Image Source: Bali Animal Welfare Association’s Instagram @bawabali_official
By Zoe Kassiotis | @ZKassiotis
Thousands of innocent dogs are brutally slaughtered each year in Bali due to high demands for dog meat and a lack of education and understanding of animal welfare.
Findings suggest that every year, up to 100,000 dogs suffer at the hands’ of dog hunters and suppliers in order to maintain the island’s estimated 100 dog meat (“RW”) restaurants.
This has seen numbers of pure Bali dogs on the island plunge in the last decade from around 800,000 to possibly only 150,000.
The Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) is a non-profit organisation that aims to reduce the suffering of all animals in Bali, but in particular focuses on the care of dogs.
BAWA volunteer and Flinders University Animal Behaviour graduate Bonnie Hunter said that the dog meat trade, an increase in rabies and a lack of sterilisation are partly what has seen sick and injured street dogs become a notable problem.
Through rescue, rehabilitation, street feeding, treatment, vaccination and sterilisation programs, BAWA represents a very important cause that often goes unnoticed by Western tourists.
“No matter what part of Bali they [tourists] go to, everyone sees a stray dog in the street and often they don’t realise they can help,” Ms Hunter said.
“The situation would improve massively if every tourist who came to Bali spared the money from a couple Bintangs to help a dog on the street.”
Helping can be something as simple as taking a break from typical tourist activities to instead take a puppy with a skin condition to a vet and buy its antibiotic cream.
Visitors who are staying longer in Bali can also foster a puppy in their home for even just a week or two.
“People often tell us that being able to care for and help a Bali dog was the best part of their trip to Bali because it’s such a rewarding experience watching a skinny, hairless puppy transform into a healthy, adoptable dog,” Ms Hunter said.
Despite the dire animal welfare situation, it’s important for tourists to understand that stray dogs are a part of Bali’s cultural identity and not every dog on the street is a crisis that needs to be addressed.
At their heart, Bali dogs are still wild dogs that like to roam and be independent.
Ms Hunter said strays are largely welcomed into the Balinese community who have a special cultural relationship with their dogs.
“It’s often a case of ‘it’s not my dog, but it lives here and I feed it’,” she said.
She said that western travellers were often confronted by the situation and experienced negative feelings towards the treatment of Balinese street dogs.
“A lot of Australian tourists don’t really get the stark differences between western and Balinese recourses, education and culture so are quick to villainize the local people,” she said.
With anywhere between 220-270 dogs in its care at any given time, BAWA aims to see 30-45 dogs adopted each month, 80% of which find themselves in the safe care of Balinese locals.
People can make a considerable difference by volunteering, spreading the word about BAWA’s cause, or donating from home.
However, Ms Hunter said an important way that tourists can help is by electing not to participate in in any animal tourist attractions that use and exploit animals.
This includes elephant rides, photo opportunities with tigers or orangutans and Luwak coffee plantations or tastings.
“These animals live a very, very unnatural life and there is always an element of cruelty in the attractions even if you don’t see it,” Ms Hunter said.
To donate and learn more about BAWA, visit www.bawabali.com/donate-to-bawa.