Stringent rules for pet shops, but yet to be enforced in Delhi

Sep 17, 2023 11:31 PM IST

Experts said that a lack of inspections of pet means that pets are being kept in cramped cages, with hygiene rules being flouted

Nearly five years after the Union government notified the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, 2018, the provisions of which bring accountability to the trade of pets, the regulations are yet to be enforced in the Capital, animal welfare organisations and experts said.

A pet shop at Moti Nagar in New Delhi. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)
A pet shop at Moti Nagar in New Delhi. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

According to the rules, which were notified by the ministry of environment, forests and climate change on September 6, 2018, each state government must register its pet shops, and maintain a record of the animals that these shops purchase and sell. However, currently not a single pet shop in Delhi is registered with the government, official data shows.

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Several pet shop owners, however, said that they have attempted to register themselves with the government, but have not received any certificate for the same.

To be sure, according to the rules, pet shops refer only to shops that house, sell or exhibit pet animals, and does not include shops simply selling pet accessories or food.

Experts said that a lack of inspections of pet shops — part of the pre-registration and post-registration process — means that pets are being kept in cramped cages, with hygiene rules being flouted. It also means that endangered and/or exotic species that should not be sold on the open market are also routinely found in Delhi’s pet shops. This includes alexandrine and the rose-ringed parakeets, the Indian star tortoise and the Indian hare among others – all protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

A three-month inspection of 30 pet shops in Delhi, carried out between October and December 2021 by the Ahimsa fellowship, found a number of violations, ranging from the sale of animals prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, cramped cages, lack of temperature control systems and no separate quarantine areas for injured or diseased animals.

Sunayna Sibal, an Ahimsa fellow who was part of the inspection, said the lives of thousands of animals at pet shops was put at risk by an abdication of responsibility. “There was a complete neglect of cleanliness and hygiene at most pet shops we visited... In almost all of the pet shops, enclosures were found soiled with excreta and other waste. At some pet shops, excreta was mixed with and had contaminated the food and water given to the animals... Not a single shop had a low noise exhaust fan or temperature control in accordance with the species of the animals... Around 95% of these pet shops had cages that were too smalls for the different birds or animals kept there,” she said.

Animal activist Asher Jesudoss said, “Since pet shops are not being inspected and don’t have to maintain records, we are seeing species like parakeets, Indian star tortoise, scaly-breasted munia, baya weavers, and Indian roofed turtles being sold openly.”

Activist Gauri Maulekhi said there are no estimates for the number of pet shops in Delhi, adding, “The trend is also to advertise online now and then deliver animals at home. With the shops not registered, none of them are maintaining records of sale and purchase.”

Officials aware of the matter noted that the Capital’s State Animal Welfare Board (SAWB) was constituted in April, and the process to register the Capital’s pet shops is likely to start in the coming months.

“We have 56 applications from pet shops for registration and we have even issued them a receipt. However, they have not been formally notified. We will follow the due process to notify them, which includes inspections,” said Rakesh Singh, director, animal husbandry department.

SAWB has so far held only one meeting, chaired by development minister Gopal Rai. Singh, who was present, said, “The issue of pet shops was raised, and we have been asked to make adequate arrangements for inspections and record-keeping. There is no point in doing this hurriedly, and the due process needs to be followed,” he said.

Jesudoss, who was also part of the meeting, said, “The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) infirmary needs to have facilities for accommodating pet shop rescues, if the shop is sealed and found to be flouting norms. The violations we have broadly observed at pet shops so far include lack of temperature control for different species, poor hygiene, lack of access to food and water, lack of veterinary care and animals are often kept in cramped cages and on dusty sidewalks – amidst traffic, noise and pollution.”

Meanwhile, pet shop owners bemoan a lack of transparency about the registration process.

Moazzam Khan, who works at the pet shop Pet Centre at Moolchand, said there is no clarity on the registration process at present. “We filled an online form a couple of years back to get registered with the government. After that, we have not heard from anyone, or received a certificate.”

Karthik, who goes by one name and runs Karthik Fish Aquarium and Pet Shop in Moti Nagar, said he filled a form to register his shop two years ago, but is yet to receive a licence. “It would be incorrect to say that pets hop are not getting registered. We have approached the government, but there is laxity on their end,” he said.

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