Last month’s ban on importing foreign dog breeds has given much cheer to animal lovers, activists and veterinarians who are looking forward to Indian strays getting a new lease on life.
Animal rights organisations and activists had been pushing for the ban so Indian breeds find better homes while foreign breeds are not subjected to inhospitable climates, curbing cruelty in both cases.
“There are so many abandoned dogs at shelters looking for homes. (At the same time) Breeds like St. Bernards and huskies find it difficult during the tropical summers in India. They are already delicate creatures because of inbreeding and deficiencies from birth,” said Rukmini Sekhar, writer and activist.
In recent years, the preference for a foreign breed has increased over adopting a local one. Pugs, rottweilers, German shepherds, labradors and dobermanns are among the most imported breeds.
“I support this ban – its purpose is to discourage import of fancy, foreign breeds for commercial breeding. My only worry is that this should not lead to an increase in illegal imports,” says veterinarian Dr SK Choudhary of Dr Choudhary’s Pet Clinic.
The clinic has been helping Indian strays and abandoned pets find homes, including foster ones. Dr Choudhary was also concerned over pet owners being harassed when they travel or shift to India. “Maybe they could get their pet neutered before bringing it. Then monitoring and enforcement won’t be required,” he said.
The market for foreign breeds has grown exponentially in the past years that it has spilled into the e-commerce space, on sites such as OLX.
People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) estimate that this market is valued around $100 million. However, as it is unorganised trade, there is no official data.
The animals are largely sourced from China, Korea and parts of Europe. For many of them, adapting to the Indian ecosystem – weather, food and all – is a challenge.
“Pure-bred foreign breeds have lower immunity and resistance than local cross-bred dogs. The more purity, the less immunity,” said Dr Choudhary.
“Long-haired breeds like Labs and Golden Retrievers tend to get tick-infestations and blood parasites quickly and suffer stress due to the hotter climate. Most imported breeds are more vulnerable to skin infections due to the humid weather. Pugs and Rottweliers have trouble with breathing and heart disease in addition to skin problems.”
Also, large breeds like huskies need a lot of exercise, and sometimes owners aren’t aware or don’t care about this aspect, the doctor added.
Activists said that while this measure to ban imports is appreciated, further steps still need to be taken to ensure the animals are protected. The main focus will have to be on breeding industries that exploit dogs. “Breeding is a cruel practice. Breeders don’t care about the dogs and often don’t have the knowledge of how to maintain them,” said Sekhar.
Apart from illegal imports, vets remain concerned that the ban could lead to a spurt in congenital diseases due to inbreeding, especially among pugs and dachshunds. “One generation of deficient dogs will have to pay the price. But the ban will be beneficial in the long run. Cities like Los Angeles now understand the implications of dog breeding and are imposing bans,” Sekhar added.