for live-in volunteers including staff lunch and a snack in the evening. Conveniently located, the sanctuary is within 10-minute walking distance of the pristine shores of Pantai Cenang and many shops, markets and restaurants. Live-in volunteers work 10:00 until 18:00 six days a week.
One of the centre’s objectives is to educate adults and children on animal welfare, to ensure an understanding and peaceful co-existence with both Langkawi’s abundant wildlife as well as domestic animals. An educational programme with schools on the island is currently being designed in hopes of furthering this objective.
As the shelter slowly expands and the general population of strays increases, more helping hands and funding is needed. So whether applying for a live-in volunteer position or simply making the most of your Langkawi holiday by volunteering, donating or even sponsoring a permanent sanctuary resident, LASSie welcomes all. A gift shop at adjacent Bon Ton Resort offers unique LASSie fundraising items and is also well worth checking out.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.