An Issue Without Borders: What Rescuing Dogs in Thailand Has Taught Me About Cultural Differences

A dog uses a wheelchair in Thailand.

I was raised on the concept that animals are like people — they have feelings, they need the basic essentials of life, and they want love.  I believe that depriving animals of these things is wrong, and from the moment I knew what a “pet peeve” was, mine was “animal cruelty”.

For the past couple of years, I have worked towards spreading awareness about the abuse and neglect of animals by doing community service work in the United States, and by sharing my experiences with others. But within the past 6 weeks while volunteering at a stray dog rescue project in Thailand, my view has been widened to encompass an international and intercultural perspective.

Animal Abuse in Thailand

Here in Thailand, I have seen the mistreatment of monkeys, bears, elephants, and of course, dogs.  It breaks my heart, but it also helps me to see things from a different perspective and inspires me to branch out to learn more about animal cruelty worldwide.

At Rescue Paws, our focus is the stray dog population.  In Thailand, dogs are considered the lowest form of life. For instance, if you are an awful person or do awful things in this life, you will come back as a dog in your next life.  This belief puts dogs in the position to be mistreated and abandoned, and that’s exactly what happens.

Every Dog Has a Story at the Volunteer Project

Sandi found on a trash pile by volunteers at the stray dog project.

Each dog at Rescue Paws has a special story that has made an impact on me.  There’s Sandi, who was found on what was essentially a trash mountain.  There’s Sprite, who was hit on the back with a machete and is paralyzed from the waist down.   Then, there’s Blondie, who, along with her five newborn puppies, evaded our capture for 3 years before finally giving  in and accepting  our help.

I mentioned Blondie in one of my previous articles and so far at Rescue Paws, I think her story has impacted me the most. I believe   this is because it relates directly to the mission of our organization.

The Larger Effects of Rescuing Dogs


Our top priority at Rescue Paws is the sterilization of stray dogs. Over a period of six years, two dogs (one male, one female) can result in 67,000 dogs!  This means that if stray dogs are not sterilized, they can increase the population by that much. Rather than trying to rescue and adopt out hundreds of thousands of dogs, we focus on stopping the problem before it starts.

Take Blondie, for example: if she and each of her puppies had survived on their  own  in the streets, and each of the puppies had five offspring , that would result in 25 dogs that stemmed from Blondie not being sterilized.  Needless to say, the cycle would have continued a lot longer if we had not been able to capture her and her pups for sterilization.

The best part is getting to watch the puppies grow up!

Locals and Their Efforts in Helping Stray Dogs

Rescuing Blondie also showed me that there are local people who care about the stray dog population in Hua Hin. We found Blondie and her puppies thanks to a local man who showed us which way she went after we lost sight of her on the road, and we were only able to capture her with the help of one of the local restaurant owners across from our clinic.

The good hearts of these individuals  have shown me that Thai people are capable of change.  They could have just thought that what we were trying to do was fruitless, and they could have ignored us. Instead, they offered their assistance in order to help a wounded mother and her children — something that is not commonly seen within mainstream Thai culture.

Albert Einstein once said, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”  If those locals had not stepped up to help, we probably would not have found Blondie, who in turn would not have survived due to malnutrition and an infection from a huge wound on her neck.  If she had not survived, neither would have her puppies. Her story speaks to the importance of that quote and to the importance of the work I am doing here at Rescue Paws.

Blondie recovering with her pups at the volunteer center.

Before coming Thailand, I would have never thought that there were cultural beliefs in place that regarded dogs as the lowest form of life. We can’t always assume that animal cruelty and abuse is the same everywhere, so it is important that we take cultural differences into consideration when we are trying to change the way people think and act.  Not taking those differences into account is where we have our downfalls.  Accepting those differences is how we grow.

About the Author:

Emily Evans is 20-years-old, from Waimea, Kaua’i, Hawai’i, and is a Greenheart Travel Correspondent for our volunteer in Thailand program!  One of the many things Emily looks forward to during her program is experiencing the Thai culture through the food and the Buddhist temples and walking the rescue dogs on the beach. Follow her adventures here

Are you ready to take action and make a difference? Volunteer abroad!

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