Former beauty queen Sherin Peace is on the hunt for willing Kiwi travellers to help her save dogs in Thailand – a passion she’s barking mad about.
The Kiwi mother-of-three swapped her tiara for a dog leash, establishing a rescue centre in Thailand where she finds injured and neglected animals on the streets and nurses them back to health. Then, she adopts them out to good homes – mainly in the UK and the US.
Now, she’s searching for Kiwis passing through Thailand to help transport dogs to their new homes overseas.
“I’ve always been drawn to helping animals. I feel like I can relate to them better than I do humans,” says the Palmerston North-born beauty.
The former hairdresser, who represented New Zealand and came third at the 2005 Mrs World pageant, has become a kind of Florence Nightingale to needy pooches.
“Wherever I go, I seem to find the most sick and desperate animals and then I nurse them back to health,” she says.
Sherin (47) left New Zealand 16 years ago after she married Brian, a software developer. They caught the travel bug during their honeymoon in India and never returned home.
The couple had three children, Bianca (11), Shakira (8), and five-year-old Jacques, during their overseas adventures.
Before settling in Thailand, the Peace family lived in Hawaii and Namibia, where they stayed at an orphanage for wild animals. It’s here where Sherin’s dream to save animals began.
“There were 250 different species of animals at the sanctuary,” she says.
“The home had lions, baboons would swing from the lights, leopards would jump all over you. It was amazing.”
After years of a nomadic lifestyle, they hoped to relocate to Singapore permanently, but authorities would not allow the two family poodles into the country due to infection risk.
“Our dogs had lived in an area that was infested with rabies. No-one was prepared to take them, but the Thailand officers said they could come into their country – that’s how we came to live there!”
The Kiwi couple were shocked to see many animals – including a number of pedigree dogs – abandoned on the streets of Phuket, injured and with no-one caring for them. One particular incident two years ago spurred Sherin into action.
“My husband came rushing into the house. He had found an injured dog laying in the gutter of the road outside the house. The poor dog looked as if he was dead, but I saw him move his head,” Sherin recalls.
People had driven past the injured canine and not bothered to stop. Sherin took care of the pup, whom she named Lucky, and four months later he had recovered and was ready to be adopted by a new family.
“I don’t know how people can ignore an injured animal trapped in the middle of the road and not consider stopping to help,” Sherin says sadly.
With that experience in mind, Sherin was determined to help other dogs such as Lucky and started her own animal shelter, named Doggie Heaven.
Operating out of a rented one-bedroom home in Thailand, Sherin rescues animals on the streets, at shelters and abandoned at rubbish dumps and restores them to health, before adopting them locally and overseas.
“In two years, we’ve saved 23 dogs, one monkey and two cats,” she says proudly.
Sherin handles all the vaccinations, paperwork and compliance, and settles the dogs onboard before they fly to their overseas families.
“The costs of shipping these unaccompanied dogs internationally can get pretty high, so we’re looking to enlist the help of ‘flight volunteers’ – people who act as an accompanying passenger for the dog on its travels,” she explains.
That’s why Sherin is asking for New Zealanders travelling through Thailand to allow dogs to join them on the overseas flight to their new homes.
As well as her work in saving animals, Sherin is a busy mother to her three children, but this is a cause that she is truly passionate about.
“To the animals that are struggling for so long, if you give them a little love, then they become your friend for life,” she says. “And that is a great feeling.”