Bali, the picturesque Indonesian island, is known for its lively beaches, vibrant culture and stray street dogs…

Dogs, a less mentioned part of life here, which becomes evident soon after you step out on the streets, is the presence of wild dogs, roaming freely without apparent owners.

As an American expat living in Bali, I’ve come to understand and appreciate the unique relationship this island has with its canine population, a relationship that is deeply interwoven with the local culture and traditions.

Why Are There So Many Street Dogs in Bali?

The first question that likely comes to your mind is: why are there so many dogs roaming the streets of Bali? The answer lies in a combination of cultural, historical, and socio-economic factors. It’s estimated there’s tens of thousands of stray dogs on the island.

Firstly, the Balinese people traditionally view dogs not as household pets but as semi-wild beings that are free to roam, like birds and fish. Dogs are valued for their protective qualities, and it is not uncommon to see families feeding stray dogs near their homes and businesses, creating a system of informal ownership. The dogs protect the home, and in return, they receive food and some degree of shelter.

Secondly, there are limited resources for spaying and neutering in Bali, which contributes to a high birth rate among the canine population. The lack of a widespread, affordable spay/neuter program is partially due to economic constraints but also due to a lack of awareness about the benefits of such programs.

Stray dogs in the street in Bali

Interacting with Bali’s Street Dogs

While the sight of so many street dogs may initially be intimidating while walking down gangs (Balinese word for street), it’s important to remember that most of these dogs are friendly and non-aggressive.

To dog and animal lovers, it gives yet another reason why Bali is a paradise. Although it can be heartbreaking to see some dogs on the street not doing so well, theres many more that are thriving, doing their own thing and enjoying life. Take a trip to one of the many beaches in Bali and you’ll see many owned and stray dogs playing, to put a smile in your face.

Violent dogs and attacks are extremely rare, and the vast majority of these animals are used to human presence and largely indifferent to passers-by. When there is a problematic dog within a neighborhood, they are often dealt with expediently by the locals and the Banjar.

Regardless, caution and respect should always be exercised when interacting with any street animal. Here are a few tips for safely dealing with dogs you encounter on the streets of Bali if you’re not comfortable around them:

Give them space: Dogs are territorial creatures. If you give them space and do not pose a threat to them, they are likely to ignore you.

Avoid direct eye contact: In dog language, direct eye contact can be seen as a challenge. Avoid staring at a dog directly in the eyes.

Never approach a dog that is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies: These are situations where even the calmest dog may become defensive.

Do not panic: If a dog seems aggressive, it is important to stay calm and slowly back away. Running may trigger a chase instinct.

Dogs on the beach in Bali

No Owners But Many Friends

There are several organizations that work towards the rescue and welfare of stray dogs in Bali. Some of the most well-known ones include:

Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA): BAWA is a non-profit organization based in Bali that provides a range of services for animals, including rescue and rehabilitation, sterilization, disease prevention, and education. They have been particularly active in helping Bali’s street dogs.

Bali Dog Adoption and Rehabilitation Centre (BARC): BARC is a no-kill shelter that rescues and rehabilitates dogs with the goal of finding them permanent homes. They also have programs to help educate the local community about animal welfare.

Bali Pet Crusaders: This organization focuses specifically on sterilization. They provide mobile sterilization services for local dogs (and cats) in order to control the population and prevent the spread of diseases like rabies.

Mission Paws’ible: Mission Paws’ible works with local animal welfare groups and individuals to rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome Bali’s stray dogs. They also focus on education and empowerment of the local community to enhance animal welfare.

These organizations, among others, make a significant contribution to the welfare of street dogs in Bali, providing critical services that improve the quality of life for these animals and the communities in which they live.

Adopted stray street dog from Bali

A Testament to Resilience

Despite the challenges they face, Bali’s street dogs are a testament to resilience. They navigate the bustling streets with ease, find food where they can, and form social bonds with both their fellow dogs and the humans who share their environment.

Far from being a cause for concern, the dogs of Bali have become an integral part of the island’s charm. Their presence is a reminder of the island’s deep cultural roots, where nature and civilization exist side by side. As an expat, it’s been both fascinating and heartwarming to observe and become a part of this unique aspect of Balinese life.

In conclusion, the street dogs of Bali are mostly safe, friendly, and form a significant part of the local culture. They require respect and understanding, and with a little caution, expats and tourists alike can coexist peacefully with these noble animals.


The Bali Guide