May 23, 2010
And in the town a dog was found,
As many dogs there be,
Both mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound
And curs of low degree.
- Oliver Goldsmith, Irish writer (1728-1774).
We have below-poverty households that live on one meal per day. We have malnourished children by the millions and children dying of starvation by the thousands. We pass laws about food security and see nothing happening, or going to happen, at ground level. Yet, in our cock-eyed priorities we are out to look after the welfare of pets – which, by definition have already have found willingly committed godparents. But, first the facts.
According to a New Delhi-datelined report titled Pets get a break with home rules, published in Deccan Herald, bringing a new pet home will now be at par with adopting a baby, at least from the government perspective. Beginning soon, the Centre will make home inspection – to ensure that pets are not at the receiving end of human cruelty - mandatory. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has prepared draft Pet Shop Rules which, among other things, stipulates that pet owners must obtain a licence from the local municipality. And if the person has multiple pets, he/she will have to obtain different licences for the animals. Applications have to be made with a copy to the Animal Welfare Board.
According to the new regulations, every individual who buys a pet from a store will have to obtain a licence from the local municipality (or local body) within 15 days of the purchase. The pet shop can facilitate the licencing process in exchange for a fee. All licences will have to be renewed every 12 months and if the pet owners fail to do so, the licence will automatically terminate on March 31 every year. The draft rules have been framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to the Animal Act, 1960.
Owners will have to report the death of their pets to the authorities along with a certificate from the veterinarian, specifying the cause of death. In case of death, the licence will be cancelled automatically. Animal Welfare Board inspectors will visit the buyer’s household to check the pet’s well-being which include food, feeding schedule, exercise regime, the place allocated for the animal to sleep and mating arrangements. If the pet gives birth to offspring, those would also have to be reported the municipality, according to the rules, which will come into effect once it is notified in the official gazette after taking public opinion into account. For pet stores the rules are strict and specific. They lay down the specifications of the enclosures for cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs. Pet shop owners have to be more than 18 years. While the licence fee for a pet shop owner is Rs.5000, they have to pay Rs.2000 every year for renewing the licence.
The rules not only emphasize maintaining clean and spacious living conditions for the pet animals but also specify the feeding and exercise routines and the animal’s wellbeing. A plethora of legislation has been invoked to cover the pet shops to ensure that animals are not subjected to any cruelty.
The absurdity of these new laws and rules is that they are perhaps based on the premise that pet-owners are sadists out to torture their pets. If anything, this quixotic move will hurt the pets. Knowing how babus operate, government inspectors will convert every opportunity to extort blackmail money on the threat of filing cases under numerous provisions. In the event, people will refuse to keep pets just to keep the government pests from pestering them. It is a great disservice to the fraternity of pets and prospective pets. While prospective pet-owners may keep away from acquiring pets, those who presently own pets have no exit route. Being attached to the pets, they will have to reconcile to the inspector raj as they are too attached to their pets to take the dumping route. What is, however, open to them is to form an Association for Prevention of Cruelty to Pet Owners.
So, what is apparently launched with high-minded, though wholly misplaced, ideal is going to be counterproductive. It will open the floodgates of harassment of pet owners and end up in corruption. Instead, the government should look into the sufferings of strays, especially in cities and towns, and get down to doing something for them. There is also the angle of stray dogs causing rabies. The proposed inspectors should be deployed to identify mad dogs and put them to sleep. Instead of looking after the needy, the government is out to pamper the over-pampered. There is an old dictat to “Let the sleeping dogs lie”. We should modify it to “Let the pets (and their patrons) alone”!
John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his website www.welcometoreason .com (Interactive Cerebral Challenger).
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