Moving to Songkhla, Thailand from Australia, Tamera Johnson discovered an unexpected passion when she pursued a career to teach English.
It all started with Bella, a tiny 4-week-old puppy who she discovered hanging around a roadside temple.
“She would likely have been killed by a car had she stayed there,” Johnston told The Dodo. “If not killed by a car, she would have soon been sick due to disease such as parvo, distemper, blood parasites or mange — this is very common here.”
It was clear that Bella didn't have a mom or anyone to care for her, so Johnston scooped her up and took her home with her. She ended up adopting the little puppy and giving her a forever home.
The experience opened Johnston's eyes for the dogs in need in Thailand. She noticed dogs starving, sick and neglected on the streets of her new hometown. Everywhere she looked, she saw a dog who needed her help.
See what she did about it on the next page.
Not only is this a huge problem for Thailand's local communities, where concerns that stray dogs could become aggressive, carry disease and destroy other wildlife, it's also a huge animal welfare issue.
“In Western countries, we have shelters, pounds and various rescue centers that dogs can be surrendered to,” Johnston said. “Here they are very few and far between.”
There is one local government-run shelter in Songkhala, but Johnston was shocked about the conditions that the animals were kept in.
“There is no funding for the shelter and dogs are dying at a fast rate … ill with blood parasites from ticks and fleas,” Johnston said.
Since there is no sterilizing program set in place, dogs are faced with overpopulation problems.
After seeing these harsh realities, Johnston started taking dogs into her home and giving them food, a safe place to sleep and proper veterinary care. She also tried to find homes for as many rescue dogs as she could. Many of her dogs have been adopted by families in the United States.
Since the area had a huge population of street dogs, she wasn't able to bring them all home with her. Instead she made sure they got food and any necessary vet care that they needed.
When people caught wind of what Johnston was doing, they started dumping puppies at Johnston's house.
“People here often take pictures of me and laugh, instead of offering a helping hand,” Johnston said. “Vets are not always the most helpful or responsible. People will ask for my help without offering any. So, on top of my actual job of rescuing and treating, I also have to deal with so many outside obstacles that just make my job even more difficult. But I’m determined and will never give up on these dogs or any other animal that needs my help.”
Currently, she has 38 foster dogs under her care at her own home, but she also tends to 50 street dogs.
After 6 years of caring for these neglected animals, she officially started a rescue group called Thai Street Paws.
One day, she hopes to build a clinic where she can provide veterinary services to these animals.
“I know I can’t save every single dog, but I want to help as many as I can,” Johnston said. “That is the reason I continue to stay here. I want to make a difference.”
For now, she relies on donations and the help of volunteers to care for these animals that have been neglected for so many years.