14 September 2015 12:34:50 IST

Panel wants lines drawn for pet shops

Breeders and shops should be regulated and licensed, recommends Law Commission

Exotic Persian cats abandoned upon falling ill, or traumatised pugs facing near-certain death because of allergies picked up from the illegal puppy mills that breed them. These are realities that confront veterinary doctors and pro-animal workers, and with disconcerting regularity.

But a path-breaking report by the Law Commission has recommended that the government bring in rules to regulate pet shops and breeders that violate the law “with impunity”. The report, Need to Regulate Pet Shops and Dog and Aquarium Fish Breeding was submitted recently to the Union Law Minister.

The Commission also clarified that rules regarding pet shops, dog and aquarium fish breeding fall within and are connected with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and the Environment Ministry had the authority to frame these rules.

Detailing the inhuman conditions under which the animals are kept, a reality that people buying animals may not be aware of, the report observes: “Puppies are drugged to prevent them from crying, large birds are stuffed into small cages and fish become stressed and sometimes die because of confinement, crowding, contaminated water and unnatural temperatures.”

Other common harmful practices include de-beaking birds, docking the tails of dogs, selling unweaned pups (separated from their mothers too early), and de-clawing of kittens, the report adds. “In fact, it is estimated that for every bird sold in the market, two die en route.”.

NG Jayasimha, Managing Director, Humane Society International, points out that rules to regulate the trade would help bring in more responsible pet ownership. The pet licensing system, though it exists, is not enforced.If pet breeders and shops get registered and licensed, the cost of buying an animal will go up and that would put an end to impulse buying, he says. Also, with registration, it would facilitate transparent adoption, help trace people who abandon pets, etc.

Multi-billion rupee trade Animal Welfare Board Vice-Chairman Chinny Krishna says the dog-breeding industry is easily a multi-billion rupee industry. Pet shop and breeder transactions are in cash and the government loses much money on that count, says Krishna, pointing out that regulation will not just bring in more humane practices, but also bring out undetected cash in the system.

Poorva Joshipura, Chief Executive of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), points to the sale of animals through some e-commerce sites. It also becomes a passage for illegal trade of endangered animals, doves for bird fights and Rottweilers for dog fights.

Besides the inhuman conditions in which animals are kept, the online sale of animals encourages impulse buying of pets as though they are handbags or shoes. “And when the puppy starts chewing wires, it is abandoned.”

Pointing out that pet shops should be shut down, Joshipura says that profit is the primary motive of pet shops and not animal welfare.