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#NomoreBagheeras: a movement to fight online sale of dogs and cats

 

#NomoreBagheeras is a movement to fight the menace of online sale of dogs and cats, triggered by the death of Bagheera

Last month a 21-day-old Labrador puppy, endearingly named Bagheera, was bought on Quikr. He was born with a contagious, fatal viral disease, called canine distemper, usually caused due to vaccinations not given on time and unhygienic living conditions. Sadly, Bagheera died.

The petition

Puppy mills and backyard breeders are what the largely unregulated, untaxed pet industry ends up being. Breeding animals in horrible conditions, where they are taken away as newborn babies from their mothers, confined in cramped spaces, with barely any vaccinations or places to defecate, and without proper food, often leads to animals contracting or even being born with diseases.

As with most things, the Internet has added to the trade. Now, #NomoreBagheeras is a movement to fight this menace. About 20 groups from all over India — including Bombat Dawgz, CUPA (Bengaluru), Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) (Delhi), VOSD, RESQ (Pune), The Pound (Chennai), Jhatkaa and Humane Society International — have joined hands and launched a petition (bit.ly/onlinepets) seeking the total ban of pets online. The petition was triggered by CJ Memorial Trust and front-ended by the members of Cubbon Park Canines, Bengaluru, a dog-lovers group founded by Priya Chetty-Rajagopal. The petition has been signed by more than 30,000 people.

A Facebook post by group member Anushree Thamanna, who fostered Bagheera, showing a poignant picture of a tired sleeping foster mom and a dying Bagheera, triggered the launch of the petition and signature drive.

The rules

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rules, 2017, clearly states no public display of pets is allowed for ‘instant’ sale. It also lays down the rules for dog breeders to have a legal licence. No dog below the age of eight weeks can legally be sold.

“Bagheera was just three weeks old when sold. He would search for his mother’s nipple because he was separated from her very early. Of course, we are very emotional, our hearts are bleeding, but our brains haven’t stopped functioning. We are talking about rules and regulations. The law discourages ‘public display of pets for instant sale’ because it prompts impulsive buying. There is also the question of anonymity. Breeders put up ads of selling dogs online, and once the dog is sold, they disappear, switch off their phone and change their numbers,” says Chetty-Rajagopal, who says that the sale of Bagheera, has transgressed the law.

Bagheera was meant to be a surprise birthday gift for a person. We don’t know if she/he was ready for the dog, but the ease of buying a ‘cute adorable puppy’ online, accelerates such sales.

“There are very effective laws on paper, but are they being implemented and followed? The person the dog was gifted to didn’t know what to do, especially with a sick dog, and the breeder is untraceable. One breeder in Ejipura got a paralysed Alsatian and wondered if she could give birth, otherwise, he said, “she is of no use to me”.

Cyber canine combat cops

Following his death, the groups formed a cyber outfit: Cyber Canine Combat Cops, which started collecting data pertaining to ads of dogs and cats posted online. “Research shocked the team. Quikr itself had 791-odd pages of puppy listings for sale. Indiamart has hundreds of pedigree pups on ‘wholesale’.

According to Chetty-Rajagopal, “Even though the Facebook policy is crystal clear against the sale of drugs, dogs and guns, there are Facebook groups selling dogs online. A Google doc was started for recording all transgressions. Even Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube were flaunting sales. One Instagram ad actually said dogs were ‘available as low as ₹999, so call us now!’”

The group began connecting with different online platforms. “We received canned responses saying the matter would be looked into. Nothing happened,” says Chetty-Rajagopal. In the meantime, the WhatsApp group brought together people from diverse backgrounds, and they began writing to companies that put out such ads and are now consulting with legal experts.

“Marshalls Pet Zone stopped listing, as did Justdial, and FB removed dogs for sale from Marketplace but NOT on its groups. We really appreciate other online platforms for choosing not to sell beating hearts online,” says Chetty-Rajagopal.

A parallel campaign is also on the cards to educate buyers about the perils of buying online.

Response from Quikr

We were recently made aware of dog breeding malpractices by a few petitioners and we thank them for bringing it to our attention. We are committed towards healthy community practices and are always looking to evolve and are working on doing the right things.

To begin with, we launched an email campaign under ‘Quikr Cares’ to educate our consumers about dog breeding and marketing rules, 2017. They were given about three weeks to produce necessary documentation with a request to delete the ads and we deleted them if they did not meet the criteria. We also spoke to about 600+ customers to educate them about these rules. While the awareness was low, 30% were willing to apply for the certification, a few said they have the licence, some others showed resistance stating these rules were being discussed with the ministry. We are also in touch with a couple of AWBI (Animal Welfare Board of India) members.

On the product side, some of the key rules of AWBI are prominently displayed for both sellers and buyers on our platform. Consumers cannot proceed to post an ad without an AWBI registration number and the certificate. We have deleted a few thousand ads and it’s a work in progress.

Source : The Hindu

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