Jakarta. Nearly 250 million stray cats roam Indonesia’s streets and 500,000 stray dogs in Bali alone. In a developing country such as Indonesia, the government often focuses its attention on human welfare, leaving animals vulnerable to cruelty and neglect.
“It's a common thing to see a cat with huge wounds caused by rubber bands, by hot water, or broken legs because somebody kicked them,” said Doni Herdaru Tona, also known as Doni Iblis, founder of Animal Defenders Indonesia (ADI).
Cases of animal cruelty have been reported by ADI to the police but did not get any serious response: tThey [the police] are not interested, they just laugh at us,” said the 38-year-old metal band vocalist.
Davina Veronica Hariadi, co-founder and chief executive of Garda Satwa Indonesia (GSI), a Jakarta-based animal welfare organization share a similar sentiments.
“The government does have animal shelters,” she told the Jakarta Globe recently. “But these are not sufficient to solve all the problems concerning animal welfare in this country. There are just too many stray animals in Indonesia.”
The 37-year-old model explained that animal welfare is not only important in term of compassion, but also has a huge impact on human health.
Citing the Health Ministry, Davina said in 2010 rabies had killed 50,000 people in Asia — 143 of those deaths were in Indonesia. Toxoplasma, leptospirosis, and many other bacterial and viral diseases are also easily spread by contact with stray animals, she added.
Victor Lapian, an active volunteer with ADI, said superstitious beliefs, a history of consuming domesticated animals and people simply getting bored of their pets and getting rid of them are some reasons behind animal cruelty and the large number of strays.
To fight this, ADI determined to rescue, rehabilitate, re-home, and educate people about the issue. Social media is one of their main platforms for outreach, stressing the importance of sharing photos of local animal rescues to make people feel closer to the issue.
The ADI shelter is a self-sustaining business, funded through their pet hotel, animal taxi, grooming services and pet supply store. These funds go back into the shelter and also pay vet bills and fees for lawyers who represent the organization in suits about animal cruelty.
On the other hand, Garda Satwa contributes to the fight against animal cruelty by offering spay and neuter drives, vaccinations and educating the public about this issue.
Davina said the goal of the organization is to strive for a legal umbrella on animal protection and work together with the authorities to enforce it.
“We wish that in the future we don't have to rescue, we don't have to do street feeding, we don't have to put animals in the shelters, because there are no more stray animals out there,” she said.
“[We hope] that the community would be aware as to why we should protect animals and why we should educate the younger generation, our children, to protect animals and the nature.”