IT was a chance meeting that, at 68 years old, changed Jan Salter’s life forever.

She has since dedicated countless hours to helping hundreds of stray dogs with no one else to turn to.

Now her efforts, founding a charity to help mutts roaming the streets of Kathmandu, Nepal, has seen her become an MBE.

Jan, from Bitterne, Southampton, met a woman from an Indian animal charity while living in Nepal and saw how she could make a real difference.

She went on to found the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre, in 2004, which controls the population of stray dogs in Kathmandu humanely, through neutering.

It also cares long-term for dogs that cannot be returned to the streets, runs rabies vaccination programmes, helps mistreated or injured canines and educates the public.

The former Sholing Secondary School student, grew up in Bitterne and had her own hairdressers, but emigrated to Australia.

She then travelled the world for years before settling in Nepal in the 1970s.

But as a life-long dog lover with five dogs, the 76-year-old, who divides her time between Bitterne and Nepal, was appalled by treatment of stray mutts in the capital who were seen as vermin – many were poisoned every year and others had diseases and terrible skin conditions.

She helped where she could, but a “serendipitous meeting” with a woman from an animal charity visiting Nepal led to an invite to Jaipur to see its neutering programme in action.

Jan realised this could be successful in Kathmandu, but, despite approaches to charities, found she was on her own.

Investing £16,000 of her savings, she found land, built kennels and hired staff.

The charity has continued to grow and spays around 150 dogs a month.

It costs almost £40,000 a year to run which is funded by public donations.

“It certainly hasn’t been easy,” said Jan.

“My life changed completely.

“I didn’t have the know-how, but somehow it all gelled together.

“It was obviously meant to be.”

As a result of the project, the stray dog population has fallen and Jan has persuaded the Kathmandu local authorities to stop poisoning dogs.

But the artist does not limit her charitable activities to animals.

She worked with Maiti Nepal, an organisation helping Nepali girls that have been trafficked to India to become prostitutes, to produce a series of paintings of them.

She was awarded the Gorkha Dakshin Bahu, one of the country’s highest honours, by the then Nepali king in 1997.

Jan said of the MBE that she was “quite surprised” but pleased that the centre’s work had been recognised.