Killing of Bali Street Dogs Is Cruel and Unjust

By Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times

UBUD ~ “No, I haven’t heard a thing about rabies in Bali,” wrote a friend in an email on Friday. I had mentioned the fears of those who see this as yet another disaster to beset Bali’s tourism.

Jonas said he was sitting in a room with five other computer techs, a Canadian, a Swede and three Australians, and not one of them had heard this news. The Swede did, however, mention that there was rabies in Europe. No travel warnings there! But no, said Jonas, no letters being written to the editor of The Bali Times by this group.

Not that this makes any difference to the real issue that there have been nine deaths attributed to rabies since November last year in Bali. But what is definitely of importance is the way in which the government is attempting to eradicate rabies, and here is where the connection to tourism lies.

The news of rabies in Bali is now in Australian and other newspapers but you would have to question whether this is due to rabies or the indiscriminate culling of healthy dogs – brutal shooting or appalling poisoning with meatballs laced with strychnine. Apart from this being a most inhumane way of killing these animals, it’s also not very smart.

The unfortunate part of all of this would appear to be the idea that culling is cheaper. It’s certainly not more effective, as proven in the rabies problem in Flores, which reported its first case some 10 years ago and today, due to the culling method, has not eradicated the disease.

So who would you listen to if you wanted the most accurate and effective way of dealing with rabies? The World Health Organisation (WHO), which has all the information needed online and through library and consultation. You could, for instance have a look at this website:, where it says:

Controlling rabies in dogs: what to do – what to avoid doing?

WHO strategies for dog rabies control and eventual elimination
WHO promotes
• organization of sustainable mass dog vaccination campaigns
• dog population management through reduction of strays, control of trade and movement of dogs, reduction of populations through spaying and neutering
• public health education strategies

That’s exactly what the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) has been advocating for many years. The culling of defenseless dogs, who have not nor will they ever contract rabies if a smart vaccination program is put in place immediately, is short-sighted. The government was, in fact, vaccinating but that has stopped in the last few months. Unfortunately, it’s reported that they shut down the vaccinating program completely over the recent holidays and will not allow help to be bought in by international experts who have been effectively dealing with rabies outbreaks throughout the world. All this is recorded in the WHO papers on rabies.

Add to the above facts from WHO the opinion of veterinarian Dr. Soeharsono, former professor at Denpasar Regional Animal Sickness Education Centre. Dr. Soeharsono said in an interview with Australia’s ABC network that “while authorities are doing all they can to contain, vaccinate and control the spread of rabies on Bali, he has problems with the culling of Bali’s stray dog population.”

Dogs in every area of Bali, no matter how far away from any site of rabies infection, are now at risk of being killed. The killing is indiscriminate.

Many people, Balinese and expatriate alike, are losing their dogs that they care for and to which they have strong emotional attachments. Those whose dogs have not been killed are constantly anxious about this all-too-real possibility.

There are also reports of heads of banjars requesting the killing of the dogs in their areas. What could have bought these people to this decision? A decision made in Banjar Permata Anyar, Ubung Kaja, was based on misinformation or information minus all the facts about rabies. Scare tactics will cause people to make decisions that they will live to regret.

Tragically, two dogs killed in this area were dogs that had not only been vaccinated for rabies and sterilized but were owned dogs. The owners were at work and the few people that were left told of their panic as they rounded up their dogs and those of neighbors in an attempt to save them from these horrific killings. They were able to only save eight dogs and one single puppy from the entire village.

The policy of killing dogs to deal with rabies has now bred a fear amongst dog owners. It is also unjust. These people do not deserve to feel this way and there is simply no rational justification for the policy.

The Bali dog is a breed and whilst it has it detractors, there are many in the community who work tirelessly to see these beautiful animals preserved.

With around two million tourists visiting Bali each year, BAWA founder Janice Girardi suggested a tax of US$1 be paid by each person. This would pay for three years of vaccinations of all dogs on the island.

And why? Because they have, at their fingertips, the most positive ways to effectively eradicate rabies from an island such as Bali. The WHO is not comprised of your average TV couch experts, those same people who from the safety of their homes send letters to editors and governments threatening the livelihoods of people by spreading swill that unfortunately some governments cannot decipher from the truth.

The killing of street dogs is not an effective response to rabies. It is certainly less expensive than vaccinating but if you are smart enough to do your maths, you will see easily that this is false economy. If the rabies problem is not eradicated, then the tourist industry will loose out completely, with less and less people wanting to visit. So much for the industry that keeps this island afloat.

The cruelty to the animals themselves is clear to anyone who cares to investigate the method used to kill them – strychnine-laced meat that causes an horrific, painful death.

But the policy of killing street dogs is cruel to Balinese people, too, and it is unjust.

For more on Bali street dogs, visit

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12 Responses to “Killing of Bali Street Dogs Is Cruel and Unjust”

  1. John Daniel Says:

    For publication:

    Dear Editor,

    This is the second time I have written to your pages about the rabies’ problem in Bali, and this time I am forced to by the emotive ‘ Instinct’ column in your April 10-16 edition. Elizabeth Hensell argues against culling as even a partial or complimentary antidote to the problem; however her main evidence is contradictory. She quotes the WHO as recommending the ‘reduction of strays’ and ‘control of … movement of dogs.’ It is true that the WHO’s first recommendation is for mass vaccinations, but the organization is also clearly in favour of doing something about strays and dog movement.

    Since coming to Bali 10 years ago, I have noticed a remarkable tolerance of loose and stray dogs, even those that barked and growled at tourists on beaches and other tourist areas. This was OK when Bali was free of rabies, but now this tolerance is no longer possible. Elizabeth mentions Europe (rabies declared) where there are no travel warnings, but in most of Europe there is zero tolerance of loose and stray dogs. In most parts of Australia (rabies free) roaming dogs are impounded, kept for a couple of weeks to allow owners to collect them, then either sold or humanely put down. There is zero tolerance of strays.

    In the absence of dog pounds, Bali has little choice but to continue with culling in addition to a vaccination program. Vaccination alone is flawed. It seems that many people don’t realise that a human bitten by a rabid animal needs a series of vaccinations to protect him, not one. Similarly dogs need a booster after one year and then further boosters each 3 years. Three months ago the banjar in my area had a mass vaccination and dogs were issues with tags; however these tags would only be good for one year.

    Elizabeth writes of the culling of vaccinated dogs in Ubang Kaja. Apparently these dogs were running free whilst their owners were at work. Why weren’t they confined? Elizabeth also goes on the attack against letter writers (myself included I guess) who write ‘swill’ from the safety of their homes. Well, Ms Henzell I might write my letters at home, but I also go to Bali’s beaches where I am currently frightened to take my dogs.

    Currently and unbelievably there are still stray dogs on Bali’s beaches and in other tourist areas. People are dying because the difficulty of treating possibly infected people is underestimated. Rabies is a terrible disease; a combination of all possible eradication measures should be used. Stray dogs on Bali’s beaches can no longer be tolerated, and all dog owners and lovers should keep their dogs under control. More swill Elizabeth or am I not allowed to be as concerned about the problem as you?

  2. Pauline Says:

    I cannot believe that you would treat such a decent and helpful companion this way. Dogs help the blind, the disable, the police, the elderley as companionship. They love to greet you. Why are you being so cruel ?

  3. Suzana Says:

    Please Stop Poisoning innocent dogs in Bali…!!!

    Please Stop Culling of innocent dogs in Bali…!!!

    These are totally wrong and must be stopped !!!

    The world watch what you did / do towards poor innocent animals !!!

  4. Katrin ForTheAnimals Says:

    Please stop the slaughter of dogs and all animals!!!!

  5. Leah Travaline Says:

    This is disgusting, cruel, and inhumane. I am writing from Canada. Please know the world is watching…

  6. Martina Patterson Says:

    Bali is our favorite holiday destination, but if the brutal slaughter of dogs and other animals doesn’t stop, we have to spend our money somewhere else. And we make sure, that all our friends know what is going on. And believe it, most of them are real dog and animal lovers too.

    Prayer for the animals:
    Lord, please hear our modest request for our friends, the animals, and particularly for
    the prosecuted animals that are overloaded, hungry and suffering! For those poor
    creatures in captivity who hit with their shoulders against the bars of the cages; and
    for those which are chased away and lost or in fright and hunger, as well as for those
    to be killed. We ask, lord, for their compassion and mercy; and for those upon which
    their care is incumbent upon, we ask for a merciful heart, soft hands and gentle
    words. Create from us, lord, true friends of our animals with whom we may divide the
    blessings of your magnanimity.

  7. Jacqueline Herder Says:

    Caring for and protecting animals is a matter of compassion and civilization which I expect from a Buddhist country.

  8. Britta Eßers Says:

    So long as humans think, that animals don´t feel,
    so long animals must feel,that humans don´t think!!!

  9. George Martin Says:

    Against any Animal abuse

  10. Azahar Says:

    Please, find a solution to this problem that doesn’t involve destroying these animals, after all it’s the humans’ fault that these animals are not under control and multiply. And, please, organize national campaigns of NEUTERING and SPAYING, this is the ultimate solution.

  11. Jojo Says:

    I think the Balinese (though not all) really do not have any affection for the dog. I have been in Bali for more than a year and there used to have a mother dog with her five kids in the area that I stayed. The people (the adult and children) like to throw stones at them when the dogs did not do anything wrong. The adult did this so often in front of their kids and in return the kids just act like them too. There is this incident just happen a few days ago before I return to my hometown when someone brought the doctor to our area saying that he is giving injection to the dogs to prevent rabies. However, once we went into the room they shoot and killed the mother dog with three of her kids. What is worse is that though the baby dogs died at the compound and the children saw it, they think is normal without letting us know under we go round searching for them. So pity for the mother dog because at that time she was pregnant and after killing her, the people just thrown her body in the river. How can I feel these people have respect for the dog? Whatever the adult did show that their ancestor did that too and they followed their footstep and now they are showing it to their descendant. So is really a pity that a place people called paradise turn ugly when people there did not have the basic human kindness element.
    I have to add this to really let people know how heartless and cruel these people are. The doctor after giving injection to all the dogs gave us some badges and asked us to hang around their neck indicating that they are vaccinated. And though the mother dog was shot but she did not die immediately and the people used a string tied around her neck and drowned her. How I wish I am able to post their photos to show them.
    If someone can give me a suggestion of how I can get the dogs out of Bali, most willing to get them and look after them.

  12. Tamara Says:

    The slaughter of innocent dogs in bali is terrible. I was there recently and not one single stray dog approached me on the beach to harm me.The people that do this culling should be ashamed of themselves!

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