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Richmond Woman Seeks US Home for Stray Thailand Puppies

4 women with 3 puppies
Faticoni-Manolas (center left), Vigier (far right) and their two roommates with three stray puppies. (Photo: Avalon Faticoni-Manolas)
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3 puppies laying down
Faticoni-Manolas and Vigier are seeking a home in the United States for these three puppies. (Photo: Avalon Faticoni-Manolas)
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*VPM Intern Alan Rodriguez Espinoza reported this story.

After volunteering at a dog shelter in Thailand for a month, a Richmond woman is now trying to raise $1,500 to bring three stray puppies to the United States.

After backpacking through New Zealand and Southeast Asia, Avalon Faticoni-Manolas returned to the island of Ko Sko amui in Thailand, where she saw countless stray dogs in need for care.

“All around the roads and the restaurants and businesses and homes, there are dogs just kind of lurking and walking around,” Faticoni-Manolas said. “A good half of them are very skinny, and all of them have a pretty bad skin condition.”

According to Thailand’s Soi Dog Foundation, a lack of spay and neuter programs has resulted in a population boom for strays in the country. Faticoni-Manolas says all dog shelters on the island of Ko Samui are over capacity, with thousands of dogs living on the streets.

“No one here has room for them,” she said. Instead, she says dogs are left to fend for themselves, fighting for food, battling fleas and ticks, and suffering from violence.

“Someone came up and a dog had just gotten hit by a motorcycle and it died right in front of us,” Faticoni-Manolas said. “It's very common. It happens every day here.” 

In December, Faticoni-Manolas and her three roommates encountered three abandoned black puppies who were crawling with ticks and fleas. Amélie Vigier, one of Faticoni-Manolas’ roommates who also volunteers at the shelter, said the puppies had “no chance of survival” on the streets.

“I think we saved their lives by taking them because they were so young when they were released,” she said. “It's really important that we don't put them back because I think they would become very weak and very sick again.”

Vigier says European Union regulations made it difficult to bring the puppies to France, her home country, while Faticoni-Manolas says the Virginia shelters she contacted had to focus on dogs in the state and couldn’t take in animals from abroad.

“There were a lot of times where we probably felt very helpless and thought about giving up, like maybe they should just go back on the streets,” Faticoni-Manolas said. “But we just kept trying and I'm really glad because we've already raised a good amount of money.”

The women have raised nearly $1,300 online to bring the two-month old puppies -- Noah, Spirit and Toe -- to the U.S. After extensive research, Vigier and Faticoni-Manolas found Street Dog Hero, an organization in Oregon dedicated to finding homes for strays from around the world.

The money from the online petition will pay for the dogs’ food and maintenance while in Thailand and for their airfare to Oregon. It will also cover vaccinations for rabies, hepatitis, flu and other diseases, as required by the United States Department of Agriculture for dogs brought to the country, and it would pay for the puppies’ microchips.

Saving the dogs has been daunting, but Faticoni-Manolas isn't giving up. She said, “We’ve just got to keep sharing the website and hoping that people will see that there are many big causes in the world, there are lots of things going on, but this one also matters.”