Over a year ago, I came across Bali Rescue Dog Squad on Instagram, which is a privately owned not-for-profit animal welfare organisation that focuses specifically on street dogs based in Bali. Alison Gray, a 47-year old Malaysian-born Australian has a true passion for animals and shares her day-to-day life, highs and lows of her rescue on her Instagram page @balirescuedogsquad. She’s truly an inspiration to me and many others around the world.
Alison was educated in Perth and has a background in Human Resources and Executive Recruitment. For five years before that she was a National HR Manager for large companies. In January 2014, she left her six-figure salary behind, stepped out of her comfort zone and made the move from Darwin to Bali after travelling back and forth for holidays.
Alison always knew she’d end up in a third world country somehow helping others, she even volunteered with a charity helping disabled children, however not long after discovered that her real passion was helping dogs, as she soon learnt to realise how huge the problem of stray dogs was in Bali. She started spontaneously started rescuing dogs every now and then, so she eventually started an Instagram account to get the word out there, educate people and share each dog’s story.
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Throughout the past five years, Alison has rescued and rehabilitated around 500 animals. Her main goal is to give these animals a second chance at life and find them loving forever homes.
As an owner of two beautiful dogs (one rescued from RSPCA Noosa) and a regular Bali visitor, Alison’s story resonated with me on a deep and emotional level. So, in June last year, when my boyfriend and I visited for a holiday, I got in touch with Alison and made a plan to visit her and the dogs whose journeys I had followed so closely for the past six months.
We scootered 30 minutes away from Ubud, through the bumpy roads amongst the rice fields to visit one of Alison’s safe houses – with absolutely no tourists in sight. Although I’ve visited Bali plenty of times, it was quite a culture shock seeing a different area where the locals lived, away from all the glitz and glamorous beach bars, Insta-worthy cafes and stylish boutique stores that the island has come to be known for by Westerners.
Along the way, we stopped in at Sunset Vet Ubud to grab some food and supplies as a special gift for the dogs. Alison met us at the end of the street and directed us down a rugged road to the safe house, where we arrived to excited dog barks and her staff member’s friendly faces. The humble safe house was mainly outdoors, had three rooms and there were around 30 dogs being cared for when we visited. We got lead into the isolation room, where some of the dogs are kept whilst they are being treated. Alison also has a team of staff who live at the safe house, although she lives in another house where approximately 12+ dogs live, too.
I have always loved animals and I truly believe that these dogs, although living in third world countries, deserve caring homes as much as our beloved pets have here in Australia. I gained a different perspective when visiting the safe house and talking to Alison about her time in Bali, she believes to have lived the good life whilst in the corporate world in Australia, so she is happy to live a humble and peaceful life ensuring the dogs have everything they need. Her family and friends
What has been the most challenging/hardest moments you’ve had to face whilst running BRDS?
2 things. 1st thing is believing you have educated the people of Bali & returning to see they really don't have an interest or care to continue what they've been taught regarding how to look after their pets & funding my rescue mission.
How many staff members do you have?
Currently 8 across 3 safe houses.
How do you fund Bali Rescue Dog Squad?
Through social media & fundraising platforms.
What future plans do you have for BRDS?
What I would like to do is open 1 large sanctuary with all the dogs as well as transporting the dogs into loving homes worldwide.
Tell us about your living situation in Bali. Do you have any luxuries or any days off?
My supporters & friends literally have to force me to have some me time because this is not a 9 -5 job where I walk away. I can have up to 20 dogs in my own private safe house & I also have to ensure the staff are doing the right thing with caring for the dogs. I live a simple life & being a minimalist doesn't require much. I believe I have already lived the good life during the time of working in the corporate world & receiving a 6 figure salary. I've had it all & now I choose to live humbly & peacefully making sure the dogs I rescue have everything they need.
How do you treat the dogs that come into your care?
Holistically. While i'm not a vet I have learnt a lot regarding treating dogs medically & will opt to treat them on my own. I do most of the rehabbing by myself but the most important thing is preparing them for adoption. Most of these dogs are traumatised & they live with me as a loved pet already hence the safe house situation & not a shelter. It's important these dogs already learn the basics of how to live in a home before they move to their forever homes.
How much does each dog cost to care for roughly?
It costs approximately $200 -$300 for complete vaccinations, sterilising & basic treatment for a new rescue dog. Most dogs here suffer from Scabies, Demodex, skin infections, malnutrition and/or fungus so it's relatively easy to treat. Anything after that depends on what the dog needs medically. To sponsor a dog is $50 a month & this covers mainly for food & yearly vaccinations & any other treatments should they require during their stay with me.
What has been the biggest eye opener while living in Bali and running BRDS?
The lack of compassion towards any animal in Bali & how underground & uncontrollable the dog meat trade is.
I understand that BRDS is not just a job or rescue organisation to you, it is now your life and you dedicate every hour of everyday to looking after these dogs. Do you plan to continue doing this for the rest of your life?
Yes, however not just Bali.
What advice you have for tourists/expats in Bali that see a stray/abandoned/sick animal - What should they do?
They should immediately contact a shelter & supply photos, information, location & situation about the dog. We will all help if we're able to however tourists must also realise we are aware of the dire situation here in Bali. My best advice is to support the already existing rescuer's & shelters in Bali directly.
Can you tell us a bit about the dark side of Bali - dog meat trade, dog culling, dog fighting, etc?
The dog meat trade is so underground & uncontrollable. RWs (street stalls that sell dog meat) can be closed down but another one will open up a few meters down the road. It's not regimented nor controlled so anybody can be involved with the DMT (dog meat trade). It could be our neighbours next door who don't have money or a carton of Bintang beer so will give their dog away for the sole purpose of the DMT. Bali even has religious priests slaughtering dogs in their homes as a business to supply the DMT. No dogs are safe in Bali.
There were previous agreements in place with international rescue groups regarding spay/neuter/vaccinate programs however these agreements were dissolved from the Bali side. Large shelters have suffered at the hands of the government. Every time something happens to bring light to the government, dogs of Bali suffer. You can guarantee a culling will occur within 3 months & will continue to do so. 6 years ago, there were more dogs around. Now, they are becoming less. 6 years ago, Bali Dogs were being dumped. Now, dogs in Bali are being dumped everywhere. Breed dogs are now becoming the problem. There is a dog being neglected, abused, abandoned on every street corner. For any Australian who has ever been to Bali, I'm positive they can see this with their own eyes.
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Some of the dogs that you have rescued now live amazing, happy lives with other families in Bali and overseas in other countries. Can you tell us a bit about their stories?
Little Mocha who I watched on the road everyday for a span of 2 months or more.
I watched her following the kids around on the road playing with them. I already knew her fate would be one of 2 things. Either she would be run over or she would be abandoned. Then I watched her getting sick & the kids starting to avoid her. Then suddenly she vanished & I thought the worst.
A couple weeks later I spotted her & it gave me hope that she was still around nearby by relocated because her previous family would have abandoned her simply by not feeding her & being nasty because she had Scabies. One day I went looking for her & found her close by but hiding away from the previous people. Even though she was weary, her little tail still wagged a hundred miles an hour when she saw me. I rescued her, rehabbed her & now she's found her perfect forever family in Bali just 20 mins from me living in a mansion with 2 kids that simply adore her along with their Mum & Dad. She has so much garden to play in & when I went to visit her again, she was so relaxed & happy. I relate her with "from trash to treasure".
LuLu who was abandoned on the famous Kuta beach face down in the reefs at under 1 week old.
When I rescued her my immediate plan for her was to leave the country. I just knew from her make & model that the Bali lifestyle & weather just wasn't suited for her. If I ever rescued any breed dog such as a Husky, Golden Retriever etc, my intent will be to send them overseas as they do not belong here in Bali. LuLu was bottled raised by me & grew into a beautiful loving dog however it was apparent to me my decision to send her overseas needed to happen because she was nervous about a lot of things here. It happened 4 years later. I've found her the perfect home in Los Angeles. I had taken LuLu as far as I could take her & no matter how much I loved her & was attached to her, I knew nothing could stand in my way of transporting her overseas so she could truly enjoy the meaning of being a loved pet. When she landed into her new home, it was almost as if she knew she had finally found her place. The change in her was phenomenal.
Snowy who lived on the Batu Bolong beach in Bali was a famous icon amongst tourists & expats. For 2 years he lived like a King there & was looked after by me and many others however he fell under Bali Rescue Dog Squad for vaccinations & anything medical. One day I noticed he had skin issues & from that moment on I removed him from the beach & into my care. It was 2 years later after trying everything in my power to heal him from the dreaded fungus that is in abundance here that I decided he needed to leave Bali. 6 months later, he now lives his retired life in a little town called Astoria, Oregon where he lays in front of the fire place & has a 6 million dollar view of the Columbian River.
I still receive updates about all my adopted dogs. I have also adopted dogs to the UK. Watch this space.
How can local people/tourists/expats help you with Bali Rescue Dog Squad?
Tourists are able to foster a dog if they stay in a fully fenced villa & have approval to keep a dog. The minimum is length of time is 2 weeks. Tourists & expats & locals are able to also help by fundraising, donating or just simply spreading the word of Bali Rescue Dog Squad but it's important to realise I'm just one woman doing what I can. My time is unfortunately very limited because of the ground focus with the dogs. Finding the right staff to take care of the dogs has been something proven to be extremely challenging. At least I can safely say I'm not the only one however, it's also important to realise I rescue the dogs & prepare them for adoption. What this means is, I leash train them, give them exercise, discipline, love. Teach them tricks. Crate train them. Teach them to live as one pack happily with minimal fights. I refuse to keep more than 20 dogs in one house. Truthfully I can fit in another 10 dogs at each house, but the realism in me says a large number of these dogs will end up spending the rest of their lives with me so I give them the best life I possibly can. Of course I will try to rehome each & every one of them but we have to be realistic as well.
How can people from all over the world help you and the dogs of Bali Rescue Dog Squad?
They can help by spreading the word, donating, fundraising & sharing - yes. Anything. Funding is a real issue. Unfortunately as a one woman band, I don't have a lot of time to also focus on fundraising which is the key element to any successful rescue. I struggle a lot & sometimes, dogs will remain on the street because I have to make the calculation - what happens if I rescue this dog? This is never a good predicament to be in.
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For the past year, I have donated and supported Alison’s rescue and believe that her cause is one that deserves more attention. So, when I saw Alison reaching out for volunteering help via Instagram, I was quick to offer my services, being that I work in social media management on a day-to-day basis.
I wish to spread Alison’s story and promote Bali Rescue Dog Squad in the hopes that more people will fund and support organisations like hers. She funded her rescue independently for the first four years and now solely relies on donations, fundraising and social media awareness to continue running her passion. Without these donations, she cannot continue the amazing work she is doing. Alison has plans to open a third safe house to rescue more dogs to care for and she needs our help to get there.
I believe that we all have a real purpose as to why we are here today – we just need to find what our passion is and what sparks joy for us. Everyone that knows me well knows I have always wished to open my own animal sanctuary and hopefully I will end up doing that one-day! In the meantime, I will continue to support people who dedicate their lives to saving animals, just like Alison.
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