Guest blog by Rheea Mukherjee

Here’s the thing. Injustice has a way of provoking rage. It’s an anger (for the most part) that comes from compassion. But rage and opinions by themselves can’t create change. And it’s this helpless passivity that makes us complicit.

I am the first one to have empathy for a world that constantly seeks to drain our emotional bandwidth. Being passive can be a coping mechanism for most of us, it  protects us from feeling helpless about things that hurts our humanity and make us question our role in this world. It’s easier to get stuck in something happy, mindless, or fun.

And then, there are landmark events that shake us up, push us to evolve and create movement, a movement  that people will look back to be able able to track down as the first bright seeds of change.

Folks, today we have one of those stories. One that leads us in to the deep dark world of illegal breeding and online pet sales. One story that holds the shadows of thousands of innocent, sentient puppies and dogs that have been living in puppy mill hell and paraded as ‘objects’ for people to buy and discard like an old toy.

Bagheera’s Story

Bagheera captured the hearts of all of us. He was a puppy that was offered like a product on Quikr by an illegal breeder. He was ‘bought’ by a group of colleagues as a ‘gift’ to give to a girl who wasn’t even prepared to have a dog.

Bhageera was only 21 days old. Too young to be separated from his mother. There were no health checks or basic vaccinations taken care of. Animal rescuers were contacted and took Bhageera in because he was too fragile to be ‘owned’. He was diagnosed with the deadly Canine Distemper. Bhageera was the sweetest most innocent puppy that succumbed to the disease in days and died.

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We are aware we can’t solve the whole problem right now

While #adoptdontshop has so much social relevance in the way we see animal companions today, we aren’t here to argue why people should boycott buying Pedigree dogs. The issue is far too large and complicated. We’re here to make strategic change and that starts with rectifying the evil we have in our hands. To make it better, to push our evolution in a tangible way.
The most impactful way to stop this practice is to start by cutting off access. While more empathetic and responsible classified sites like Amazon, Flipkart, ebay , Locanto and recently even OLX have stopped  the online sale of pet dogs and puppies on their sites, it’s shocking  that Quikr.com ,Dogsindia.com , Dogbazar.org, click.in, breeders /kennels like Cadombom or Kennelsindia and even B2B sites like Indiamart.com have allowed pups/dogs to be sold online like objects.

What’s the problem with selling Dogs on these sites?

We’ll get into the terror and hell that illegal breeders subject dogs too in just a bit. But first, when we sell dogs like objects it does a few things to our collective psyche:

  • It makes the general public approach animal companions like new toys. Something to just buy on impulse to please a child, surprise a girlfriend, or feel ‘cool’ about. It doesn’t tell them what criteria they need to select a pup on. This is very nuanced and much more detailed than the reductionist bases we we choose them on, like colour, breed, weight.
  • It does NOT educate us about the cyclical evil that breeding animals is in the first place. It does NOT encourage people to see that thousands of strays, abandoned breed dogs, and our very own indian dogs are waiting to be adopted into loving homes.
  • It does NOT allow a more imaginative culture of what the animal-human bond can be. Anyone who has a dog and treats it like a family member knows exactly how powerful and life-changing an animal can be to the human experience. It changes you from the inside out. If you haven’t experienced this yourself, we’re asking you to take our word for it.

The monster that is illegal breeding

Now, on to illegal breeding itself. Fortunately we live in a country that takes animal rights pretty seriously and has good laws in place. That said, in a country like India we are well aware that law is one thing and reality very different. This is why change can only come with a shift in mind. And that starts with us, the common citizens.

This is where you come in. Your voice can truly make a huge difference right now. Your action and willingness to talk about this can make trackable change in the system and cut short the malignancy growing deep in the breeding industry.

Here’s what illegal breeders do:

  1. The condition and torture to the dogs, especially females, is tragic and untenable. Young female dogs (as young as 6 months old)  and females who are too old to give birth are put through repetitive breeding without a care to their health, vet care, feeding, let along any affection. They are straddled in rape stands so they can be mated again and again. And  guess what happens when they stop being useful? They are either resold , dumped or  euthanized. The law is strict on abandonment of pets, but breeders ignore it and dump dogs or kill them . Dogs can be mated only between the ages of 1.5  to 8 years, only once a year and not more than 5 times in their life span- yet this is flouted repeatedly. Although mutilation is now  banned, ear cropping, tail docking still happens. And let’s face it, new owners don’t know better.
  2. Any breeder worth their salt should NOT be selling dogs without checking for suitability of prospective owners. And this suitability needs to be verified annually. Since these breeders do this online, then, arguably some of this burden shifts to online sales platform as well. The reality? No regulatory information is taken from buyer or seller.
  3. Online forums that allow sale of dogs are helping breeders violate these laws. The breeder is expected to have knowledge about everything related to the breeding of dogs . Things like reproduction, nutrition, wellness, and  mental wellness. You can be assured that illegal breeders know squat about any of this nor do they care.

You can read more about these practices here and sign the petition.

Right now, we’re asking you to join us in making change as a citizen of compassion.

We’re asking the AWBI to take action by doing these 2 things:

  • Ban the online sale of pets /living beings and institute harsh penalties for those doing so
  • Ensure a more ethical and regulated breeding practice

3 Things You Can Do That Will Make Impact Right Now

  1. We live in a capitalist market, but remember, the power is with us the people. Private companies must listen to the people, their own business depends on it. This is why the simple act of you writing, reviewing, or putting any sort of public-interest pressure on brands that facilitate illegal breeders makes tangible change.
  2. Rethink your own ideas about animal companions. It’s ok if up until now you thought it was perfectly fine to buy dogs or have bought one yourself. What counts is you being willing to change this mindset by understanding how this market has made most of us think this is an acceptable thing to do. Here are a few links you can read to help you better understand (Article in The Hindu, Article on dog with blog). And here’s a beautiful website project on our very own Indian dogs that are often the most neglected. Please take the time to read a few of them and share with friends and family. Especially people around you who have ever shown interest in getting an animal companion.
  3. Be willing to talk to people about this. Share this blog, share the petition, write letters, write about it, talk about it. It doesn’t matter if you are involved in animal rescue or not. It doesn’t matter if you do not have a pet.It doesn’t matter if you’ve bought a dog before. This is where mass public interest help us come together to better our collective compassion.

The burden of the world on our shoulders is large. But here’s one thing right now we can do, we can change, we can come together on. And by doing so, we not only change the fates of thousands of sentient beings, but we increase our own human imagination and compassion by doing so. Today, we stand up for the thousands of dogs that deserve love, joy, and many barks.

Join us.

About the Author
580085_10100213089958064_2134373423_nRheea Mukherjee is a Bangalore based writer. Her fiction and non-fiction has been published in several publications including Scroll.in, Southern Humanities Review, Out of Print, Cleaver Magazine, and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore among others. Her first book, a collection of short stories, Transit for Beginners, was published by Kitaab in 2016. Her previous fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart and was a semi-finalist for the Black Lawrence Press award. She co-founded Bangalore Writers Workshop in 2012 and currently co-runs Write Leela Write, a Design and Content Laboratory in Bangalore. She maintains a lively blog on vegan cooking, called Messy Cooking.

 

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