At one shop, 25 pigeons jostle for space inside a tiny cage littered with faeces. At another, four Labrador puppies lie listlessly in a box. An orange iguana watches from inside a glass tank at a shop that has no name, only a sign that says ‘exotic animals’. The owner says it was brought from South Africa to be sold as a pet, which makes it a violation of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The dismal scenario at Crawford Market, and other pet shops in Mumbai, has angered animal rights activists for years. Fortunately, change is imminent.
The Centre on Friday announced its intent to notify the rules for pet shops, in order to regulate the capture, housing, breeding and transportation of animals sold as pets.
“In 2010, we submitted a draft of these rules to Jairam Ramesh, the then minister of state at the ministry of environment and forests. However, we were unable to make progress on this front. Last year, justice AP Shah took up the issue suo motu. He drew up a report and recommended that the govt regulate pet shops, dog breeders and aquariums. The law commission too intervened and asked the Centre to look into this,” said NG Jayasimha, managing director, Humane Society International/India.
“With the introduction of new rules, the government mainly plans to crack down on the illegal sale of pets. For a pet shop to be legal, it must be registered with the Animal Welfare Board,” said Navamita Mukherjee, trustee, Humane Society International/India.
“Animals that are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act are sold often illegally. Until pet shops are regulated, illegal activities will continue,” she added.
Animal activists in the city welcomed the introduction of new rules. “We don’t know whether the people importing exotic animals have the documents required to do so. The Centre must set up an agency to monitor this. Secondly, a database must be created to list the pet shops that are legal,” said Sunish Subramaniam, secretary, Plant & Animals Welfare Society.
The rules will also penalise pet shop owners who resort to cruel practices such as de-beaking, de-clawing and feather-plucking.
“Research shows that such practices hurt the animals. There are instances of pet shop owners clipping the ears of dobermans and other hound species. They not only clip the nails of pets, but remove the entire claw. These are called ‘non-therapeutic’ procedures and are unnecessary,” said Jaysimha.
In case of an offence, pet shop owners will be penalised with three months imprisonment and a fine of Rs100. The shop will be closed and the owners’ business permits will be voided. If the property is in another person’s name, he too will be held responsible.
“Our next step is to increase the fine, which will require amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,” said Jaysimha.