I'm an American expat, writer. photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or  slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.


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Animals have it hard in Bali. Especially Balinese street dogs. With Bali becoming increasingly more of a destination favorite among tourists, it’s important to know and understand these new friends you’ll be encountering every day on the streets.

BAWA, the Bali Animal Welfare Association, is a non-profit organization working hard for the health and welfare of Bali’s animals.  Whether they are educating people across Bali or conducting vaccinations to eradicate the rampant spread of rabies, BAWA is an active non-profit organization determined to help rescue and protect the street dogs in Bali. I had the great pleasure to sit down for a chat with Deb, BAWA’S volunteer coordinator, over at the Ubud office, as well as spend an afternoon visiting their main foster home. Here’s all that I have learned about the street dogs in Bali and how you can help next time you visit the beautiful island!

Upon arriving, I met with Deb and a fellow travel blogger, Madeleine of Daria Daria. We walked the quiet back alleyways to the BAWA foster home where all of our scruffy and fluffy friends were hanging out. Deb introduced us to all of the pups: the older dogs, the middle-aged, the young ones, and finally – the one month old puppies. We learned that the organization has a free ambulance for dogs 7 days a week and has a thriving adoption center, matching 35 animals a month (mostly puppies) to new homes! Because Balinese typically want their dogs to be beautiful-looking, nobody buys Bali dogs, but BAWA helps by giving the locals free dogs!

“Bali dogs”, as they are called, are not a popular choice for the locals, so the street dogs don’t have enough foster families. BAWA uses this large home to house the older dogs who aren’t being fostered, as well as the cute newly born puppies who are so quickly and easily able to get fostered.

These one month-old puppies were inside of their mama and were just days away from being killed by a hotel here in Bali, when BAWA got a call to help rescue the mother. Luckily, BAWA came in, rescued this mother, and we now have these sweet pups. 🙂

BAWA has 5 goals for helping the nearby pups in Bali:

5 Freedoms for Animals

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
  2. Freedom from discomfort
  3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease
  4. Freedom from fear and distress
  5. Freedom to express normal behavior

A Brief History

In 2008, rabies came to the island of Bali, and with no support from the Balinese government, it made it much harder for the pups on the island. Instead of easily vaccinating or sterilizing dogs, the government in Bali would rather kill and poison dogs in order to eradicate rabies, which presently still has no known cure. Also keep in mind, in 2007, tourism was skyrocketing, and in turn, hotels began poisoning the dogs in order to keep the street dogs away from the tourism hot spots. If only the locals understood that killing the dogs don’t solve the problem; it just furthers it. Vaccinating and sterilizing is a much easier and healthier way. In fact, it’s been scientifically proven (a 70% vaccination rate has shown to eradicate rabies in places like Egypt and India), time and time again, that vaccinating and sterilizing will solve the problem, as well as keep the dog population in control. Because Bali has the help of organizations like BAWA who are giving sterilizations 6 days a week, less dogs are wandering the streets in Bali.

Dogs are very territorial and protective of the families here in Bali, and often families will get street dogs to protect their compound. Interesting fact: Bali dogs are also often thought to ward off evil spirits! Unfortunately, neighbors who aren’t on friendly terms will often put poison on the road for their neighbor’s dog to consume. Instead of talking about these issues, it is customary for neighbors to kill their neighbor’s cats and dogs as an outlet to express discontent. But what’s important to note is that guard dogs help keep rabies contained.

Rabies Symptoms

If a dog displays any of the following symptoms call BAWA immediately. These symptoms include:

  • vicious biting for no reason
  • barking with a strange sound
  • difficulty swallowing
  • drooping of lower jaw
  • foaming at the mouth
  • seizures
  • seeking dark places
  • paralysis

Tips for Meeting and Helping Bali Street Dogs

When you come to Bali, know that everyone can do something. Here are some easy ways you can help!

  • If there is a dog at your hotel stay with a tick infestation, stop at a local pet shop or drug store and pick up some tick treatment for 2 dollars. It won’t hurt your bank account!
  • If there is a skinny dog on the street near your homestay, pick up some food at a local store and feed it.
  • Encourage positive dog ownership! Say hello to a local and mention that their dog looks so healthy and happy and thank them for treating their dog so well! Make a comment. “Your dog is so beautiful! It’s so great you are walking your dog on a leash!” Westerners tend to love their animals and spoil them with the same love as we do for our own children! In other countries, it’s not as common. Non-Balinese dogs are often caged up in the heat all day long, and positive reinforcement from tourists really goes a long way.
  • Don’t go up to dogs, but rather, wait for them to approach you. If street dogs come up to you, pet them! Don’t pat them on the head first, but pet them under the chin, so they can get to know you.

It Takes a Village

Please help support the foster home and rescue projects by donating at www.bawabali.com

All donations – large or small – go towards making Bali a safer place for animals and people. A little goes a long way.

If you’d like to volunteer (puppy socializing and dog walking? Yes, please!) with the dogs and puppies at BAWA next time you’re in Ubud, make sure it’s for a minimum of 7 days, check that your vaccinations are up to date and contact the organization through their website or email their office at bawabali@aol.com


*this is NOT a sponsored post, but rather my own personal experience at BAWA. All opinions are my own

Photo Diary of my time at BAWA…

rescuing a mouse from the paws of Bali’s street pups they found a mouse!


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Street Dogs in Bali and How to Help

October 18, 2017


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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical, emotionally honest family and children's portraiture. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.










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