JC Khanna, Rtd Colonel and CEO and in charge of the Bombay Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Hospital spoke to HT about the rampant cruelty to animals, the poor public healthcare facilities for animals and the illegalities of the pet trade.
Have you noticed a positive or negative trend in the cases of animal cruelty?
As compared to the last decade, people have become a lot more sensitive towards animals. The credit for this goes to animal lovers and NGOs working for animal welfare. More youngsters are choosing animal welfare as a career option and that has changed perspectives by a large margin. However, what still lacks is a deterrent. The maximum fine for injuring animals is Rs5 to Rs50, and the negligible charges fail to stop people from harming animals. Like the Wildlife Protection Act, which imposes a huge fine, we need to introduce stronger penalties for violence against animals.
Why do you think the country has limited public veterinary facilities?
This is a glaring problem that the government has to look into, especially in mega cities like Mumbai. They are not ready to involve NGOs into the public private partnership (PPP) because they think NGOs will acquire land for personal gains. Ideally, in a city like Mumbai where 350-400 vets run private clinics, the government needs to build a model system for animal healthcare because private clinics lack the infrastructure and space to treat critical animals.
What are your views on the booming illegal pet trade?
Pets have become money making machines for miscreants. The best example of this was when the demand for the pug shot up by 40-50% in the city after a successful ad campaign by a brand. This sparked demand that set in motion a a vicious circle — once traders know that a particular pet is trending, they adopt any means to meet the demand.
The issue of inbreeding (breeding animals within its family) is a result of this unnatural demand-supply chain?
Yes indeed. The concept of inbreeding began with the increased demand for a particular pet. There are two types of genes responsible for a qualitative offspring — the recessive and dominant. Inbreeding causes an unnatural fusion of these genes and the offspring often has low immunity, physical deformity and vulnerability to a number of infections. Scientific studies show ideally, pet dogs should breed after a gap of three years, but traders, to make money, breed them twice a year. That’s extremely cruel to the mother and the pups.
Talking about vulnerable pets, what about pets imported from entirely different climates and environments?
BSPCA frequently attends to such species that are unable to acclimatise to our climate.
Dog breeds like Siberian Husky, Saint Bernard and Great Dane have a high rate of vet visits as they are very susceptible to infections and diseases like diarrhoea, fever and vomiting. Dog-owners, in their defence, claim they keep such pets in AC rooms, but the pet can only try to adapt to the vast change in climate, they hardly survive.