Volunteering with the Stray Dogs of Bali

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Written by: Sonia Hrynchyshyn

Picture the scene. You’re in Ubud, Bali. It’s one week into your vacation and, despite the roaring ocean, the delicious tropical fruits of the street vendors and the mesmerising Kecak fire dances each night, something seems amiss.

You don’t feel like you’re part of anything. You feel slightly uneasy. Perhaps it’s the endless taxi drivers constantly waving you down. Or perhaps it’s the many mangy mutts roaming around, homeless, starving, flea ridden and hopeless,. Perhaps it’s this that puts you at unease.

These dogs need help. They can no longer be ignored.

Give something back to Bali

I’m here to tell you that there is a way to experience the beauty of Bali and volunteer for a non-profit animal welfare organization in the same trip! Travellers can sometimes feel as if their tourism only contributes to larger socio and environmental problems.

This dilemma is easily avoided by combining volunteerism and tourism into one while continuing to support local NGOs, such as BAWA (Bali Animal Welfare Association).

Let’s break it down into terms of how the program is run, who it’s helping, and how you can be of help.

The Bali Animal Welfare Association

BAWA has been around since 2007, founded by Janice Giradi and Dr. Dewa Made Dharma. The Indonesian-resident American and veterinarian duo shared a vision of alleviating the considerable suffering of animals within Indonesia, focusing on the protection of Bali dogs. Janice houses multiple adopted family members out of Gianyar, where she works to raise awareness about the risks these animals face every day.

These include Bali’s dog meat trade, interbreeding, cruelty, and neglect from uninformed owners. Visitors to Bali shouldn’t be caught off guard by any of the above, judging by the sheer amount of stray dogs wandering the streets.

How to volunteer with BAWA

The first step in volunteering is easy: contact Deb, the volunteer coordinator! She can be reached at debdeb@bawabali.com.

Be sure to include your name, age, qualifications, vaccinations, allergies, and any skills that make you an asset to the team.

Deb has been a volunteer at BAWA for multiple years and is spends much of her time at their store on Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud. When I was learning about the organization whilestaying at a hostel in town, she was a friend and confidante who was more than happy to teach me how to make recycled eco-bags for customers at the store. (A great way to help if you, like me, don’t have your rabies vaccination.)

There is nothing better than being able to shoot someone an email and schedule yourself in to sit down on the floor of an exotic office and play with puppies while still contributing to a great cause.

The second step is deciding where you’ll be most helpful. There are two deciding factors on this one:

Do you have a rabies vaccination, or can you acquire one?

If so, be sure to include that in your e-mail. This means you can be directly involved with the animals and will likely be sent to the veterinary clinic in Lodtunduh, 3km south of Ubud. A shuttle cab will be provided for your transportation.

Do you intend to volunteer for a few days or for a few weeks?  – h4

If you want to become really involved, there’s a minimum requirement of one week from the clinic. For those who want less commitment, sending Deb an e-mail could result in the possibility of dropping in to spend a day or two volunteering in a creative way. Don’t be shy to bring your own ideas and contributions to the table!

What to do and how to help

No matter what, these are the basics you need to know.

Accommodation and food is not provided, although it’s readily available and cheaply found within 10 minutes of the clinic.

The age limit is 18 years, and no previous animal experience is required – you’ll be put into a position based on your personal abilities and ideas.

Best of all, the entire experience is 100% FREE.

If you have your rabies vaccination, your daily volunteer routine will be 9am – 4:30pm, Monday to Friday (days are flexible) at the clinic. Feeding, watering, walking, cleaning and running the dogs are all possibilities of what your day will entail!

Socialising with these poorly animals is essential to their recovery – all volunteers are expected to radiate positive energy and innovation.

If you lack a rabies vaccination, there are a few possibilities to help out in a hands-off manner. You can raise awareness among the locals by handing out informative brochures, you can inform yourself about BAWA while making eco-bags for the store, or you can arrange an appointment to attend an awareness event by contacting Deb.

BAWA’s focus on protecting Bali’s dogs has resulted in a number of successful programs and schemes to lessen animal cruelty, including:

The organisation’s valiant involvement with the rabies outbreak within the country shouldn’t go without mention. Their incredible immediate reaction was to establish a 24/7 emergency hotline and implement effective local education while collaborating with the government to begin a 3-stage vaccination program, which inoculated 70% of the dog population in 2014.

  • A 24/7 emergency hotline
  • Rehabilitation and adoption
  • Rabies response & control
  • Humane population control
  • Street feeding
  • Education and advocacy
  • Responsible tourism

Without BAWA’s intervention, aided by volunteers, the government’s initial response of poisoning effected dogs would have continued and rabies would remain a more serious concern today.

As a volunteer, you can expect to be involved with as many of the above activities as you like. In your email, be sure to include which program(s) is of particular interest to you.

Are you interested?

Does all of this sound interesting, but daunting? Having second thoughts about Bali, volunteering, or travel in general? If you’re more of an armchair traveller, one of the most effective ways of contributing is simply raising funds, which can be done with the click of a finger:


For volunteers, the application forum can be found on this page.

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