ARRFF! As I make my mark around the globe, I often come across countless dogs, cats, and other animals living in deplorable conditions and blatantly suffering from utmost cruelty. Even though animal suffering is found literally everywhere in the world (even in nations with the most progressive animal welfare laws), we can still take small yet effective actions to make a positive impact on one’s life (or many lives) on foreign soil. We may not help all those in need and change the world overnight, but we can do what we can as change is incremental. Take a thorough sniff of 7 of many ways to help animals while traveling:
#1 Way to Help Animals while Traveling:
STRAYS: Show them some LOVE
If you are visiting an area where stray or feral dogs and cats are common (e.g. typically in developing or emerging countries), you can make a positive difference by showing them some much-needed love and care. Of course, you should always exercise caution when petting strays or ferals as they may not trust humans (they may have suffered from human abuse in the past) and could carry diseases. Nevertheless, my humans have come across numerous friendly strays and ferals who simply yearn for love, attention, and food. Even if you do not feel safe or comfortable getting close to them, you can still show love by offering them food, treats, and/or clean water.
It’s important to note that feeding strays and ferals have always been heavily debated. Critics say that more harm is done in this well-intentioned act because the food can attract wild animals (which may put the strays and ferals in danger in competition for food) and increase reproduction. Since feeding doesn’t solve the issue of strays, it can be seen as a way to speed up their reproduction. I wholeheartedly recognize the issue and agree to a certain extent. While everyone may have a different perspective, my humans and I personally cannot pass up a desperate, starving dog or cat without feeling moved to make his or her day into a good one. It breaks my little Yorkie heart when I come across fragile cats and dogs who are dying of thirst or starving for a small bite. When my humans put food out for them, they would take an extra cautionary step in making sure no additional food remains to attract any predators.
If you encounter a stray in an area where strays and ferals are NOT common, please do your part as a compassionate animal lover to make a report with the local animal authorities or take him/her to the closest animal shelter. Please check for a tag first to see if the animal is lost and see if you can get in touch with his/her human. If that is the case, be kind and gentle by offering the lost animal food and water to build some trust as you attempt to help find his/her way home.
I’ve also come across humans who rescued strays abroad on their vacation. If you’re able to make such a big commitment and offer a loving home to an animal in need, then you are truly a savior! However, please understand that the process involves multiple steps. First, you must gain the animal’s trust, which may take some time. Again, this animal may have been abused in the past so you need to gauge the situation before getting close. Second, you must be able to take the animal to a licensed veterinarian for a full check-up and address any pending health issues. Third, you will need to obtain any required vaccinations and treatment for your new animal companion in order to travel internationally. Fourth, you must complete any necessary paperwork (again, for international travel, depending on where you’re traveling to and from). Fifth, you will need to prep your new companion for the flight home. Despite such an involved process, the stray dog or cat will be forever grateful for their new loving home.
More information on how to travel with a dog internationally can be found HERE.
And, of course, if you ever come across an injured animal no matter where you are, please stop to help and take him/her to the nearest veterinarian.
#2 Way to Help Animals while Traveling:
NEGLECTED AND ABUSED ANIMALS: Show them LOVE and speak UP for them
Just like strays, it’s smart to exercise caution when getting close to neglected or abused animals (particularly backyard/tethered dogs) as it may be hard to anticipate how they will react. Sadly, tethered dogs can be particularly protective of their territory (which is the unfortunate direct result of tethering) so please be careful when approaching, even if you have good intentions.
I’ve put quotation marks on the word “owner” because I believe in more of an equal partnership between humans and animals versus the traditional “master-servant” relationship, in which abuse stems from. If you see animal neglect or abuse, please consider approaching the owner regarding the treatment or condition.
Throughout my travels, I’ve seen too many humans forcibly yanking, kicking, hitting, and enslaving all kinds of animals. Chained dogs, lonely “backyard” dogs or “guard” dogs, and all physically/emotionally abused animals need our help. Don’t assume that someone else will help or the animal will be “okay.” Be THE ONE to make a difference.
Once you’ve made a decision to approach the “owner,” please be very calm and polite no matter how terrible or abusive the situation appears. Display utmost respect and manners when approaching someone who apparently has different values for animal rights and welfare. Express your concern for the animal’s health and/or well-being in a soft-spoken, sincere, and heartfelt way; ask if they can do anything to improve the current conditions for the animal. If they refuse, try providing some simple suggestions.
For instance, for a lonely tethered dog – you can kindly ask if they can walk the dog, provide a more comfortable dog house, make the leash or chain longer, allow the dog inside the garage or a dog-proof room, etc. If they are unwilling to talk or consider, kindly tell them that you’d like to offer the animal some treats, toys, and/or better shelter. Even if there is a language barrier, body gestures and good manners can help carry the message across.
In Heraklion, Crete (Greek Island), my humans approached the human (or “owner”) of a super friendly yet lonely tethered German shepherd. Disturbingly, this beautiful dog (name unknown) is tethered 24-hours a day on a 3 to 4-foot chain in the scorching summer heat. He has a flimsy small barren dog house without any real comfort. His living quarters consist of dirt and rocks. Due to his lack of freedom, he is forced to defecate near his food. After visiting him for 2 days, my humans worked up the courage to speak to his human. And yes, there was a bit of a language barrier, but the message was clear. My humans politely expressed their concern for his dog and kindly asked if he could unchain him and offer some freedom. They provided him with light suggestions like allowing the dog inside the garage to shelter from the heat, giving him a walk once a day, or lengthening his chain.
After a 10-15 minute discussion, his human hesitantly agreed to lengthen the chain so the German Shepherd could have more space. He also said that he would try to take him out for a walk in the mornings. Although we cannot verify whether or not the morning walks are taking place, we did see that the chain appeared to be longer the very next day. We also saw that there was fresh, clean water along with a bowl of new food. Additionally, the waste was removed from his living quarters. The dog’s situation may not have improved significantly, but small improvements are better than the status quo. It may not be victory, but every little bit helps in the life of a neglected or abused animal.
#3 Way to Help Animals while Traveling:
BLATANT ANIMAL ABUSE: Don’t be silent
Just like approaching a dog’s human, reporting abuse to the authorities may seem tough due to a potential language barrier. If you see blatant animal abuse or neglect, please try talking to the locals to have a better understanding of the laws and research local/federal animal protection laws online. If you believe that the law is broken, please report abuse to the police or local animal welfare organization. Even if you don’t believe anything will be done, you should still do your part. Please do it for the animal. At the very least, awareness will be raised. Remember, change is incremental!
If local authorities refuse to act or if you are unable to make a report (or simply don’t feel comfortable doing so), you can contact a globally-recognized animal organization online (e.g. Humane Society International). Regardless of who you report to, please document everything and collect as much information as possible, including photos, videos, address/exact location, names, detailed conditions, etc. As my humans and I make our way around the globe, we will never stay silent and will keep reporting animal abuse. Never assume that someone else will help. BE THE ONE TO SPEAK UP for the animal.
#4 Way to Help Animals while Traveling:
BE ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS: Always recycle and NEVER litter
WOOOF! Recycling makes for a better environment and planet for ALL living beings, including humans. Through waste elimination and pollution reduction, recycling helps protect the ecosystem (including wildlife, marine animals, and street animals). Sadly, millions of animals are killed from waste every year while desperately looking for a meal or getting trapped in everyday waste items (e.g. plastic rings and bags). If your destination doesn’t have separate bins for recycling, then please always discard waste responsibly. You can also conserve resources and energy by skipping housekeeping. Please be a responsible citizen of Earth and do your part in saving the planet! The animals (and humans) will only benefit. 🙂
#5 Way to Help Animals while Traveling:
ANIMALS IN TOURISM: Skip attractions that exploit animals for profit
Please do NOT support for-profit animal attractions no matter how amazing they sound. The only reason why they are in existence is because of the DEMAND – people are willing to pay for them. Hence, we need to start asking ourselves why and how these animals are captured, bred, trained, AND treated in unnatural habitats for profit. It’s normal for most humans to have gone to circuses and zoos in their lifetime; however, times are changing and animal rights awareness is spreading. Animals deserve better!
Examples of tourist attractions that exploit (and/or abuse) animals for MONEY:
*NOT a comprehensive list
*Rides on any animal – ex. donkey rides, camel rides, elephant rides, pony rides, horse-drawn carriages, etc. Using an animal to haul baggage is just as brutal.
*Personal encounters (or photo opportunities) with wild animals – ex. elephant parks (some may pose as sanctuaries so please do your research), swim with dolphins, owl cafes, tiger or tiger cub photos/encounters, pictures with captive monkeys (commonly chained), llamas, alpacas, exotic birds (with clipped wings), and drugged snakes, and the list goes ON. No wild animal willingly poses with humans for photos; therefore, we need to understand that they are usually held or bred in captivity, torn from their mothers at an early age, drugged, and/or trained through starvation, abuse, or fear.
*Competitions, races, or fights involving animals – ex. bullfights, dogfights, cockfights, horse races, sled races, and so on. It’s never by choice that animals risk their own lives and overexert themselves in dangerous (and often deadly) competitions.
*Sites where wild animals are held in captivity – ex. circuses, zoos, roadside zoos, marine parks, aquariums, etc. Even if they are considered non-profit organizations, they are still depriving wild animals of their natural environment for the sake of human entertainment and amusement.
Bottom Line: PLEASE DON’T SUPPORT THEM. There are many fulfilling ways to experience a city or country that do NOT involve animal exploitation. It’s normal for most humans to have visited one or many of these attractions at one point in their lifetime, but let’s move forward and vow to never to do it again. Spread the word!
If you really wish to see wildlife, opt for national parks or sanctuaries where animals can roam freely in their natural habitat and aren’t exploited for money or entertainment. Do your research thoroughly before visiting any sites that host animals.
#6 Way to Help Animals while Traveling:
ANIMAL-DERIVED SOUVENIRS: Leave them at the store!
YEP, my silky fur is beautiful and it’s MINE to keep! Please be an ethical traveler and never support the demand for animal-derived products. Silk, ivory, leather, snakeskin, down, feather, fur, wool, and the list of animal items goes on. Reports have shown that even “fake fur” can come from dogs and cats due to mislabeling so it’s best to avoid entirely. Before you consider buying an exotic or “cool” looking item at a souvenir shop or clothing store, please imagine what the animal went through for that specific item to arrive at your fingertips. Again, research and ASK questions if you’re unsure what types of material are used.
#7 Way to Help Animals while Traveling:
MEAT CONSUMPTION: Reduce your intake (Yep, we can all skip the meat at least sometimes)
NEWS FLASH: You don’t have to be a vegan or vegetarian to save animals! Even if you skip meat once or twice a week (Meatless Mondays, anyone?), you are saving LIVES! My humans are not proclaimed vegetarians or vegans, but they try to eat a more plant-based diet overall. A full-on plant-based diet may be challenging when traveling in some parts of the world, but we can all skip the meat once or twice a week – whenever possible. After every “carnivore” meal, take at least a couple days off (if that is too ambitious, start with just the next meal off). It’s an easy yet effective step to lower the demand in animals killed for human consumption. Not to mention, we can all agree that meat reduction improves our health! My tail wags for WIN-WIN.
Hope we can all help animals no matter where we are, even on foreign soil. Small actions come a long way so make your MARK today.
Markin’ it up,
Roger Wellington a.k.a. The Doob
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