If you are an animal lover and a traveler like us, volunteering at a dog shelter abroad can be a fantastic experience, either just for a day or for an extended period of time. Not only will you get to play with hundreds of puppies and meet new people, but you will also make a huge difference both for the shelter and for the life of these animals. And one such amazing dog shelter to check out on your trip to Malaysia is 4PAWS.
Pets in South East Asia have it rough. Dogs get tortured and slaughtered for their meat. They get packed in the crate so violently that they often get broken bones and get shipped cross country on a long, water and food-less journey before getting skinned, sometimes still alive. In Malaysia, where a large part of the population is Muslim, dogs are considered unclean by some. Several dogs suffer severe burns from hot oil, get stabbed, dumped, tossed, discarded. Dog shelters need help to provide care for hundreds, if not thousands of injured dogs.
After meeting the wonderful Barbara who runs the Penang Animal Welfare Society (4PAWS) in Penang back in July, we felt compelled to go and give a helping hand washing the pups at the shelter for a day last month. Although it was a little sad coming to terms with the number of dogs that have been abandoned (they have 360 dogs and counting), it was one of the best and most rewarding days we’ve had in some time.
4PAWS is a non-profit dog rescue organization that provides a home and care for stray and abandoned dogs in Penang. They are located in the quaint little town of Teluk Bahang in Penang, Malaysia where tourists often go to visit Penang National Park. Society has a no-kill policy and provides continued care for animals whose age or disability may make them less likely to be adopted. Their existence relies solely on volunteers and donations.
Volunteering with animals while traveling isn’t a new idea, but it can be tricky to find opportunities that are ethical (especially when it comes to wildlife like elephants or orang-utangs) while remaining cheap or free. If you are considering doing some volunteer work with animals or even at an orphanage abroad, do your research first and make sure that the organization provides an actual benefit for the community rather than you ending paying money to steal jobs from the locals.
There are dog shelters all over South East Asia that rely on people like us to help make a difference. Several of them offer long term volunteering opportunities, including 4PAWS in Malaysia.