Saving dogs of Bali one visit at a time

This blog is the first in a series on the Participatory Learning and Action Program in Bali.

Edo was just a few weeks old when he started getting sick. He hadn’t eaten for a day. He had vomited, and was hot to the touch. He was struggling to walk.

Thankfully his owner decided to call the Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) team to come and check on him.

It may seem strange to many, but the decision to ask for help is a huge success for the PLA program. The Balinese people are generous, hospitable, friendly — but for a long time, it was as if they couldn’t see the issues the dogs around them were facing.

Now, fear of rabies means many sick dogs are receiving the wrong kind of attention. When people don’t understand how rabies works, they often think that any time a dog is sick it could be rabies. They see mange, or a dog looking weak from a bacterial infection, and immediately fear the worst. And for good reason — rabies is deadly once contracted, and 15 people died on the small island of Bali last year from the disease.

That’s what inspired IFAW to join with the Bali Animal Welfare Association in 2012 to set up the PLA program. We realized we needed a door-to-door program to educate people about rabies and their dogs’ basic needs.

For the last four years, Made Suwana has led the PLA team, going door to door through 20 banjars, or neighborhoods. Ketut Winastra, the team’s educator, talks to people about their dogs, finds out what their concerns are and clears up any misunderstandings. Agung Harnawa is the team’s veterinary consultant, and directs BAWA’s vets to deliver primary care, including vaccinations and preventative medicine.

Their work is really paying off. In banjars where the PLA team works, dogs are well fed and healthy. They aren’t on chains or in cages. And of course, when a dog is sick, its guardian does the right thing and calls for help.

Edo recovered from his fever and is doing well. And the PLA team keeps delivering their message — and important veterinary care — around the island of Bali.

--KA

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