The Bali Times
August 23-28, 2008

Dog Days

Bali’s dog-strewn streets and morning-till-night chain-reaction howling arrest the tranquility for which this island is world famous. What’s needed is a government-funded dog warden service to round up and impound the strays.

But that’s about as likely to happen as a herd of pigs taking flight, for the Balinese believe the souls of ancestors who have not behaved well during their lives – especially those who were chronic liars (hence: incessant barking) – are reincarnated as canines to protect their owners, in the hope of in the next cycle coming back as humans again.

Living in the middle of roads, where they slumber, wander and eat the food off offerings, dogs are a severe traffic hazard, particularly for motorcyclists, who frequently have to have eyes in the back of their heads to avoid the obstacle course of darting dogs and those that rush to take a bite of their trouser legs.

For locals, it’s a hindrance; for tourists, it’s a alarming.

Authorities in England, which has a Dog Warden Service, have imposed fines on owners of stray dogs, and also for fouling on the streets – up to £1,000 (US$1,870). Strays that are caught are taken to kennels if the owners are not found, kept there for seven days and thereafter new homes found if the owners have not come forward.

One more reason for such a service in Bali: diseases such as distemper and rabies that can be rife in some areas, despite assurances from the local government that the island is rabies-free. Unaffordable costs for local residents, meanwhile, means almost all street dogs here are not inoculated against diseases as puppies, and are therefore walking reservoirs of contagions.

Currently there is no control over this danger to public health, but there is no reason to believe that with the consultation of Hindu leaders, an orderly system cannot be devised to properly manage Bali’s dogs.

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