Helen was a dog who produced many Labrador pups—a puppy mill mom — who was finally abandoned by her breeders on the streets when she couldn’t do it anymore. Blind, deaf, malnutritioned, she was rescued and adopted by animal rights activist Bismi Anil. Helen stood as a testimony to all that’s wrong with the implementation of animal cruelty laws in Karnataka and in fact most of India.
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Dogs are repeatedly bred using rape stands, in the filthiest, tiniest of spaces, often with a sibling or parent and live in small cages with little or no food, medical facilities, human interaction or care. Pups are sold like stock and many of them carry genetic diseases, they break hearts of the families who adopt them, when they suffer or die.
The tragic situation of dog breeding, marketing and exploitation of pets by breeders have been proceeding at an unfortunate pace. Unfortunate, because we bemoan the lack of laws, but here the laws have been painstakingly put in place. There are excellent provisions spelled out in the Pet Shop Rules, 2018, and the Dog Breeding and Marketing Rules, 2017, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. But both these Rules have not been individually passed in our state assembly and Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) councils, let alone implemented and adhered to.
In November 2018, we wrote to the Additional Commissioner (Administration), BBMP asking for his time to talk about State Animal Welfare Board (SAWB) and gazetting rules for prevention of animal cruelty. “We are very anxious and concerned that the mandated nodal body like the State Animal Welfare Board (SAWB) has still not been appointed or is non functioning. This is a mandatory requirement as per the Supreme court ruling of 2008. We request that this along with the two Breeding & Pet Shops Rules, absolutely must be taken up with BBMP Council and Corporators at next BBMP Council meeting so it is implemented in Karnataka,” we wrote.
We demanded that the SAWB be formed as it was critical to oversee and implement much of the animal welfare related work, licenses and affiliation. We also asked that concerned citizens be added to the team, and the Dog Breeding and Marketing Rules 2017 and the Pet Shop Rules 2018 be ratified and passed locally. However there is little action so far, other than a recent gentle nudge by the BBMP Commissioner that asked the state to constitute State Animal Welfare Board.
Stop illegal breeding of dogs
The status quo promotes cruelty to animals. This affects humans as well — the discarded old dogs need to be managed, medicated, fed and sometimes euthanised, and someone has to pay for it. While most animal lovers and public minded citizens promote concept of ‘adopt, don’t shop’, the fact remains that the dog breeding industry is thriving, unregulated.
It is incumbent on us as citizens to ensure that our respective councils and district administrations create the necessary implementation framework to ensure that the animals are protected as per the Dog Breeding and Marketing Rules 2017. There has to be a State Animal welfare Board (SAWB). Then the Department of Animal Husbandry and BBMP’s Animal Husbandry Department must hire a few animal inspectors and Animal Welfare Officers who are authorised to issue licenses and check the breeding conditions regularly to ensure it is cruelty-free.
Having no State Animal Welfare Board (SAWB) in place means that the mechanism of checking, let alone implementing is just not there. It means that fly-by-night operators and backyard breeders have a field day exploiting female dogs by breeding them again and again, and selling sick or unhealthy pups that eventually place a tremendous pressure on both the emotional and financial framework of people.
Prevent cruelty to animals
Similarly the Pet Shop Rules 2018 is a stringent, exhaustive framework that ensures pet shops are registered and lays down the process and specifications for pet shops and their licencing. This ensures anti-cruelty guidelines are followed for pets sold.
As per this rule, all states, city and district administrations should set up the frameworks to implement the rules quickly, along with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), State Animal Welfare Board (SAWB), and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCAs).
In addition to ensuring the welfare of animals, the municipalities can also gain some income if these laws are implemented. Each breeders’ license costs more than Rs 5000 a year, along with Rs 5000 establishment license and there is an extra fee of Rs 500 per dog. In addition, pet shops have to pay a licensing fee every year. When corporations and civic authorities have a potential income from this activity, it is unclear why they are allowing rampant unregulated, cruel pet sales.
As citizens focused on our constitutional duty of compassion towards animals, we request that these rules along with the State Animal Welfare Boards be set up immediately, and Animal Welfare Officers be hired to ensure that these rules are properly implemented without fail. It is important that the laws are followed not just in the spirit but letter.
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) must create a mechanism to ensure execution of the laws in the individual state and city administration. This is more efficient than people having to fight the slow, inefficient, pointless battles to have the laws in their own city, like we have done here in Bengaluru, which is why petitions like this need to be supported.