Balinese villagers overjoyed as partner staffer works his magic to save mother and her pups

Community members rejoice as mother and pups are rescued.This story was recently shared with us by a staff member at the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) partners in Bali, the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA).

The story exemplifies how their Participation, Learning & Action (PLA) Program, established by IFAW, is saving animals through community education and empowerment.

Lack of understanding about animal behavior is a problem that affects both human and animal welfare worldwide.

In Bali, a common lack of understanding about dog behavior often leads communities to fear animals and seek solutions that aren’t always the most humane.

Recently, one of our Education Team Members received a desperate telephone call from a local village—or “banjar” as they are called here—the banjar leader, was pleading for help for a female dog and her litter of puppies.

Onceg is a friendly, free-roaming dog that has become part of the fabric of this community’s life. Like many other Bali dogs, Onceg isn’t owned by anyone in particular, but is cared for by many.

Unfortunately, Onceg was never sterilized and became pregnant. 

She chose, like many Bali dogs do, to birth her litter in a small dark place. Onceg chose a tunnel by the side of a thoroughfare in the centre of the Banjar. As people walked past the tunnel entrance or rode their motorbikes past, Onceg would bark and growl at them. When they stopped to see what was wrong with her she growled and barked louder and bared her teeth at them.

Of course, Onceg was just protecting her pups; she was just doing what a mother does. But the local people did not see it this way.

Because Onceg was growling and bearing her teeth, they assumed that she had gone ‘gelak,’ or crazy, and her aggressive behavior was a threat to the people and children of the village.

Thankfully this Banjar is a member of BAWA’s Participation, Learning & Action Program (PLA). This program, which was established by IFAW, focuses on working with communities in assisting them to identify the issues they have with dogs, and then to identify their own, humane solutions to resolve the issues.

By participating in the program the villagers and the village leader knew that they should not just kill Onceg, which is what they would have done before BAWA became active in their Banjar.

The Banjar knew they did not have the skills to deal with Onceg; so they did what they knew would be the best for both Onceg and for the village—the leader called BAWA.

After receiving the call, two of our team members rushed to the village to assess the situation. After giving Onceg some food and a reassuring pat over the course of an hour, both men were able to slowly approach Onceg.

She had returned to her usual tail wagging self, much to the amazement of the many locals who had gathered around to watch the BAWA guys “work their magic.”

Onceg patiently stood to one side as a team member crawled into her tunnel. The villagers gathered around nervously waiting to see the puppies. After an hour of inching along the tunnel, great big smiles spread across the villagers faces as out of the darkness emerged our team member, clutching the pups.

The local children, in particular, were overjoyed at his success.

Our team tried to encourage a local Banjar member to give Onceg a corner of their compound so that she could nurse her babies in safety. Unfortunately the memories of her barking and growling were too fresh for everyone, and no one would allow her some space in their home. But, everyone was insistent that BAWA should take care of the family and then return Onceg once her puppies were weaned (and Onceg was sterilized, of course!).

Onceg is now resting comfortably at our puppy house, nursing her babies in peace. In a few weeks’ time, when her family has grown, she will be sterilized, vaccinated and returned to her home.

The Banjar Leader himself sent BAWA a text which read “Thanks god for BAWA, because of your staff we did not have to hurt the dog”.

This story is a wonderful example of ‘education in action’.

Through the power of knowledge this community learned that there are humane choices to make when dealing with ‘problem animals’ in their village. Not only did they learn those choices, they put their new knowledge into action – and it worked!

The actual rescue itself was also education in action.

By watching our staff work with Onceg, the local people, especially the children, were able to witness firsthand how to behave with a mother dog, how to gain their trust and how to let her know that you mean no harm.

Knowledge is power, and by giving local communities knowledge we empower them to take care of their own animals, one small step at a time.


For more information about our work to educate communities on how best to care for their animals, visit our campaign page.

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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters