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Oh,What Cruelty !

The Municipal Corporation is about to score another first : the first municipality in India to pass a policy for pet shops, aquarium sellers and dog breeders.

These exist in every city but few of you have taken a look at them. They are usually small dirty shops full of bird cages on the outside. Go inside and you will see tiny puppies cowering in small wire meshes, sick rabbits and white rats sitting in their own feces, a few tanks of fish with fungus on them and a filthy shop boy who treats these animals like inanimate objects. By evening some animals and fish will be dead and they will be thrown out to rot on the nearby garbage heap. There will be a large sign in the shop – animals once sold will not be taken back – and this is the most important sign for the shopkeeper because he is selling sick, underage , badly kept animals who will die within a few days of being bought . The same shop is probably also dealing in contraband animals – if you ask for a turtle or a forbidden bird like a parakeet or an owl , the shopkeeper will tell you to come back in a few days and then he will hand it to you.

All the transactions are done in cash. The owner pays no income tax, no sales tax, no VAT. He gets the animals from breeders in the slums and he pays absurdly small sums for them, often getting them free on a sale and return basis so he incurs no loss if they die. None of the animals are fed during the day as he does not want them to defecate. Dirty water changed weekly is put in the cage corners. There is a stink in the shop because the animals and birds and fish are all crowded together and there is no natural ventilation.  They share space with packaged food, empty cages, dog coats, toys and beds. Most animals are left in the shop at night without lights, food or ventilation behind the steel shutters.

The owner pretends the birds are imported because foreign birds have, for some stupid reason, been left out of the purview of the Wildlife Protection Act , but  in reality these birds are either Indian birds that have been painted or had artificial beaks or horns stuck on them  or are birds that you have not seen before because they are not native to where you live and he has given them some silly name like Australian Cocktail. Even the so called foreign birds have been grown by illegal breeders usually in Kolkata and supplied all over the country.   The pet shop is an ugly inhumane place run by ugly inhumane people. The ones that we have raided over the years in Delhi are all trading in illegal animals and they keep their shops open by paying bribes to the police and the wildlife inspectors. Some of them operate from basements in residential areas. They have formed an association which runs to their favourite politician, the son of the Chief Minister, whenever they are caught. They all have a common lawyer –a senior member of the Congress party. But in spite of such heavy protection, most of them have several cases against them. Some of them go to Singapore and Malaysia and bring back animals by bribing customs. Others buy them from the tourists who come by Uzbeki Airlines and bring dogs from their own slums to sell here for huge amounts so that they can have a free holiday or by drugs. Each week over 100 dogs come in through this airline in duty-free bags.

Now the MCD is going to make a law that will finally regulate these people who have never paid any taxes or given any heed to the laws of the land. These are some of the provisions:

No shop selling dogs and cats or any other mammal can sell fish. No shop can be located anywhere near a meat market or butcher’s shop.The seller has to prominently declare the species and number that are being sold along with the breeder that he has taken them from. This will immediately identify the breeders and they will also have to start paying taxes. Separate rules are being made for breeders . The staff in the shop will have to be trained and show evidence of training. There will have to be written protocols for feeding, care, disease prevention and veterinary treatment. Each shop will have to have an attached vet. The shop must have proper lighting and ventilation and must be clean with water resistant walls. No animals and birds can be displayed outside the shop. Food and water must be fresh , clean and  appropriate. No animals or birds can be left at night in the shop. Each cage size and type has been specifically listed in the Rules and anything smaller will lead to the cancellation of the licence.

No animals can be sold under two months of age. No dogs can be sold with cut tails or ears.  Each animal has to be vaccinated before it is sold. All dogs that are sold have to be registered with the MCD and licensed.

Each licence will be for one year and it is specific to the place. It will be issued by a Zonal veterinary officer accompanied by a representative of the Animal Welfare Board of India. Any violation of the rules – which are very strict – will lead to the cancellation of the licence immediately and the confiscation of the animals. The shop is open to inspection any time

The fish rules are much stricter and they specify which fish can be sold – as this trade is almost entirely illegal and is getting away only because no one in the government knows how to identify fish. These will be brought in after the Pet shop Rules.

Every civilized society should regulate shops that sell animals. It is amazing that shops that sell underwear and computers should be regulated but not shops which sell live suffering beings in cages.  It is time for all Municipalities to do so. If you want copies of the Rules to put them in your own Municipality write to me and I will be happy to send them to you.

Pl add: To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in


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