Langkawi Lassie - A call for love

How you can help an animal shelter in Langkawi

Langkawi Lassie

3 November 2021

9 minutes


Brand Impact

VIP (below), that’s her name. A lovely cat that usually greets the visitors of Langkawi Lassie, an animal shelter which is situated right in front of the Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi.


It’s been more than 18 months of on and off lockdowns because of the Covid pandemic. After months of moving from one phase to another in Malaysia, the government finally decided to open Langkawi as a part of the reopening strategy of tourism bubbles in Malaysia. As a result, a lot of vacation-deprived people are flying to Langkawi to get a breath of fresh (ocean) air.

Cenang beach is one of the most famous destinations in Langkawi, with plenty of accommodation options, restaurants, bars, and beach side activities. Situated very close to the beach is Langkawi Lassie, managed and supported by Bon Ton resort.

During our visit to Langkawi in October 2021, I decided to visit the shelter to volunteer and provide any support that we could as a part of the REISE Impact.  During our conversations with the staff, we also wanted to understand how it came about, what are the challenges they’re facing due to the pandemic, and their future plans.

Narelle Mcmurtrie

Narelle McMurtrie

A few weeks before my flight, I reached out to the email provided on the website of Langkawi Lassie, and within a day I got a response from Narelle McMurtrie (pic above). Narelle founded BonTon resort in 1994, with the objective of preserving Malaysian experience. She has also opened similar hotels, restaurants, and shops in Penang and Melaka, focusing on the Malaysian heritage.

In our email conversation, Narelle was very humble about everything, to the extent that I assumed she’s one of the staff/volunteers and I ended up feeling really stupid once I realised who she is. She told me about the volunteer process, things I can do once I arrive, and a glimpse of her plans for the shelter.

After reaching Langkawi, Narelle introduced us to Joy Shavini Victor, a famous Malaysian celebrity and artist (pic below, courtesy: Facebook.).


Joy Victor

Joy Shavini Victor

Joy moved to Langkawi in 2019 to help Narelle with the management of Bon Ton and Langkawi Lassie. If you ask her about her responsibilities at the resort and the shelter, she has more on her plate than you can imagine. She’ll start her day with managing the resort, then you may find her at the shelter walking, cleaning, and feeding the dogs, before moving on to the cats. She would also look at any problems these furry friends may have, including ticks, fleas, or any other health issues. After all these activities in the morning, she still has a resort to manage, which is reopening after a long time so it needs a lot of work as well. The pandemic caused a lot of businesses to go understaffed, and Narelle and Joy are facing the same problems when it comes to human resources. However, these things will not stop Joy from being passionate about helping the animals.

Among others, the shelter is currently struggling with two major things. First one is understaffed management, which can easily be helped by more people volunteering at the shelter, and the second problem is medicines. Since Langkawi is an island, it’s not that easy to get all the medicines needed to keep the animals comfortable. Currently the shelter has more than 200 dogs and cats. And most of them just need love, attention, and some medication. Ofcourse, adoption of these animals solves most of the problems, but not everyone is ready to commit to having a little furkid, so do what you can.

We went to see Joy and the animals a day before our volunteering visit, just to get an idea of the place and if we needed to buy anything beforehand. On the day of the visit, we were asked to arrive by 10:30 in the morning, because that’s when they start taking the dogs out for their daily walks. At the front of the shelter Narelle plans to open a pet-friendly cafe called “Kopi C” which stands for Kopi Cat. The idea behind the cafe is to have a fun space for people to engage with the cats, have coffee and cakes, while all profits of the cafe goes back to the improvement of the shelter. The cafe is already a work in progress, and we can expect it to be ready by the end of November.

The pink tank at KopiC

I loved this pink tank representing “love, not war”, a sneak-peak picture above.


Walking further inside, we saw cat-shelters on the left and dog shelters on the right. Unlike other shelters we have been to, Langkawi Lassie provides ample space for the pets to be comfortable and have enough space to play.

Langkawi Lassie

Apart from the designated space for some dogs, many dogs live with the staff of Bon Ton Resort in their quarters. This helps the dogs with the human interaction and care they need on a daily basis. As the volunteers, we were supposed to walk the dogs who live in the shelter by themselves, in pairs of 2 or 3 dogs per enclosure. Like I mentioned before, even with volunteers the objective is not just to walk the dogs, but also to notice if they have any physical problems.

When we arrived at the shelter, Joy told us that someone had dumped 3 puppies last night at the resort. They were found by the staff, and are in quarantine till they’re tested for diseases like parvo, a deadly one for dogs. She said they’re likely not stray dogs, because unlike stray puppies, they’re comfortable with humans.

3 puppies which were dumped at the shelter

The quarantine area was within the cat-shelter, and it was an interesting exhibit for the curious bunch of little felines.

After checking up on the puppies and washing our hands to make sure we’re disinfected before we touch other dogs, we moved on to the daily walks. Then we were introduced to Dorothy, or Dot, who has been a volunteer at the shelter for almost 14 years. She comes everyday to walk the dogs, check for ticks and fleas, feed them and give them medicine. She would also bathe them if she has time. The whole process of walking 25-30 dogs takes a few hours (don’t worry, other dogs are taken care of by the staff they live with). We took turns walking the most disciplined dogs, obviously, while others were taken care of by Joy, Dot, and other volunteers.

During the walk we found one of the dogs was suffering from ticks, and Dot had to take care of them on the spot. It was uncomfortable for us to watch, and definitely painful for the dog. This is a problem which could be prevented really easily if they can get regular doses of anti-tick and flea chewables - at least one tablet every 2-3 months, or 1 per month as recommended. There are a few reasons why supply of this medicine is a problem. First, Langkawi Island is not connected to the mainland via road so it’s not easy to get a constant supply. Second, cats are more likely to get attention from the mass population as compared to dogs in Malaysia so there are more volunteers and donations for needs specific to cats. Third, these medicines are not very cheap, about MYR 250- 280 for a box of 6 chewables.

Cats at Langkawi Lassie

After we were done walking the dogs, we proceeded to visit the cats. Cats are quite different from dogs when it comes to social interactions. If they’re not stray or wild, they’ll need some level of human interaction, but mostly they’ll mind their own business. Another difference is that cats are self-sustaining animals, that includes the cleaning part as well. In most cases you’ll find cats to be clean, at least from far away, because they constantly clean themselves to get rid of any scents. However, this does not prevent fleas and ticks from doing their work and staying on cats’ bodies rent free. So similar problems, they need regular doses of anti-ticks/fleas medicines. However, unlike dogs, since cats are more elegant, the medicine they need is a spot medicine to be put behind their neck. I can imagine how difficult it would be to force feed anything to cats, so that works.

Langkawi Lassie Mural

Narelle has some major plans for the shelter and surrounding area. One of them is called the Art Walk under the project called Bon Ton Locale. The idea is to get artists who are willing to volunteer to create a decorated area around the shelter which can entice more people to visit, especially the social media buffs for IG ready murals, graffiti, and other decorations. This will help get more people to visit the shelter, and generate additional income for the wellbeing of the animals. This whole project is inspired by the Art Walk, Penang, and hopefully it’ll receive the same level of attention. 

The Bon Ton Locale project

Joy told us a scary story, where one of the shelters was invaded by a neighbourhood python, and it got inside the shelter because the gaps in the wires are too big. I wouldn’t get into details of what happened after that, it gives me nightmares. But these are the problems staff at the shelter go through every day. Puppies and kittens getting dumped every other week. Medical problems, which get detected way too late. Predators, and the nightmares that follow. Human mistakes, which are definitely not easy to prevent due to overworked staff and volunteers on such low bandwidth. It is not easy to deal with the physical and mental effort everyone at the shelter puts up with. And it’s not for profits or any greed, it’s for their pure love for the animals. Words are not enough to appreciate what Langkawi Lassie is doing for the wellbeing of these animals in Langkawi.

A small medical station for the shelter

A small medical station built by the shelter

In the end, I would like to ask everyone to be appreciative as well, and provide help and support whenever and however you can. Most of us are flying to Langkawi or will fly to Langkawi in the future - so there are at least two things you can easily do. First, go visit the shelter and engage with the animals. If you have any experience, help the animals. It can be as easy as taking 3-4 hours out of your holiday to help walk the dogs. You can also stay at the Bon Ton Resort which is a lovely place to relax, while volunteering at the shelter when you have the time and energy. Second, bring along some medicines for the animals. I’ve put a few links below to give you an idea of what they need, but you can also reach out to them to ask for specific needs. Apart from that you can always donate and/or adopt animals from the shelter, or just spread the word around the impact Langkawi Lassie is bringing to a place where things are not very easy for strays.

A few links for you to consider (or get it from your local vet):

Name of bank: CIMB Bank Berhad

Branch: Kuah, Langkawi, Malaysia

Account name: Langkawi Animal Shelter & Sanctuary

Account number: 800-653-3959


Email the receipt to:


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