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Shelter / Sanctuary Sunday : Bali Animal Welfare Assocation

November 10, 2014

The first time I went to Bali was seven years ago. Despite falling deeply in love with both landscape and culture, I felt burdened by the apparent disregard for animals, particularly the dogs.  These street dogs- many malnourished with some degree of mange, others physically hurt or injured – roamed the streets scavenging for food. It wasn’t uncommon to happen upon a litter of newborn puppies on the beach or in an alley somewhere.  I also had the unfortunate experience of nearly tripping over the body of a dead dog in a market – blood dripping from its head to suggest it was dealt a fatal blow.


{ with my husband Circa 2007 – one of the many tiny little pups all over the place}

Coming from a culture where dogs are regarded as family members (and being an animal lover in general), I couldn’t quite understand how this could be.

But I had to put things into perspective as I understood that , as a developing country, Indonesia likely lacked the infrastructure to deal with domestic animal over population (spaying and neutering , outreach and education). I also understand that in developing countries where many struggle to make ends meet, the priority is feeding and caring for ones family – not the animals. Understandably so.

After my first visit, I returned to Bali and my love affair with the Island grew stronger. I spent my time cruising around on a motorbike, taking in the scenery, surfing my little heart out, exploring the myriad markets all over the island, and meeting lots of great people. I did notice a startlingly obvious decrease in the number of street dogs, which I learned was from a massive cull after an outbreak of rabies swept through the island in 2008.  There were still plenty of street dogs, however, and I still struggled emotionally and felt helpless seeing so many of them suffer.

1928991_513528847002_546_n{market in Ubud}

Anyway  –  it’s important to understand cultural differences and the fact that what happens in one part of the world isn’t necessarily normal or accepted in other parts of the world. It’s not that these people are “bad” or “cruel,” on the contrary – they’re some of the kindest people I’ve met – it’s simply that their cultural norms are different. After all, our culture in the U.S. raises livestock in ultra cruel conditions in Factory Farms. We also euthanize THOUSANDS of healthy dogs here in The States all the time because there simply aren’t enough people to adopt them {and because jerks are buying dogs from breeders – sorry-not-sorry I had to say it}.

Case in point:

The Balinese people have a very special and cultural relationship with their dogs, even though this is sometimes seen by outsiders as not humane. Balinese society is highly spiritual and can be superstitious. Many people believe the Bali dog will alert people to the unseen presence of “spirits” – both good and bad. (http://bawabali.com/bali-heritage-dog/)

The street-dog scenario in Bali just feels more pervasive because it’s in your face – not behind closed doors where the out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality can prevail.

In any event, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about the sometimes tumultuous relationship between Balinese people and Balinese dogs which is multifaceted -but, some of which is connected to Balinese Hinduism, which you can read briefly about here.

Happily, on my most recent visit, I learned about the Bali Animal Welfare Association, a non-profit organization based in Bali.

BAWA works to save, protect and improve the lives of all animals in Bali and beyond.

BAWA directly relieves the suffering of animals by providing emergency response and rescue, food and medication, rehabilitation and adoption. BAWA practices humane population control, disease control and runs intensive education and advocacy programs for sustainable improvement to animal welfare now and into the future. (www.bawabali.com/about)

BAWA is an amazing organization literally changing the public perception of the Bali dog and moving the  relationship between the Balinese and their dogs in a positive direction.

I experienced first hand how truly dedicated BAWA is to their mission. As I mentioned, there are lots of dogs cruising around the island – some much healthier looking than others.  On our walk to a beach called Bingin one day, I noticed a very sick looking dog in the car park… He looked sapped of all his energy, was missing most of his hair, and was quite thin.  The following day I saw this dog in the same spot, and continued to see him every day for several days. Finally, I decided that I couldn’t just walk by this little guy every day and essentially watch him waste away. He seemed so uncomfortable.  I casually snapped a photo and reached out to BAWA , as they have a 24-hour emergency hotline (how cool is that?!) and will send someone to administer road-side care and asses the needs of the animal in question.

my little bali dog dude{I can’t wait to check on this little guy when I return to Bali in the spring}

Since I didn’t have a local phone number, I e-mailed them unsure if I would get a response. Within a few hours, I had a response and corresponded with someone who ultimately decided to dispatch an ambulance. They found the little guy and sent me a photo so that I confirm he was indeed the dog I reported.  I am so overjoyed that an organization like this exists and makes it possible to get care for animals who might not otherwise get help. A lot of times, it’s as simply as administering medication to treat skin conditions, or providing food.

Anyway ,as it turns out, the dog “belonged” in the car park where I always saw him and had a person.  He received all the necessary treatment and the veterinarian educated his person on how to care for him, while also providing medication etc. {part of donations to BAWA go directly to providing Balinese families the tools, food, medicine they need to care for their dog}

BAWA even followed up (and will continue to do so) to make sure he was improving and taking medication. Despite their very busy schedule, they even followed up with me to give me a status update. I suppose the point of sharing this story is to show that if you feel compelled to help someone in need, you should do what you can. Also to show that some times people just need a little help to give proper care to their animals- thankfully BAWA works with local communities and families to help!

In Bali the notion of domestic pet guardianship is much different than it is here in the west. Through BAWA I learned that :

90% of the dogs you see on Bali’s streets have a place to which they “belong”, but this is not ownership as understood in the Western context.  A Bali dog may “belong” to a family, kampung, warung or other place of business, but this does not mean that the people involved will necessarily give it food or water or otherwise assume any responsibility for its care.

Bali dogs are by nature free roaming animals that have roamed the island of Bali for thousands of years.(http://bawabali.com/2585-2/)

The true and pure Balinese dog is actually a genetically unique breed found only in Bali. One of the oldest dog breeds on the planet, the Bali dog is semi-feral and highly independent by nature. For thousands of years, the Bali dog has served many useful purposes while living alongside the Balinese people: protecting traditional communities from physical and spiritual intruders, and keeping the vermin and rat population in check are just a couple of examples.

In 2004, the Balinese government began to allow outside dogs into Bali, which has resulted in the mixing of unique Bali-dog DNA with other breeds. This, along with the culling that has been taking place since 2008, and a horrific meat-trade industry has made the future of the Bali-dog uncertain. In addition to helping dogs in need, BAWA aims to preserve the heritage of the beautiful Bali-dog and also has an adoption center.

On my most recent trip only a few weeks ago, I learned that my friends dog had died – likely poisoned by someone who thought he was a nuisance. I suppose there is still a long way to go before organizations can completely change the dog-person relationship in Bali, but it seems as though they are on a great path.


{Me with Harimau  – which means “tiger” in Indonesian. Harimau’s brindle coat is one of the four main colors of the Bali dog. The others include: white, black, and red. Sadly, Harimau died last year}

Check out their website to learn more about the Bali dog and the wonderful things this organization does. If you’re traveling to Bali any time soon, please consider volunteering or donate.

bali kids and dog{*This photo and FEATURED IMAGE from: BAWABALI.COM *}

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Island of the Gods | My Kind Closet December 16, 2014 at 12:03 am

[…] Oh! If you missed my post about the wonderful Bali Animal Welfare Association, check it out here […]

Rosy February 27, 2015 at 10:36 pm

I loved your explain about those dogs! Very detailed, very sentimental… Very good! I had one white KBD (Kintamani Bali Dog), in my adolescence, and, coincidently (or not), her name was Bali. But, now, ours destiny are separated. I coursed the faculty and moved for an small apartment in other location at my country, consequently, I cannot bring my dear Bali, she was died last year, with 19 years. Bali’s mission in this world was ended. She learned to me the meaning of loyalty, peace of spirit, and, principally, love.

My Kind Closet March 10, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Thanks for your kind words, Rosy! So sad to hear about your Bali, but it sounds like she had a wonderful like with you. xoxo

Rosy March 26, 2015 at 10:33 pm

Sorry to answer you to late rsrsrs I’m living at CR (Costa Rica), how I talked. Weh, my doubt is: what dog breed you recommend to I buy/adopt? Gracias desde Costa Rica (“thanks from Costa Rica”)

My Kind Closet March 27, 2015 at 6:47 pm

I LOVE Costa Rica – I hope you’re enjoying yourself! I don’t ever recommend any particular breed, but I NEVER recommend buying a dog.. Always, always adopt.. I’m sure there are plenty of “street” dogs in Costa Rica who need good homes. I’d look into local shelters in the area, or taking in a dog who is currently living on the street – just be sure the dog gets to the vet so he or she can be vaccinated and spayed/neutered. cheers!

Rosy March 28, 2015 at 9:36 pm

Heheh I’m LIVING and LOVING CR (Costa Rica). I’ve adopted a female Costa Rican dog who I named Dulce… My new dog looks like identical my dear Bali, my childhood dog… Why it will be? Reincarnation, maybe? I only have the memories of an idyllic childhood with a wonderful dog… Memories of a distant past in another world part… I’m LOVING my Costa Rican version of my childhood KBD (Kintamani Bali Dog). Do you have a very special memory of your childhood? If yes, what?

Rosy April 7, 2015 at 4:56 pm

The Bali dog of my idyllic childhood was look like the black dog of third photo. Was a very beautiful white female. The most beautiful dog I had. A kind, playful dog. My new dog, Dulce, looks like identical my childhood Kintamani Bali Dog (KBD), with a small difference: her ears aren’t erects and her coat is short. Always I joke with my friends she’s the Costa Rican version of my childhood dog. I’m loving my new dog, but I miss my childhood KBD so much. Have you any beautiful childhood memory? Besitos Costarriqueños


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