Calling for a Cull

Calling for a Cull

Bali’s rising death toll from rabies shows that this spiralling health crisis is nowhere near an end and will continue to eat into the human population until the vast numbers of stray dogs are eliminated.

At least three more people died this week from the disease, which is invariably fatal once symptoms appear, and which in Bali up to now has only been provably transmitted through dog-bite saliva, although it is possible that other warm-blooded mammals, such as cats, bats and monkeys, can also be vectors. Human deaths are rising towards 60, with increasing frequency, since rabies emerged in the southern Ungasan area in 2008 and was – too late, and after several deaths of people from symptoms readily identifiable as rabies to anyone with a medical dictionary, let alone a medical degree – officially confirmed as present in the November of that year.

Here, there are fierce critics of government attempts to exterminate the hordes of stray dogs that continue to roam our neighbourhoods and streets, some of them biting residents at will. Health authorities say that in little over one year, 44,000 people have received rabies vaccinations after being bitten by strays, a frightening figure – and all the more so given that dogs living wild continue to thrive right across the island.

Animal lovers, many of them expatriates living here, say culling of dogs is cruel and does not work anyway, if the aim is to rid the island of rabies. They point to foreign studies that show this. But here are the added facts that distort a supposed case-book study:

1. The sheer numbers of stray (and actually wild) dogs in Bali have made them uncontrollable, especially given the Balinese approach to life: lackadaisical care of allegedly “pet” animals and the compensation culture (“You kill my dog, you pay me enough to get a new one”).

2. Simply sterilising wild dogs – as culling critics advocate – and waiting for generations to die out would not for a long while protect the human population from more attacks and inevitable deaths.

3. The government has outlawed stray dogs.

For their part, the Balinese point to dogs, wild or not, as a protector of mankind with religious undertones. There exists a Hindu belief that bad-karma souls are reincarnated as dogs, and in that life must prove themselves as worthy guards, and therefore must not be harmed. That’s fine, but not at the

Rabies is a terrible way to die. It is a disease that cannot be cured. It can only be prevented and Bali must be rid of it – soon. Otherwise this predicament will roll on until it strikes the tourism sector and people stay away. Several foreign governments have already warned their citizens of the risk of rabies in Bali.

It is therefore the duty of both the authorities and every person living here to ensure that the stray dog population – which thus far is the sole identified carrier of the virus – is swiftly wiped out.

As one reader’s comment on our feedback line put it this week: “Enough is enough. It is time to cull all stray dogs. It is absolute nonsense to have this continue.”


  1. danny says:

    I came to bali for a holiday last year.

    The wild dogs in Ubud were terrible.

    I will never return to Bali due to the dogs. They are dangerous, out of control and ruined my holiday.

    Get rid of them or lose the tourists!

  2. It is absolute nonsense to continue to squander resources on trying to cull dogs when equivalent effort and expenditure put into vaccinating all dogs against rabies, could eliminate the disease entirely from Bali by November; culling has never eliminated canine rabies from anywhere, and never will, because it does not effectively attack the disease vector.

    Mass vaccination of dogs, beginning at first recognition of the outbreak, costing a fraction of what culling already has, could have eradicated rabies from Bali by March 2009, and could have eliminated all need for costly, unevenly administered, and often ineffective post-exposure treatment.

    The Bali authorities knew what was necessary to do by December 1, 2008. I personally had forwarded to their attention the recommendations of the World Health Organization, Alliance for Rabies Control, U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Animal Welfare Board of India, National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, National Animal Control Association, and World Society for the Protection of Animals — all of which have successfully eradicated canine rabies from places much larger & with many more dogs than Bali by pursuing a focused vaccination strategy, using good quality three-year vaccines. Among these places have been the entire nations of the U.S., Brazil, Argentina, and Uroguay, all of which have more dogs per capita than Bali, and all of the nations of western Europe.

    I also personally interested many of the leading rabies experts in the world in the Bali situation, quite a few of whom have offered Bali their recommendations and help without charge, even visiting Bali at their own expense to meet with the various officials.

    Unfortunately, thus far their unanimous recommendations have been ignored. And the number of human rabies deaths continues to double every six months — exactly as we all predicted it would, 18 months ago, if a culling strategy was pursued instead of saturation vaccination.

    Vaccinating 70% of the dogs will stop rabies on Bali. Culling 70% of the dogs will only catch up to normal dog & puppy mortality over a year’s time, and will only ensure that today’s population of dogs, some of them vaccinated, will be replaced by a new generation of unvaccinated puppies.

  3. elizabeth says:

    Why do people listen to the sensation mongers, those with an agenda and not to the voice of reason, that of the experts. Whilst BAWA is vaccinating perhaps the government would be smarter working with them to sterilise.. However, it is common knowledge that the BAWA vets are the most experienced at this job than any others on the island & that is not my opinion but that of the VETS without Borders.

  4. suzanne says:

    If the dog population is out of control they should be culled. Aside from rabies, in which both the animals and people suffer if the disease is contracted, what is the impact on other native flora and fauna in bali? Any animal population that gets out of control is a danger to the ecosystem. Here in Australia cats and dogs have taken terrible toll on teh local wildlife and I should imagine the same is true for Indonesia which cannnot afford to have this happen. The ecosystem there is fragile enough.
    So the people from BAWA should get real. Sure continue the vaccination program, but also see sense in that some culling is necessary in this instance. And any amount of “eat love pray” philosophy will not change that.

  5. Interesting…and I agree with all of it. Keep up the great work…I will undoubtedly be back soon

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