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help out!

Coming to Happy Tails to lend a helping hand is very rewarding, but can be challenging both physically and mentally. The better you read through the provided info below, the better your experience will be here at this little cat & dog paradise on the island of Koh Samui, Thailand!

Preferred minimum

6 weeks (4 weeks only from July-September)

Must read before coming here.

This is not to scare anyone off, but to just give an important input as to what to expect. The better prepared you are, the better your experience will be for everyone at Happy Tails. Francoise needs your commitment - short-notice cancellations and people that are leaving earlier than planned are putting the dogs, cats and other humans in a very hard position.


The work at the sanctuary runs in shifts with the same routine every. Single. Day. There is a lot of cleaning involved - sweeping, mopping, doing the dishes, cleaning dog poo, raking and lots more. Basically all of the work is physical work. Arrive in clothes ready to get dirty! You will have shifts both with the cats and dogs and even though we understand you might have preferences, you won't be able to choose - both of them deserve our love and dedicationThe morning shift usually lasts from 9am to 2pm, the evening shift from 4 to 8pm (subject to change, you'll find out on your first day). You will usually have 1 day off each week. Flexibility is the key word when working with animals :)


Please keep in mind that we are a sanctuary, which focuses on providing dogs and cats a safe home for the rest of their lives – those who have had a tough life before coming to us. We do not have a high turnover of animals. Adoptions to good homes are welcome though, of course.


The first days can be overwhelming, that is totally normal. Lots of names and things to learn, barking dogs in packs, the heat – try to stay attentive and ask questions, you will see that within a short time it will be so much easier already.


We need people who are committed to the cause. We are here for the animals - not to nurture our ego. You should be a team player that is easy-going, self-motivated, with common sense - time usually doesn't allow Francoise to give lots of feedback, she is busy with keeping everything up and running!


Being able to/learning how to drive an automatic scooter or motorbike is highly recommended. This way you can easily get to/from the sanctuary and discover the island during your free time. We can recommend rental places!


If you plan on just coming to Thailand to visit us, consider some days before and/or after for traveling/sightseeing only, so you won’t have to change dates once you are here. Also, if you fly directly from f.e. Europe or the US, you might need some resting time before starting.


If you are in need of accommodation, we can offer a bed in a shared house upon availability. It's located in close proximity to our sanctuary and the beach. For more infos, please read our FAQs.


You decided on this adventure? Great! Please first go through the FAQs below ("All about Visa" and "Must read" are both a  must) and then fill out this questionnaire. This questionnaire will help us decide whether you will be a good fit for our Happy Tails family!

© former volunteer, Romain Baud Productions

  • What is the work schedule like?
    Caring for animals is required every day of the year: the sanctuary runs on a shift basis of around 5 hours each, 6 days a week, 1 day off. A morning shift will usually start at 9am, the evening shift at 4pm. These times can vary depending on how many volunteers/work load we have at a time - you will receive an updated volunteer schedule with your working times weekly once you are at the sanctuary. Please be punctual and do not leave the shift earlier than agreed on! If you feel that you would like to contribute more during your free time, just let Francoise know, she can always find something for you to do!
  • Can I change my departure date once I am there?
    While you can always ask for an extension of your stay at Happy Tails, please do not leave earlier than agreed on. This brings Francoise, the animals and the other volunteers in a very difficult situation! Please make sure you are up-to-date on your visa and financial situation before coming, so we don't have any bad surprises while you are here.
  • What vaccinations do I need?
    Although all of the animals at the sanctuary are vaccinated against rabies at our sanctuary, you will encounter lots of strays and wild animals on your stay in Thailand, which is why there is always a risk. Please make sure you undergo a course of injections for your own and our safety. You can do this in Thailand once you arrive (as it usually cheaper here than for example in Europe) but please keep in mind that the very first course of injections (if you've never been vaccinated against rabies before) will take around 3 to 4 weeks and include 3 different injections in that time span. Therefore you will ideally already have done at least 2 injections before you arrive at Happy Tails. If you have been bitten and have never had the vaccine before, they will give you 5 shots once you go to the hospital. Other than rabies, you should check with your doctor which vaccinations are recommended. Please review the following vaccines or boosters: Diphtheria, Tetanus, Polio, Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, Tuberculosis.
  • I don't have a drivers license. Do I need a scooter to get around?
    A drivers license is not required to rent a scooter, however, in case of an accident your insurance won't cover the hospital costs. Previous volunteers have also rented bicycles and then joined the back of a scooter of other volunteers to get to the night markets, bigger cities or different beaches - however you will be a lot more independent if you do drive yourself. The sanctuary and volunteer house is located in a quiet and remote area with little traffic, but it is always recommended to drive carefully and with a helmet.
  • When will I get the address of the volunteer house?
    By the time you are confirmed to stay with us from our side, we will contact you on WhatsApp probably around a week before your arrival date. You will then be sent the volunteer house and sanctuary addressed and also added to our volunteer WhatsApp group.
  • What do the duties look like?
    The full timetable that all the helpers follow can be a little tiring in the beginning, but it will get easier quickly if you stay attentive and ask questions. Depending on the morning or afternoon shift, these are some of the tasks: * Lots of cleaning tasks every single day like f.e. sweeping/mopping/tidying up the areas, washing laundry, dishes and bowls and of course poo scooping * We provide our dogs fresh food (incl. fish and meat), which means cooking almost every day * Feeding dogs and cats * Walking the dogs in different groups, no leashes involved - they get to run completely free in the jungle! * Socializing with the animals (both cats and dogs), incl. giving goodnight-cookies :) * Monitoring the health of our dogs and cats, incl. bathing dogs with skin problems and giving necessary meds to them * Helping with the groceries for the animals approximately every 2-3 weeks * Training new helpers * You might be asked to do other tasks if necessary, like Social Media, little repairs, gardening etc.
  • What is the accommodation like?
    In case she has a minimum of 3 helpers at a time, Francoise will be able to offer you a free bed during your time helping out at the sanctuary. The house is in close proximity to our sanctuary and the beach. The house is simple and not luxurious, Thai style with lots of wood, surrounded by the jungle, in a Thai neighbourhood - Thong Krut is a quiet area, less tourists, more locals – not for partying, but more for chilling and enjoying the nature around ;) Everything at the house is quite open. Mosquito nets are usually provided, but you should be able to deal with insects! No air-con, just fans. Mattresses are quite hard, which is common in Asia. You'll most likely share your room with cats and another helper (unless you are a couple)! As the house has sponsors paying for it, you will be asked to be thoughtful about using electricity.
  • How do I get from the airport or ferry port to the volunteer house?
    Taxi prices on the island are high and you can expect to pay at least THB 700 from the airport to Thong Krut (for a shared minivan, company Samui Accom, counter at the airport), where our volunteer house is located. Transport from the piers (f.e. Nathon) will be a bit cheaper. Unfortunately, there are hardly any choices to get to our area of the island, due to it being quite remote. You might have a chance to catch a Songthaew (public-transport-style kind of taxi with benches in the back for people to sit on), but make sure you communicate with them where you need to go (not all drive to the very South).
  • How do I get to the island?
    There are various ways to get to Koh Samui: • Direct flight to Koh Samui • Flight to Surat Thani, transport to the port (can be booked on-site) and then ferry to Koh Samui • Train from Bangkok to Surat Thani, then ferry (public or private with Lomprayah Company) to Koh Samui – you can get a combination ticket at the Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok – the overnight train (lower bunk bed, 2nd class with A/C) is recommended • Public/tourist organized bus from Bangkok to Surat Thani, ferry to Koh Samui
  • What visa should I get to enter Thailand?
    If you would like to stay for 90 days, you can apply for a tourist visa (60 days) at a local Thai embassy (wherever you are in the world) and then get a 30 day extension at the immigration on Koh Samui. It is usually easy to get the tourist visa, here are some infos and tips you can take with you: * A Tourist visa for 60 days costs approximately EUR 35. * Apply at your local Thai embassy or consulate * State "tourist" on the application form, NOT volunteer or work * Apply up to three months in advance and at least three working days before your departure date * Visa must be used within 3 months from the date of issue * Your visa runs from the time you enter Thailand * You will need an accommodation/hotel address which Happy Tails can't provide. Best to book a hostel/hotel for 1 or 2 nights when you arrive in Bangkok or Samui, and give them that address (it usually doesn't matter to the embassy if you don't stay there the whole time). * You will need transportation/flight tickets in and out of the country. If you are not sure yet about your further travel plans and don't want to decide yet, you could buy a cheap bus or plane ticket out of the country and just not use in the end.
  • I need to get a visa extension while I am at Happy Tails. How does that work?
    We do have an immigration in the North of Koh Samui, Maenam. * Depending on the day it can get very busy here, so please let everyone at the sanctuary know a week before if you have to go there, so we can include it in the schedule! * Again, do NOT state you are a volunteer! Always a tourist! * You will need an accommodation/hotel address which Happy Tails can't provide. Some people f.e. book a cheap place for 1 night and cancel it once they have the approved visa stamp. * You will need transportation/flight tickets out of the country. * Some immigration officers might be stricter than others! Get advice before going to the immigration from those who have recently been there.
  • What address can I use for visa related things?
    Please do not use the Happy Tails address! You can use the address of the accommodation you booked for the first night in Thailand, or, if that is not the case, book a a cheap accommodation and cancel it once you have the approved visa stamp.
  • What is the weather like in Samui?
    Samui has a pleasant constant temperature year-round between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius. Humidity is between 70 and 85, and there are dry and green seasons. Thailand lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator (slightly closer to the latter). The most pleasant season is the dry season that is December to February; it offers warm temperatures, little rain, calm seas, and light winds. The hottest time of year is between March and May. This period marks the beginning of the green (monsoon) season where there is an increase in rainfall. These rains permit both locals and visitors to cool off and take respite from the heat. The most torrential rainfall is between September and November; generally, it rains in the afternoon for a couple of hours but can last several days. There are ample hot and sunny days. The good thing is that the beaches are quieter and there are usually less tourists!
  • How many volunteers are usually at the sanctuary at the same time?
    This is a tough question to answer, as this varies depending on the season. However, there are usually between 3 and 8 volunteers staying at the house at the same time. You will have no problems finding connections with fellow travelers!
  • What about the food and cooking situation for myself?
    As the entire sanctuary lives off of donations, we unfortunately do not have the financial possibility to provide any food. There are big supermarkets in Lamai, the next city, but also 7-elevens around the corner here in Thong Krut. You will find several food stands with fresh fruits and veggies on the side of the roads. Some volunteers like to cook together, for example for joint dinners - but that is entirely up to you. You will find restaurants of all price ranges all over the island, with Thai as well as Western food choices.
  • What clothes do I need to bring?
    Given the nature of the sanctuary and that you are working with animals, it is wise to bring something that you don't mind getting dirty or damaged. Natural fibres tend to be more cooling. Flip-flops are the usual footwear on the island, but you might want to bring closed-shoes as well. A hat will protect you from the sun, a light rain jacket from the rain and a long sleeved shirt if you are traveling on buses and planes or would like to visit local temples.
  • Can I wash my clothes somewhere?
    You can find coin operating washing machines everywhere – they are THB 10-30 per wash and take about an hour. You'll need to take exact money in coins and some washing powder! Something to keep in mind: Most washing machines run with cold water and can be a little abrasive, so please don't bring your best clothes for sanctuary work.
  • What does the free time look like? Will I have enough of it?
    As you are only working a few hours per day, 5 days a week, there will be plenty of time for you to explore the island. Even do day trips and maybe visit the neighbouring islands Koh Phangan and Koh Tao! Many volunteers like to do things together outside of their shifts, go to restaurants, have lunch, visit beach bars etc.
  • Do I need a travel insurance?
    Please ensure that you have full medical insurance before traveling to Thailand. Koh Samui boasts world-class hospitals, but they are expensive. Please bring details of your insurance company, policy number and emergency assistance numbers with you. Be aware that if you would like to hire a motorbike, a license from your home country is required for your insurance to cover an accident/hospitalization.
  • Should I already bring the local currency from home?
    The currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB). Currency exchange rates tend to be better in Thailand. There are many banks, currency exchange booths and ATMs across the island, so there is no need to worry about ways to change money. Be aware that the banks will charge a fee for withdrawals and have a daily limit. Ensure to take your passport if visiting the bank or currency exchange centres.
  • Is there Wifi at the volunteer house? How do I get internet for my phone?
    We recommend you purchase a Thai SIM Card for the duration of your stay in Thailand. The providers AIS, True (recommended) or Dtac have good connections on Koh Samui and offer monthly internet packages. You will find phone provider booths at airports and shopping centers, where they will help you with the complete set up. Alternatively you may also get them at the small supermarkets all over the island. Please make sure your phone is unlocked so you can use an international SIM Card! We do not have Wifi at the sanctuary; however, there are plenty of restaurants and cafés that provide complimentary Wifi (f.e. Sweet Sisters Café).
  • Can I bring any donations in kind?
    If you can spare someplace in your luggage for donations, Francoise always appreciate the following: * Dog and cat treats * First-aid or veterinary materials & medications (please message us for more information)
  • What are some basic facts I need to know about Thai culture as a tourist?
    Thai Culture Thailand in general is a very tourist friendly place with no major cultural issues, but there are some behaviors to consider when coming here: • When Thai people meet, they say hello and put their hands together in front of them. The height of the hands symbolizes the degree of respect. You are not obliged to make the same hand gesture, just nodding is fine • Do not point the soles of your feet at anyone and avoid moving objects with your feet • Do not touch the head of a Thai child or adult or pass an object over it. In Buddhism, the head is regarded as the most spiritual part of the body • Remove shoes on entering peoples homes, places of work or in some restaurants. You'll notice rows of shoes lined up outside many places. It is deemed disrespectful to wear shoes inside. • Smile and attempt to speak a little Thai. • Do not take offence if they call you 'farang' - this translates as ‘foreigner’ and is used to describe westerners. • Thai people are very proud of their country and culture – it will enhance your experience of Thailand if you read a bit about it before coming here.
  • I have special skills, such as building, photography - is that of any help?
    Every helper brings to Happy Tails something unique as each person has their strengths and weaknesses. All of the volunteers are here to care for the animals. Running a sanctuary is much like running a business, if you can help with some of the following tasks, please let us know before your arrival so that we can schedule your time accordingly. • Social Media – Do you have an eye for graphic design or a way with words? We have Instagram and Facebook pages which require rich content to encourage awareness, donations and adoptions. • Maintenance – Are you a handy person? There is always something to repair or maintain. The main tasks include carpentry, repairs, decoration, electricity issues, building and garden work. • Offline Marketing – Are you good with people, full of energy, eager to find new solutions? Happy Tails is always open to new ideas on fundraising. • Photography – Are you good at capturing special moments? Maybe you can bring a good camera with you? There are endless pictures that we could use on our various online platforms and printed materials.
  • What about the street animal/stray population on the island? What can I do to help?
    Sadly, Happy Tails is unable to accept any additional animals at this stage; however, of course, still contributes to the care and wellbeing of them. The Happy Tails team always keeps an eye open for any street animal that looks hungry, thirsty, injured or unwell; we encourage you to do the same. Always keep an extra bag of food in your car or bike; You never know when you might meet a hungry soul. If immediate medical attention is needed, please inform Francoise or the local Dog and Cat Rescue Center (DCRS) so that they can make the appropriate arrangements for treatment or transportation.
  • Is there an additional way I can help Happy Tails?
    Happy Tails does not receive any governmental financial help, so every sort of support is needed to be able to continue our work – in form of sponsorships of your favorite dog/cat (donation of a monthly amount), one-time donations, sharing our message and many more.
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