Their Bite Is Worse Than Their Bark

By Novar Caine

It’s peculiar language. People are clinically called “humans” and a “mandate” to act turns out to be nothing of the sort, as least not according to the people of Bali, Balinese and foreign residents.

The under-fire Bali Animal Welfare Association’s (BAWA) online presence is where these anomalies are found. Visitors are told the organisation operates “a hotline service for humans” but doesn’t mention the number – or perhaps it’s an email, or a postal address; but we’re not told.

It says it has a mandate to carry out its tasks. Outside the slim minority of its overseas activist backers, it is deluded if it thinks so; but clearly it does. 

These forensic uncoverings are symptomatic of a wider BAWA malaise: an apparent distain for human life – people are reduced to a species – in favour of the wandering battalions of stray dogs found all over Bali. You’d pass it off as nothing too serious, just another futile fancy of deluded expatriates in Bali, if it wasn’t so serious. Because BAWA is leading Bali’s fight against rabies, which has killed around 130 people in just over two years and shows no sigh of abating.

Certainly not all, but some foreigners come to Bali and remain here because of personal circumstances – heartbreak, say, failed romances, perhaps wanting to avoid relationships entirely – and while not wishing to delve into the private lives of BAWA’s leadership, if such is the underlying case of their drive, it has an effect on people much further afield.  

Reading this newspaper’s coverage of the rabies crisis, in print and online, reader letters and their posted comments show hardly any support at all for BAWA’s vaccination-only programme to try and wipe out rabies. There is a fury to some writers’ comments that canine life is placed higher than people’s. And so, you might ask, how has it come about that an animal shelter run by foreigners in Ubud has been allowed to take the helm of a major human-health emergency?

The answers are: fervent lobbying and ample funds when the Bali authorities lack cash. It was therefore all too easy for the local government to hand over the task, although the Animal Husbandry Department also plays a role in the jab-job.

A criticism of Bali is that in some respects it is, for a segment of the sizeable expatriate population, a nirvana with a reality disconnect; it is a place to lose and reinvent yourself. It is a land where once-distant possibilities are given life, in part due to the pliable surroundings. Here, all your dreams really can come true, at least in the short-term. But if you venture too far outside this wraithlike Neverland, you’d better be prepared for the cold realism that awaits. This is now what is happening with BAWA, because they are playing with people’s lives.

There are lots of bleeding hearts in Ubud, and there are a lot of people bleeding as a result of the feral dogs. The Bali government has got to reinstate its control of its own affairs and cut BAWA out of the rabies fight. It is work that cannot be left to report-shrieking foreigners with inhuman agendas.

For the sake of its own people, quite apart from the lives of foreigners and the real threat to the key tourism industry that keeps people in jobs, the government must reassert itself and ditch the vaccination programme. It must embark on a time-sensitive critical mission of summarily removing every stray dog from Bali and preventing, with force-backed legalisation, people from allowing their dogs to wander outside their homes. If this does not happen, and soon, the rabies crisis is at risk of spiralling even further into a catastrophic chasm.

Some parts of the island have had enough. They are tired of hearing apparent success stories from BAWA and the Animal Husbandry Department while their people are bitten and die, and their streets remain littered with stray dogs and no sign of anything being done, least of all vaccinations. That’s why local authorities are taking it upon themselves to carry out their own culls.

Every regency should follow suit.

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6 Responses to “Their Bite Is Worse Than Their Bark”

  1. Sam Says:

    Time for Mr Caine to visit an optician? BAWA’s website clearly displays a phone number for its hotline – 081-1389004.

    I wonder how many other ‘facts’ you are getting wrong?

  2. Sanur resident Says:

    I love animals, adore dogs as pets but the island’s situation has got out of control as we all know. I think BAWA’s intentions have always been good but people, including children are losing their lives to something that clearly needs serious attention and serious action. There’s a place for animal welfare organisations in every country, and cruelty should never be tolerated, but this situation is different. I’m sure every expat’s home country would move swiftly and fervently if this situation was happening on their home turf.

  3. Traveller Says:

    As a frequent visitor to Bali I am starting to reconsider my visits as the marauding dogs both day and night are just becoming too off putting.
    It’s time to take control and do a humane cull before it’s too late.

  4. Sam Says:

    Hardly a surprise that posted comments support your position when you ‘moderate’ out the rest and don’t correct your articles even when they have been shown to be incorrect. Lord spare us from you ex-pats who can’t make it as journalists in their own country and so inflict their vitriol and lazy ‘journalism’ on others.

  5. Steven Says:

    Well said Sam!

    I highly commend the Balinese Government for approaching this rabies epidemic with enough composure and foresight to simply not rush into a public display of mass culling (which has been internationally proven to be ineffective when combatting a wide spread rabies epidemic), but rather to have the integrity to consider the long term welfare of it’s residents, economy and environment.

    I encourage any individual worried about the educated approach the Balinese Government and it’s associated NGO’s have taken regarding the rabies epidemic to spend 5 minutes visiting the World Health Organisation’s website and read at least one of the many scientifically endorsed reports on the topic. From over 80 countries worldwide these reports clearly state that vaccinations programs have been proven time and time again to be the most effect answer to eradicating rabies.

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