Pet trade ban is best, but start by reg­u­lat­ing mar­ket

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - HTMETRO - MANOJ R NAIR

Last week, Cal­i­for­nia in­tro­duced a new rule that re­quires pet stores to sell pet an­i­mals, in­clud­ing cats and dogs, only if they came from an­i­mal shel­ters or not-for­profit res­cue groups. Cal­i­for­nia is prob­a­bly the first re­gion any­where to take such an ini­tia­tive. “Big win for our four-legged friends,” said the assem­bly­man who in­tro­duced the bill.

In­dia’s poli­cies on pet trade lag Cal­i­for­nia’s by decades. The coun­try, which had no rules to reg­u­late the busi­ness, has just set up stan­dards for an­i­mal hous­ing and care, with the union en­vi­ron­ment min­istry no­ti­fy­ing the Pre­ven­tion of Cru­elty to An­i­mals (Pet Shop) rules, 2018. Among other things, the rules reg­u­late the shad­owy and of­ten cruel world of pet shops.

Pet traders will have to regis­ter with the gov­ern­ment. Shops are re­quired to keep records of breed­ers and sup­pli­ers — mi­crochip­ping an­i­mals to track them — as well as main­tain re­ports for mor­tal­i­ties among an­i­mals.

But state gov­ern­ments have not even started im­ple­ment­ing the rules. “The 60-day dead­line for all pet shops and breed­ers to regis­ter ended in Novem­ber. In Ma­ha­rash­tra, not even one dog breeder or pet shop has reg­is­tered. Ma­ha­rash­tra is in vi­o­la­tion of the rules,” said Gauri Naulekhi, di­rec­tor trustee, Peo­ple for An­i­mals. “On the other hand, there are thou­sands of on­line sites ad­ver­tis­ing pet shops and breed­ers.”

N G Jayasimha, mem­ber, Ma­ha­rash­tra An­i­mal Wel­fare Board (AWB) said that the board, which will be the agency to regis­ter pet shops, will start the work soon. “We had a meet­ing re­cently and have now ac­tively started the process,” said Jaysimha. “You can­not ex­pect change overnight. To me, it is be­cause the (pet) mar­ket has never been reg­u­lated. We did not want a knee-jerk re­ac­tion.”

Pet trade across the world is a cruel busi­ness that an­i­mal lovers would like to shut down.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by Hu­mane So­ci­ety In­ter­na­tional/in­dia, pub­lished by Hin­dus­tan Times last year, an­i­mals des­tined to be­come pets are trans­ported and kept in in­hu­mane con­di­tions. The crea­tures are de­nied a vet­eri­nar­ian’s care if they be­come sick or in­jured. Fe­males are kept in con­fine­ment and forced to breed mul­ti­ple times, wreak­ing their health in the process.

Ba­bies are sep­a­rated from moth­ers soon after birth, lead­ing to high mor­tal­ity rates. An­i­mals are trans­ported or kept in small con­tain­ers with in­ad­e­quate ac­cess to food and wa­ter. An­i­mals can be mu­ti­lated to make them ‘safe’, with prac­tices like de-beaking, tail­dock­ing, feather pluck­ing, nail clip­ping and de-claw­ing, the re­port said.

Once sold, pets that land up with in­sen­si­tive own­ers suf­fer more cru­elty. Naulekhi said that she had come across re­ports of an­i­mals kept in cruel con­di­tions by own­ers.

“Breeds like St Bernard and Huskies (which are na­tive to cold cli­mates) are kept in bal­conies in Delhi’s sum­mer heat when the own­ers go to work,” she said.

In light of these cruel prac­tices, an­i­mal rights ac­tivists said that ban­ning pet trade and breed­ing will be the right thing to do. “Some peo­ple com­pen­sate for their lack of self-con­fi­dence by buy­ing an ex­otic breed,” said Naulekhi. “This could be chang­ing; ed­u­cated peo­ple are adopt­ing In­dian dogs.”

“The Cal­i­for­nia rule is a great mes­sage; In­dia is a prob­a­bly a cou­ple of decades away. We have been try­ing to pro­mote adop­tion of pets over buy­ing,” said Jayasimha, who said that it is easy to buy a pet in In­dia be­cause prices are cheap. The new reg­u­la­tions could make the trade more ex­pen­sive and con­vince more In­di­ans to adopt lo­cal breeds res­cued from the streets, said Jayasimha.

“It should be a mat­ter of pride with one less dog on the street.” Naulekhi said that since In­dia has been strug­gling to reg­u­late the pet trade, the new rules are wel­come. “The reg­u­la­tions have come after years of strug­gle by an­i­mal lovers. We should fo­cus on this,” she added.

“The ideal case sce­nario is what hap­pened in Cal­i­for­nia. We go step by step. To do away with all kinds of pet trade — log­i­cally, le­gally and en­vi­ron­men­tally — this is the right thing to do.”

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