Puppy therapy, in which a puppy is delivered to your doorstep for you to hold and feel better, is being offered by a company based in the National Capital Region. The idea is that if you don’t have a pet, you can get the benefit of de-stressing with a cute and cuddly animal without actually committing to all the work that keeping a pet requires.
This is not the first time someone has thought of idea. A few months ago, Uber had also come up with a similar idea. At first, the concept sounds amazing. But though it’s doubtlessly good for human, is it good for the puppy? What does it mean for the animal being used as a commodity?
Animal welfare experts are divided on the issue. “You destress by stressing [out] the puppies, it sounds selfish to me,” says Dr RT Sharma, veterinarian. “Moving around in cabs [during puppy therapy delivery], traffic sounds and the pollution are unsettling for dogs, especially for little puppies. It’s a better idea for animal lovers to visit shelters and play with the puppies.”
However Animesh Katiyar, co-owner of Fur Ball Story, which provides this service, says, “These dogs have undergone training from a professional and they don’t get scared while interacting with new people. I own [an SUV] and my pets travel in it whenever we have to take them to a client. We make sure that we’re there with the dogs as long as the session is on. We do two sessions in a day because we want the dogs to take proper rest.”
It’s a paid service for those who specially call for puppies to be delivered home, “but if the puppies go to hospitals and to autistic kids, there is no charge”, says Katiyar. Uber was unavailable for its view on such a service.
Another veterinarian, Dr Anil Sood, feels, “I don’t think there should be any issue if the puppies are looked after by trained professionals. Playing with puppies is a great way to deal with stress and depression.”
Pedigree dogs, not Indies
So what kinds of dogs are suitable to be a therapy dog? “All my three dogs are pedigree. Pedigree dogs are more suited to be therapy dogs, compared to Indie dogs. Indie dogs are territorial and it’s tough to train them,” states Katiyar. Dr Gautam Unny offers a different opinion, saying, “Indie dogs are hostile because they live on the streets and are looking to defend their territory. But if you take them off the streets and shower them with love and train them, they can definitely become therapy dogs. Therapy dogs are used by people with chronic illness.”
This particular service is, however, not only for people with chronic illness. It’s for anyone who has the money to pay and wants to play with an animal for a little while before forgetting about the pup. Is that morally right?
Animal rights activist Amritika Phool says, “If a child throws a tantrum, we just hand them puppies and everything becomes alright? And in that process, you the harm the puppies’ psyche? Constant changes in environment are extremely stressful for puppies. The whole thing sounds just selfish.”
Poorva Joshipura, CEO, PETA India, has similar thoughts. She says, “A puppy isn’t a toy to be played [with] for just 15 minutes. It’s unclear where these puppies are being obtained from, but pet stores and breeders contribute to India’s dog overpopulation crisis, as they churn out animals, often keep them in filth, and rip them from their mothers for profit. If these interludes are being organised with animal shelters, we at least hope it leads to real homes for real dogs for the rest of their lives.”