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Bali Cons: Abandoned Companion Animals

Adopting dogs in Bali
The author's adopted pups: Itchy and Scratchy

The treatment of animals in a place like Indonesia is often not very palatable for the average western animal lover.

Cats, dogs, birds and bunnies are sometimes treated with a sort of benign neglect at best and, at worst, visible abuse. Many Balinese love and care for their cats and dogs, but the economic reality is that they can also be poorly fed, unsterilised, unvaccinated and untreated in case of illness or accident. Without mass sterilisation, unwanted kittens and puppies dumped in the rice fields or on the side of the road are a regular and heartbreaking occurrence.

It was infinitely worse at the beginning of the pandemic; westerners left Bali quickly and in droves, and many animals that were being fostered or had been adopted were abandoned — stretching an already exhausted charity system. The beaches were filled with abandoned dogs, and the charities were overrun. It's calmed down a bit, but even on short visits to the island, you will see sick, hurt and abandoned animals, and, if you are staying longer, you may even come across a box of motherless kittens in a rice paddy.

So what can you do?

Not much. You cannot help every animal in Indonesia; it's not your job or responsibility, and no Indonesian wants to be lectured about it when children go hungry every day in this country. However, you CAN help one or two to both assuage your western guilt complex and genuinely help an animal in need.

  • Donate Money: This is literally the best thing you can do for companion animals in Bali. Some of the charities here get by on a shoestring, and none have the finances of even small charities in the US or UK. Your $10, $20, $100 or $500 will go a very long way and really help on the ground in feeding, housing and sterilising abandoned, abused and sick animals. A list of charities is at the end of this post.

  • Donate Goods: Most of the charities listed below will also very happily accept goods — food, medicine (such as Bravecto), old blankets and toys. Get your friends at home to donate and bring an extra suitcase. If you have time, message the organisations in advance to see if they need anything not readily available or expensive in Bali, such as specific medication, hypoallergenic food and diets for specific diseases.

  • Share: Adding news stories about dogs/cats, the charities and your own donation to social media is also helpful and costs only 5 minutes of your time. Get your friends back home to help Bali animals too.

  • Volunteer: You're actually not allowed to do this with a travel visa, so be judicious and don't overpost. All jobs are for locals even volunteering work, which is considered work experience. However, some of the charities would love it if you helped with feeding and cleaning or just cuddled and played.

  • Foster: If you are in Bali for more than a few weeks and plan to spend a bit of time relaxing in one place, you can offer to foster a kitten or puppy (but please check with your landlord first). This provides much needed relief to the charities and also helps socialise animals for their future lives. It would also be very helpful if you can pay for the animal's vaccinations and sterilisation.

  • Adopt and stay: Do this only if you plan to stay in Bali long term. A cat or dog lives for more than 10 years. Don't adopt if you aren't planning to stay this long. It is cruel. You wouldn't adopt a child then abandon it, don't do it to a dog.

  • Adopt and take with you: If you love your fur babies like I do but absolutely must go home, there are ways and means. For Australia, it is very difficult and expensive; expect to pay around $10,000 to get one dog home, with a good 3 months of travelling and cage time. The US, UK and Europe are easier and cheaper, and there is actually a group that offers companion trips to take animals overseas. There is a danger in this also; the export of dogs from Bali is technically illegal and your dog could get put down when it's taken to Java for the onward journey. It would be unlucky, and there are companies that specialise in getting them across. Find more information on how to bring your pet from Indonesia

  • Adopt and leave behind: If you have the funds, you might consider paying a local to take care of your babies while you are away from Bali. If you have someone trustworthy, you could pay a reasonable salary, and they would happily look after and love your animal if, in the worst case scenario, you needed to leave. You can also take your pet to a charity, but this is the literal worst case scenario — you are abandoning the animal to a very uncertain future. Fosterers and adopters are few and far between. Your baby is likely to stay in a cage for months if not years with no family to love them.

If you are a short term traveller and do come across abandoned, motherless kittens or puppies or an abused, hurt or starving adult animal, there are two options:

  1. Pick up the animal, take it to a local vet and pay for its treatment then take it to one of the charities and pay what they need to place your dog. This could also include a payment for foster carers. I found a puppy with a broken foot and took it to my local vet last year. His treatment and vaccinations cost A$500, the fosterer was $5 per day for a month, and the sterilisation cost me another $200. So...not cheap. The vet, in this case, found me the fosterer, and she in turn had a network of adopters for puppies. A puppy or kitten is more likely to be adopted than an adult, especially if their vaccinations and sterilisations have been paid for. If you don't have the means, check the second option.

  2. Harden your heart and walk away. Picking up that animal at that time will not solve the long term problems for Bali's dogs and cats. They will be cared for and brought back to health only to be abandoned again, healthier than before and more likely to get pregnant. If you feel guilty about this, assuage it by donating to a charity. It's hard, but so is life. If this is too painful, give them a bit of food... at the very least, they will have a full belly for one day. If you see an animal being abused, alert one of the rescue charities and take note of the location.

What not to do

Dumping a dog or cat on the charities is a shitty thing to do. If you pick up a kitten or a puppy from the side of the road, YOU become responsible. Don't think you're being a great person by picking them up, handing responsibility over to someone else then walking away. You are not saving a life, you are just causing more problems. Please contact the charities first to see if they have the capacity to take the animal. You should pay for the initial upkeep of that puppy or kitten, including medical treatment, vaccinations and sterilisations. If you can't afford to do this, don't pick up the animal in the first place. Walk away. I know it's hard, but it's for the best.

My mange-ridden babies, Itchy and Scratchy, when they were first scraped off the street in Ubud.

Animal Charities for Rescues

  1. Mission Pawsible Their website provides options for donation and fostering and also a very good list of things to do if you find an animal that needs help. (Canggu)

  2. Bali Russ (Mount Agung Area/Amed)

  3. JetSetPetz (Benoa/Nusa Dua)

  4. Villa Kitty (Ubud)

  5. The Bali Dog (Jimbaran)

  6. Street Paws (Canggu)

  7. Bali Paws (Canggu)

  8. BAWA (Ubud)

  9. Barc Rescue (Ubud)

  10. Bali Pet Crusaders (Sterilisations only)


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