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Niall Harbison: A Dog’s Best Friend — The Man Rescuing Street Dogs In Thailand

Words by Cheyanne Bryan

Irishman Niall Harbison has amassed over 900,000 followers on Instagram and YouTube where he showcases his passion for improving the lives of street dogs. He has worked to greatly enhance the livelihood of dogs in Thailand—where he lives—with the hope of making changes for street dogs all over the world. 

Niall unofficially started Happy Doggo in 2021, after recovering from a near-death experience due to substance abuse. He started jogging to aid his recovery and saw many underfed dogs around Koh Samui, an island off the east coast of Thailand. Soon after that, he began bringing food to the dogs and documented his kind acts on social media. 

The videos struck a chord with Instagram users and as his followers grew, more and more people wanted to know how they could help his campaign for greater care for street dogs. 

Formally becoming a charity in 2023, Happy Doggo was able to collect donations to support the work Niall was previously self-funding. While the funds were initially used to simply feed the dogs, Niall expanded to also buy medical supplies for the animals that needed potentially lifesaving treatment to ease their pain. 800 street dogs on Koh Samui are fed everyday by Happy Doggo. 

A dog's best friend.

Over the years, Happy Doggo has saved a number of dogs suffering from a range of issues. From broken limbs to tumours and blood-sucking ticks, Niall and his growing team fight hard to rebuild the animals’ trust in people, all the while giving them a better chance of survival.

In an Instagram post from February 2024, Niall shared his journey with Britney. When he first encountered the protective mum, she was vicious and had previously bitten three other people trying to rescue her and her puppies. But without loss of morale, Niall built a rapport with Britney, visiting her daily with food and administering medicine to fight infections. 

“Not too long ago Britney was an aggressive dog who would bite anyone who came near her,” Niall commented. “While her puppies were quickly adopted in Bangkok, Britney only ever trusted [Niall]. He was the only one who could touch her for a full year. She'd snap at anyone [else] who came near her…

“Now, Britney loves human attention and spends her days either begging for belly rubs or running at top speed to release her crazy amounts of energy. Britney will probably never be a ‘normal’ dog…but with time and patience she's become a happy girl who loves life.” 

Niall’s account of Britney really touches the heart. This loving, maternal dog went from living in constant fear to seeking out the pleasures of her human companions on a daily basis. It’s this sort of change that makes Niall’s work and that of his team so valuable.

To reduce the amount of free-roaming dogs in the long term, Happy Doggo performs sterilisations and tries to get a number of the dogs rehomed. Data from the World Health Organisation estimates that there are nearly 200 million stray dogs worldwide, with the problem being most pressing in India. 

Currently, Happy Doggo is working towards being able to save 100,000 dogs per month with the help of donations.

If you would like to donate and support the work of Happy Doggo visit

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article. 

Dogs Trust. This is a charity is the UK's largest dog welfare charity, providing healthcare, training and rehabilitation. Learn more here.

All Dogs Matter. This is a charity that transforms the lives of unwanted and abandoned dogs in and around London. Find out more here.

Wild at Heart Foundation. This is a charity tackling the staggering stray dog population around the world through funding dog rescue projects. Support them here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Life on Land, Partnerships for the Goals.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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