Sunday, 16 August 2009

The Ubiquitous Dogs of Bali

Since I've been home in Australia, I've been thinking about the dogs and cats in Bali.

There are few dogs that seemed to be owned by someone. For example, in the lane, (gang) where our hotel was located, there was a small black and tan Pomeranian-type dog whose tail had been carefully dreadlocked! He yapped incessantly. I saw a Rottweiler that looked well fed and happy too; as happy as a Rotty can look. There was a Cocker Spaniel on a leash being dragged around the streets of Lovina by her young owner. According to my research, there are more than 24,000 pet dogs in Bali, which I take to mean 'cared for' albeit allowed to roam the streets. For the most part, the dogs roam around, probably homeless, and feeding on scraps and garbage. Another source of food for the dogs (and the cats) are the offerings (that are refreshed everyday) at the many shrines. Sometimes offerings are left on the ground at a significant site. The offerings often consist of a couple of biscuits, some rice and so on, contained in small, woven banana leaf baskets. I saw some offerings with money and some with a cigarette or two!

More than 1000 stray dogs were culled in Bali earlier this year because of a rabies outbreak .
I believe poison (strychnine) baits were, possibly still are, being used for culling. This seems a bit dodgy considering how many children play on the streets. Strychnine is a dreadful death for the baited animal; however, far be it from me to judge. In Africa we used to shoot stray dogs, particularly if there was a rabies outbreak.

Many of the dogs look as though they are from the same genetic pool. They are light brown and have teddy bear faces with their ears set quite low on the skull, like the one in the picture. A lot of the stray dogs are covered in mange - sarcoptic and demodectic mange I think. Sarcoptic mange is the one that humans contact as scabies. I was careful not to touch any of the dogs, that was ok because they didn't seem to want to touch me either! From what I could see, the street dogs were riddled with worms, even to the extent of protruding from the anus. On a couple of occasions I saw a pack of dogs turn on one of their own who may have been injured or weaker than the others, notably when we visited Tanalot and once in Lovina. Although they fight among themselves, the animals are not generally vicious toward humans. They will bark fiercely and follow you a little way, to the end of their territory, and then leave you alone. One of my friends pointed out that the dogs sounded different from Aussie dogs! They did, more a croaking than a woofing noise.

That the dogs are 'street-wise' goes without saying. So many times I held my breath as a dog sauntered into the path of an oncoming vehicle, only to veer to the side at the last moment. On the incredibly narrow and busy roads connecting the villages and towns, the dogs amble alongside the road or sleep inches away from the speeding wheels of buses, trucks, vans and motorbikes. I know some must get squashed but I never saw it or the evidence of it having happened. Plenty have broken limbs and one puppy that I saw had a big wound in its side that had been stitched. That was at Sangaraja, the old Dutch capital of Bali.

Clearly, many animal lovers have taken notice of the Bali dogs and there are a plethora of sites on the Internet discussing the animals and the action being taken to alleviate the suffering and disease.

Next blog will talk about stray cats in Bali, maybe.

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