Travelling is such a privilege; you are being invited into someone’s home. You are welcomed to experience cultures, food, people, religions, and unique to that place. It truly is a gift to be able to travel, but it does come with some challenges and responsibilities when it comes to our animal friends.

I have been travelling overseas since I was nine and have been taught that we must try and give back even when we travel. Look after the environment we are enjoying, learn some phrases in the language of the people I am sharing space with, follow customs and best practices and do not support animal tourism.

My first memory of actively helping animals overseas is from my first trip at 9 to the USA and Mexico and is imprinted on my head and heart; this also probably explains how I ended up in Cambodia running an animal rescue, why I have been an RSPCA Inspector, a border force detector dog handler, fur foster carer and of course a doggy day care owner! My life revolves around what I can do to help other living beings.

I have now travelled extensively and find compassion fatigue to be very real when I am travelling, and before you ask, no, there is no one place that has been worse than others. Animals are always in need, from Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam to Egypt, Italy, and Japan.

On a recent trip to Egypt and Jordan with a fellow ex-RSPCA Inspector, I made a point of documenting the animals we encountered and how we helped. I get it; sometimes, we don’t know what to do or where to find help. As my trip progressed, my inbox filled with people asking me how they could help animals on their travels. I have compiled a straightforward checklist. I use this while I am planning my trip, especially if I know I want time at a rescue or in the field, and then as an easy guide for what I can be doing when I am in the country.

It can be easy to turn a blind eye or feel sad about the suffering of animals when we are travelling, but these small things help that one animal and that’s what counts.

Street Dogs

Tips for travellers

  1. Safety first: everything we do while travelling should be done with safety as a priority. If you have no experience handling street animals, don’t pick them up. Haven’t had your shots? Probably not wise to break up that dogfight!
  2. Research charities and individuals who are working with animals in the places you are visiting. I have yet to find a town/city/state I have visited that hasn’t had some wonderful human/s looking after animals.
  3. After you have found your charity or human, reach out. Don’t assume what they might need; it is better to ask them. Money might be best so they can purchase things themselves, or they might be after medicines that are hard to find or expensive in the country (note: make sure you can travel with medication and ask the charity to provide a letter, I have never had any issues with carrying medicines for animals). If you want to visit a charity or organisation, contact them first, don’t just show up unless it clearly states you can.
  4. When you are in the country, go and buy some dry food (I usually buy cat and dog) and take this out with you each day.
  5. Take extra water and fill up the containers that you see. If you have empty food containers, leave these with water as well.
  6. Take food from breakfast (he he). Google check foods as we don’t want to further harm street animals. I use ziplock lunch bags (travel must-haves) and stock up for the day.
  7. If you see animal cruelty at a site, report it to the Tourist Police. In the long term, it does make a difference, and places like Petra have seen a considerable change in attitudes in the past 10yrs due to tourists speaking up.
  8. Donate to charities or people you see helping animals while you are there. We came across several people, including one of our tour guides, who would bring bags and bags of food with her each day to feed the street dogs. A donation to her goes a long way. Tip the people you see looking after animals as well. In Egypt, this included waiters, rubbish collectors at sites, our drivers, and ticket attendants.
  9. If you have experience handling animals, you can take some eye wash/tissues/wipes etc., to help clean out mucky eyes and ears.
  10. Finally, do not support animals being used as tourist attractions. This means animals being ridden by tourists, used in circuses or shows, shown off in the street, and washing or grooming animals as a tourist activity. Before falling into an animal tourism trap, I always ask myself the following questions: would this be allowed back home? Is this animal protected? Is there a person making money to the detriment of an animal’s well-being? Am I supporting animal cruelty under the guise of supporting humans?

We are all saddened by animal cruelty, and in some places, it is in your face constantly, but don’t let that stop you from doing small things: for that one furry friend, you may have potentially saved its life.

All images by Kaz Kelly.