Photo: Terrae Weatherman
Recently Sidewalk Dog pack member Sara and her BFF headed to Mexico to dodge a week of winter. Before the trip, they scheduled a morning of volunteering with an animal rescue near their hotel.
Because dog withdrawal on vacation is real, y’all.
Coco’s Animal Welfare in Playa del Carmen is one of many dog-loving nonprofits that welcome volunteers to drop by on vacay. Sara and Terrae spent a memorable morning there walking dogs, socializing puppies (AKA squealing with happiness while the puppies gnawed their shoelaces), and hearing about the work being done to improve the plight of Mexico’s pets.
As they learned on their tour, Coco’s partners with Minnesota’s own Pet Project Rescue (PPR) to provide FREE spays and neuters, rabies vaccines, flea and tick treatment, and parasite medicine to pets in Cristo Rey, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the area. PPR’s President Maia Rumpho-Stellpflug explains, “We partner with Coco’s 365 days a year, funding surgeries and medical care, while Coco’s vets perform all the needed vet care. Our goal is to spay/neuter every animal in need in Cristo Rey to prevent future generations of homeless dogs and cats.” Adds Laura Raikes, Director of Coco’s, “Without the financial support from PPR sponsoring this project we would be unable to offer this service for free. Teamwork is key in animal welfare. ” You can donate to PPR and Coco’s here and here.
Here are ten more organizations that welcome “voluntourists”:
- In Mexico, volunteers can walk and socialize homeless dogs at the SPCA Puerto Vallarta. Same goes for Playa Animal Rescue in Playa del Carmen and Isla Animals in Isla Mujeres, where you can even sign up to escort an adoptable dog to a rescue in Minnesota (best carry-on ever). Or get in touch with our pals at Wicked Pizza to arrange a visit to walk dogs at the Los Cabos Humane Society.
- Are there other volunteer opportunities in Central America? You’d better Belize it! (Sorry.) Visitors are welcome at Cayo Animal Welfare Society in Belize, where you’ll be given a care package to help the stray dogs you encounter on your trip.
- Headed to Hawaii? You lucky dog. Both the Kauai Humane Society and the Maui Humane Society encourage visitors to take shelter dogs on field trips.
- At Elephant Nature Park in Thailand, you can sign up for structured opportunities to socialize and care for their dogs. Or elephants, natch.
- Closer to home, Villalobos Rescue Center in New Orleans welcomes dog walkers at structured times each week. And our readers have raved about their experiences at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, where you can take one of their rescue dogs for a sleepover at a nearby dog-friendly hotel.
- Finally, don’t overlook our home state for voluntourism: For example, if you’re headed up to the Bemidji area for summer vacation, make arrangements with Red Lake Rosie’s Rescue to feed and play with their shelter pups.
You’re not limited by the options here – a quick Google search can connect you with nonprofits near your vacation destination.
(100% true fact: For every hour spent volunteering on vacation, you are entitled to enjoy two tacos afterwards. Also a margarita.)
And if you want to help without having to get on an airplane, all of these organizations welcome donations year round.
Know of a grrreat one we missed? Tell us in the comments!
Soi Dog in Phuket, Thailand