About us

Thai Animal Sanctuary is a self-funded and donation based organisation, working for the welfare and protection of animals in North Western Thailand. Based amid the rolling hills of Sangkhlaburi, the sanctuary is a pillar of hope for all sick and injured animals in the region. 

Founded in 2006 by Gemma Ashford, our mission is to provide any animal in need with the best medical care possible, as well as a safe place to recover. Our small sanctuary is now home to about 40 resident dogs and 7 cats in need of re-homing, and also provides a free Veterinary Clinic for local communities.

As well as serving as a clinic and shelter, Thai Animal Sanctuary also strives to improve quality of life in the long-term, for local street animals and pets alike. Running humane sterilisation and vaccination programs as well as educating locals about issues of animal welfare helps us in our goal to raise awareness and promote compassion for all living beings.

None of this could be achieved without the generous and vital support of our patrons and our hard-working volunteers, who keep the sanctuary running day-to-day. With your help, we aim to provide a lifeline for these animals and encourage long-term change in human-animal relationships for many years to come.


The concept of Baan Unrak Thai Animal Sanctuary began after Gemma Ashford came to Thailand in 2006. Arriving as a volunteer teacher in the little known town of Sangklaburi, the UK photographer and actress was shocked by the state of the Burmese refugee children she was due to teach. 

This, however, paled in comparison to the plight of the emaciated street dogs she found scavenging hopelessly in the town market. Kicked and cursed at, these ‘untouchables’ bore every mark of abuse - some limping, others bearing open and festering wounds. Many of the dogs carried diseases unseen in the West, such as Canine Distemper, Rabies and Scabies. Months of teaching lay ahead of her, but now the spark was ignited. 

With a little funding generously supplied by the Humane Society, Gemma began by simply feeding the street dogs and starting to get to know their personalities. When that funding ran out, Gemma committed to continuing what she had started - helping the dogs as much as she could!

Relying on small donations from family & friends as well as working tirelessly to raise funds back home in the UK, Gemma was able to start buying medical supplies and food for the animals. With land donated by the Baan Unrak School, she now had a 1 roomed structure in which the animals could all live. Word eventually spread that someone was helping dogs in the region and people started bringing the now infamous “Farang Ma” or “Foreign Dog Lady” an increasing number of sick and injured animals. And so, the accidental sanctuary was now born!

Since then, Thai Animal Sanctuary has continued to grow and with the help of visiting volunteer vets and international volunteers we are able to continue changing and improving the lives of thousands of animals. 

About the Animals

Sanctuary Residents

Most of our resident animals here in the sanctuary are up for adoption, and we need to provide for them until we are able to find them forever homes. There are also a few animals under our care that are either too old or have conditions that prevent them from being adopted. With such a large family, feeding and providing veterinary care for all our animals (as well as daily walk-ins to the clinic) is a constant strain on our finances, so the decision to take on new residents is not taken lightly. Our main goal is to have more adoptions than new animals coming in! 

If you are interested in either adopting or sponsoring one of our residents or if you know somebody else who is, please take a look at the Our Animals page or contact us directly for more information. 

Street Animals

Aside from our resident animals, there is also a large street animal population that has been growing steadily over the years. While we cannot take all sick or injured animals into the sanctuary as residents, we provide as much care as possible to the local animal population. This includes our free clinic, where we provide veterinary care to all animals in need. The local communities are invaluable in helping these animals, as often they are the ones that bring sick and injured animals in to us. We also run sterilisation camps throughout the year, and our aim is to run more and more in order to get to a stage where we can have a significant impact on the street animal population.

Providing such care is absolutely essential and has many positive effects on the local community. Not only are we helping to improve the quality of life for animals through veterinary care, we are also raising awareness and improving relationships between animals and people through communication and education. 

Success Stories!


All of our dogs are like family members to us, and we aways love getting updates after they have left the sanctuary for their forever homes. Our sweet Lucy now lives in the US, and here is what her new mum Julia had to say!

“I first met Lucy when I visited Baan Unrak with my son, Bo Tembunkiart, who had recently volunteered for six weeks. I knew that Bo wanted me to adopt one - or more- of the many beautiful dogs at the rescue. He took me to each of the dog pens and described every dog.  When we went into Lucy’s pen, all of the other dogs came over and excitedly jumped on him. Lucy, however, laid between his legs and looked up. That was it. I knew she was looking for a home.

Our itinerary didn’t allow for Lucy to travel home with us but getting her to the US was surprisingly easy and inexpensive. A flight volunteer escorted her on the long journey and she was a bit traumatised by the experience. But she has settled in well, making friends with a neighbour dogs and humans alike. She especially likes long walks around the neighbourhood. She is such a sweet, well-tempered dog. A week after she arrived, our neighbourhood had a yard sale. Lucy basked in the sun at my table, soaking up attention from admirers and eye-poking toddlers. She loved it all and I look forward to a bright future with her.”

Princess & Jacks

Lucky brother and sister Jacks and Princess are now enjoying life in the vineyards of France. Here is what their wonderful new family had to say!

It all started when we arrived at the sanctuary in the middle of february 2016, having planned to stay for one month. When she saw Jacks, Marine instantly fell in love! She spoke about it with Mathieu but he didn't want to adopt dogs at that time, as we had been travelling for 4 and half years - so no jobs, no house in France... It was also hard for him to become close with Jacks as he is really scared of humans (especially men). 

But almost every morning Mathieu would walk with Princess, Jacks, Waterbelly and Ruth, and step by step he started to get to know them. After a week we spoke about adopting a dog again… maybe Princess who was so playful and lovely with both of us. As we spent most of our free time in the kennel it became obvious after about 3 days - impossible to adopt Jacks without Princess or Princess without Jacks! They needed each other to be confident. And Marine had another good argument: together, they wouldn't get bored as they could play! "Done" 

We left the sanctuary in the middle of march and travelled around Myanmar for a month before returning to France. After another month we both had a job, and 2 weeks later we had a house with huge garden surrounded by vineyards. Finally, the doggies were flown over with French volunteers on 25th of june.

Since moving in Princess and Jacks are so lovely with us, even though they are still really scared of strangers. They are both so clever, it's amazing how fast they learn. 
"No Princess, you can't jump on the table!"
"Jacks, stop eating your leash"... 

It's a real pleasure to share our life with them, and we wish same "success story" to all cats and dogs from Sangkhla. Even though they had been living outside and without "rules" since they were born, they have an amazing ability to adapt and heaps of love to give!!!

How you can help

Some of our animals

Alberto Tabitha Eve Leo Chang Lester * 6 NEW PUPPIES * Waterbelly
See all of them