Wild Street Dogs of Bali, Interview with Janice Girardi

by Mary Haight on December 4, 2009

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Bali is one of the more exotic places on Earth. Photographers and film crews come to put that touch of magic in their travel magazines and movies. Wealthy tourists flock to the swank hotels and the beautiful beaches of Ubud.  Many others dream wistfully of making the trip one day.  But the wild street dogs of Bali are never mentioned  in the travel guides or shown in the movies.

Last year news broke of the first case of rabies on Bali, a serious threat to public health and the economy. The government’s immediate reaction, protect the tourist trade and cull the wild dogs of Bali by poisoning with strychnine—it’s a long, cruel, painful death, and a completely ineffective method of removing the threat. Officials tried this method last year on Flores Island off the coast of Bali where 300,000 dogs were killed. Rabies persists there today.

I spoke at length with Janice Girardi, founder and head of Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) Sunday night on how things were shaping up to save dogs from the entrenched method of dealing with a rabies outbreak. Girardi knows more about rabies than most benefitting from tutelage by experts the World Health Organization defers to, like Dr. Henry Wilde from Queen Saovabha Memorial Hospital, Bangkok, and experts from the CDC.

Girardi had been talking to heads of government for nearly a year—ever since the government decided to allow, for the first time, vaccinations for rabies for the dogs. The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), BAWA, and a group of NGOs have been working to protect dogs and eradicate rabies as part of the Bali Rabies Forum.

Girardi said that when she called the WSPA telling them that killing all the dogs on Bali would be a likely approach according to reports, “they arrived in four days with a team of experts to make a presentation and offer a plan to officials.”  WSPA committed to providing vaccines for the greater Gianyar Regency, some 40,000 doses. All groups had been waiting for reassurance that no culls would take place once the program was underway. I received notice early today that assurances have been given, and the vaccination program will begin. Village elders in the Ubud area have agreed to no culls and more will follow as the program progresses.

BAWA estimates it can capture and vaccinate 10,000 dogs a month with a few extra hands and four more vehicles. Once captured in nets and vaccinated, orange collars are fitted for easy ID and control of outside dog populations roaming into the area.This must be done quickly to contain the area.

If the name Janice Girardi sounds familiar, you may know her as a well- reputed jewelry designer whose work is available through Sundance and Red Envelope.  BAWA is largely supported through the profits earned from her business.  In two years she has set up a 24-hour low-cost vet clinic, with a shelter area for puppies and kittens for re-homing, an ambulance service staffed with a vet and a dog catcher treating street dogs and the many diseases they contract in the tropical climate. Bawa also runs a spay/neuter van that conducts 40 procedures a day with money raised by the Bali Street Dogs of Australia. Girardi runs a feeding program for street dogs in poor condition and delivers at least 40 meals herself each day.  She would like to begin a television Public Service Announcement program as part of her education efforts. Muslims have the idea that dogs are dirty and Hindus  sacrifice animals. Dog meat is also served on the island.  A very hard life for dogs no matter where they turn. Educating the younger generation to the value of caring for dogs is an important effort. (And you thought you were busy!)

Girardi said she is targeting the education program for growth. It is particularly important because “the Balinese do not have a history of keeping pets. Their association with street dogs is not one you or I would recognize.  Dogs mill around homes and if they do a service for the house, they might get a scrap of meat.  Otherwise they fend for themselves.”

What Girardi and BAWA’s current staff would like to see now is more volunteers. If you have an adventuresome spirit, are in good health, and have the types of skills needed for this work: Administrative, drivers to hand out brochures, fundraiser’s and grantwriters who can work with an agency without a 501c3, volunteers who can catch dogs using wooden poles with a net, and who don’t mind running around in the thick of the Monsoon’s mud, you might want to give them a call or drop them an email( below).

Beyond vet techs, dog catchers, and the generally non-squeamish, teachers are also needed to work in the education center finding creative ways to teach children about the proper care of dogs. Conversely, it costs $100 per month to hire a teacher to educate the children. Donations to that fund are appreciated.

Want an exotic vacation spot? Spend your vacation doing things for animals! You won’t be spending time in a hammock under palm trees, but you will have an active, hands on part in saving the wild street dogs of Bali.

Many thanks to Janice Girardi and her able assistant Wendyl for their time and good spirit.

Bali Animal Welfare Association


Jalan Monkey Forest 100X, Ubud, Bali

(Phone) +62 (0) 361 977217


Jalan Raya Lodtunduh, Banjar Klingkung

Lodtunduh, Ubud, Bali

(Phone) +62 (0) 361 981490


For more details,you can read Twig Mowatt‘s in depth article over at The Bark.

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  3. […] is left for them but often they are left to find their own water according to Janice Girardi of Bali BAWA  in my interview with her.) You won’t believe what happened with the rabies vaccination program […]

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