Providing Balinese communities with positive options in the care of their dogs
It’s a little-known secret that in the lush paradise of Bali, dog meat restaurants exist.
The market for dog meat isn’t enormous and the vast majority of Balinese don’t eat the meat. But it does exist, and the source is usually unhealthy or unwanted village dogs.
In spite of the fact that visitors frequently see dogs roaming through the streets and villages, Bali doesn’t have a problem with “too many” dogs, partly because people dispose of unwanted animals and partly because animals live short lives, easily succumbing to disease and malnutrition.
What Bali does have is a huge problem keeping its dogs healthy. As a result, visitors see the infamous Bali “street dogs,” the classically hairless, scaly, miserable creatures that brought the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to the island years ago in hope of providing some relief to these suffering creatures.
These days, instead of focusing on the dog population’s size, IFAW focuses on the real source of these animals’ woes – inadequate care.
Just over a year ago, we teamed up with the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) to start a revolutionary program that would help villages—“banjars ,” as they are called here—to take responsibility for their own dogs’ health.
The program relies on the participation of the banjar’s dog owners, with veterinary support and guidance from the BAWA/IFAW’s community-based team.
At the beginning we had some big questions—would the banjars want our help? Why weren’t they taking good care of their dogs in the first place? Would they really contribute time and energy to these animals’ care?
But last week, not quite a year into our new program, our team heard from the head of Suwat village. He told us, “The dogs look so much better now. We used to always sell our dogs to the dog meat restaurants but now we don’t have to. ”
We’ve learned some very important lessons in this past year that will keep us moving forward:
- Banjars do want healthy dogs; they just didn’t know that they could change the way things were.
- Banjars don’t like sending their dogs away and are grateful that their dogs can stay healthy so they don’t have to.
Sometimes, when people lack options, they do things that seem unconscionable.
By providing options, we are providing communities like Suwat with the ability to make positive choices for their dogs.
We’re hoping that in a year or two, Suwat will know how to care for their animals without our help.
But just a year into the program, we’re pretty darn proud to say that Suwat’s animals are so healthy that the dog meat traders are walking away empty handed!