Bali Street Dogs–Yes, It’s Getting Better

It’s not your imagination. There are fewer street dogs around these days. And of the ones you see, more are wearing collars.

Ten years ago Bali had a population of about three million people and up to a million feral or street dogs. The human population continues to rise –- it’s now about four million, with the newcomers mostly being Indonesians from other islands. But the number of canine inhabitants has declined to about 600,000, thanks to the efforts of the Yudisthira Foundation and the Bali Animal Welfare Association.

Bali dogs are distinctive. A genetics study conducted by the University of Davis in California in 2004 revealed that they were probably already established in Bali 12,000 years ago when it became isolated from Java, and there has been no influence by European breeds until recently. They are the most genetically diverse dogs in the world, their closest relatives being the Chow Chow, Australian Dingo and Akita.

The street dogs of Bali have always been the dark side of Paradise. I remember when still a tourist here being stalked down dark lanes by packs of snarling hounds. Residents and return visitors to Bali frequently remark that the situation has improved dramatically over the past few years. In Ubud, the dog population is now much healthier and many wear collars as they trot busily along the streets or rest in the shade. But the situation of their relatives elsewhere on Bali has been slower to improve. Many are malnourished or starving. Infected wounds, often infested with maggots, are common. So are skin and internal parasites, Parvo virus, distemper, broken legs, dislocated joints and a nasty sexually transmitted cancer called genital sarcoma. All these can be treated, if people are made aware of the options. (Bali is still rabies-free; that could change quickly given the uncontrolled number of dogs being brought to the island from Java.) But the long term solution to the street dog issue is population management and education.

Several organizations are very active in street dog welfare in Bali.

Dr Listriani established the Yudisthira/Bali Street Dog Foundation to care for Bali’s street dogs in 1998. The vets in its two mobile vans have sterilized about 25,000 street dogs since then. Thousands more sick or injured dogs have been captured, treated and released. Yudisthira will focus its programs in West Bali.

Janice Girardi, co-founder with Dr Dewa Dharma of the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA), uses her own money and occasional donations from tourists to purchase medicines and keep the Animal Ambulance on the road 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “The Bali Street Dog Fund Australia has committed to funding the BAWA mobile clinic,” says Janice. “It treats about 40 dogs a day in East Bali, about half for sterilization and the rest treated for skin diseases, worms and other problems.”

BAWA’s clinic in Lotunduh near Genta Gallery is open around the clock. Its 7 vets receive additional training from volunteer Australian vets. Balinese who can’t afford vet care can have their dogs treated or neutered here without cost. It’s also the base for the 24 hour Animal Ambulance.

Sterilization programs have prevented the birth of hundreds of thousands of unwanted puppies on Bali in the past decade and will continue to do so. The other critical requirement is education about animal welfare.

BAWA recently launched a novel program in educating Balinese children about environmental issues and the appropriate care of companion animals. With a focus on 10 and 11 year old children in an initial two schools near Ubud, a puppy adoption program has been announced in which participating children, with parental permission, will adopt a puppy from the BAWA clinic. A team of vets inspect each home to ensure the puppy will be safe and well cared for. Every puppy is checked at home weekly and will have a check up at the BAWA clinic every month. Vaccinations, sterilization, check ups, medical supplies and some food will be provided for all the adopted animals. At the end of 6 months the dogs will be assessed by the vets and the child that has completed all the requirements to the highest standard wins a prize.

Children not directly involved in the program will compete for their school through writing stories and drawing pictures about the BAWA animal welfare program, their own family animals or the adopted dogs. Teachers will choose the best and make a book that will be presented to BAWA for publication.

By bringing the animal welfare awareness program into Balinese homes, monitored by Balinese vets and encouraged by Balinese teachers, it is hoped that the concepts will be better understood and adopted at the community level. A book about animal welfare created by the children themselves will have an impact on other communities. BAWA teaches animal welfare in Balinese schools daily and at international schools by invitation.

BAWA believes that when at all possible, older street dogs should be treated and left on the streets. “We’ll bring a wounded dog to the clinic, treat it until healed and then release it back to where we found it,” Janice explains. “We take in puppies that can’t survive on their own and find homes for them. We do not run a shelter. We re-home 100% of our animals out to good homes that have been inspected first, with free medicine and food when needed. At the present time we have 35 puppies all under 7 weeks of age, plus about 8 dogs that are still being treated. All of these pups arrived within the last 2 weeks. We adopted out 18 puppies or dogs last week alone, and have 7 more scheduled to go out this week. This is the hardest part of BAWA’s work, to find safe and caring homes for our pups.”

The Bali Adoption Rehabilitation Centre (BARC), located in the Banjar of Abiansemal in Lotunduh, provides food, medical care, sterilization, rehabilitation and adoption services. It currently shelters about 60 puppies and dogs and has a vet on site. Established and run by Linda Buller, a passionate animal welfare activist, BARC is supported by private donors and the money Linda raises selling her paintings.

So things are slowly changing. You can help by adopting a pup, volunteering your time, making a donation of money or in kind, and/or sharing this information with your Balinese staff and friends.

If you see a dog in serious trouble in East Bali, call the BAWA Animal Ambulance at (0361) 981-490 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Head vet is Dr Annie at 0812 363 4542. The donation of an old vehicle would allow BAWA to extend its work. Responding to many calls a day, the ambulance is not always available and vets must use borrowed cars and motorcycles. All programs are supported by donations, and any help is greatly needed and appreciated. We also accept volunteers who would like to help out in the clinic. Please call Chris at 081 293 11847 for arrangements.

If your banjar has a street dog problem, call the clinic (0361) 981-490 to ask about its spay/neuter program.

Dr Listriani’s clinic in Renon is on call 24 hours a day at 0859 3611 3647 and treats animals from West Bali.

To contact BARC, call 7904579; see the BARC wish list at


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