Student Does Study Abroad at Animal Rescue

During a study abroad trip to Thailand in the summer, senior Heather Lockhart gained veterinary experience working with rescue animals.

This summer, senior Heather Lockhart spent two weeks in Thailand helping animals and learning hands-on what it is like to be a veterinarian.

Traveling with study-abroad organization Loop Abroad, Lockhart, an agricultural science and biology major, was selected as part of a small team that volunteered giving care at a dog shelter and spent a week working directly with rescued elephants at an elephant sanctuary.

The Veterinary Service program brings students to Thailand for two weeks to volunteer alongside veterinarians from the U.S. and Thailand. For one week, Lockhart and her team volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand to work hands-on with the giant animals and learn about animal rescue and conservation on a larger scale. The Elephant Nature Park is home to more than 60 elephants who have been rescued from trekking, logging or forced breeding programs. Many of them had been abused and suffer from chronic injuries or blindness. At the Elephant Nature Park, the animals are cared for by volunteers from all over the world. Lockhart helped to feed, bathe and care for elephants, as well as learn about their diagnoses alongside an elephant vet. The park is also home to more than 1,000 animals, including cats, dogs, water buffalo, horses and cows, and is sustained in huge part by the work of weekly volunteers.

For the other week, Lockhart volunteered at the Animal Rescue Kingdom dog shelter in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The shelter is home to more than 100 dogs who have been rescued after being abandoned, beaten or abused. While she studied under the veterinarians leading her group, Lockhart and her team made a difference in the lives of these dogs. They were able to help support the health and well-being of the dogs by: providing check-ups and cleanings; diagnosing and treating ear and eye problems; taking and testing blood; administering vaccines; cleaning and treating wounds; and helping with sterilization surgeries.

“Traveling to Thailand through Loop Abroad has impacted my life greatly,” Lockhart said. “All of the hands-on experience with dogs and elephants has deepened my love for animals and desire to attend vet school. It is the opportunity of a lifetime, so if you get the chance to go abroad, do it.”

Loop Abroad focuses on educating its students so that they can contribute and serve in meaningful ways. It also works with locally run animal welfare organizations so that students contribute to long-term improvement on the ground in the countries they visit. With programs in Thailand, South Africa and Australia, Loop Abroad is able to support animal welfare and conservation around the world because of its students and their dedication to helping animals in need. Loop Abroad has animal science and veterinary programs for students and young adults age 14 to 30, and offers financial aid and fundraising help. Interested participants can inquire or apply at