Bred for profit, Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds and Afghan Hounds suffer silently while their puppy-sized progeny are racked with genetic diseases and defects. Is this not a high price to pay for pedigree dogs?
The Kennels Club, they say, is Charles Darwin’s nightmare - “Unnatural selection, unfit for function.” Dog breeding and sale is one of the most unregulated, unorganised industries in India and abroad. There are no records of the number of dog breeders in India. Dog Breeding, Marketing and Sale Rules 2010, is still to be notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
“To breed dogs, you must register with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) as per the Animal Birth Control Rules, 2001 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act,” explains Dr Chinny Krishna, founder-director of Blue Cross India – an animal rescue and rehabilitation NGO in Chennai – and Vice Chairman of AWBI. “Till today, only two breeders have registered. This is a billion rupee industry. Breeders and dealers do not want the new Rules to be notified because it will leave a paper trail,” he says.
“It is a courtyard business,” adds Dr Vinod Sharma, director at Jeevashram – a non-profit animal clinic and boarding facility in Rajokri village. “There are no pedigree records, no sanitation, no incubators, no medical records, no micro chipping in these breeding centres,” he tells us.
Blatant violation = maximum profit
Lack of monitoring and control measures mean blatant violation of the animals’ rights. “Most buyers do not realise that most breeders run ‘puppy mills’ where inbreeding is common. The animals are housed in terrible conditions,” says Dr Krishna, adding, “Most of the breeds today have been custom bred in the last 200-300 years. Bred just to meet some artificial norms, thousand of puppies who do not meet these specifications are killed. For example, Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies born without the ridge are recommended to be killed.”
Dr Sharma continues talking about the horrors. “Some breeders sell dogs zipped in plastic bags. They will transport them in dirty cages, where the pups are living in their own filth. The bitch is fed only when she is pregnant. And as soon as she delivers, she is prepared for mating again. Sometimes, dogs are forcibly bred,” he says.
Inbreeding leads to the puppies being born with congenital defects. Improper breeding results in genetic defects such as hip dysplasia – a painful disorder of the hip joint, epilepsy, deafness, and eye abnormalities getting transferred from generation to generation.
In the US and some European countries, the Kennel Clubs maintain a breed-wise registry of genetic disorders. The Kennels Club of India (KCI) did not respond to our queries on this matter.
Breeders’ cheap tricks
Animal welfare organisations are the ones picking up the slack and the many abandoned pets. Saurabh Gupta, who leads the Delhi raiding team of People for Animals (PFA), says that they charge breeder’s under Section 11 of the PCA Act which penalises holding dogs in cages. But breeders, he says, have wisened up. “When breeders hear of PFA people entering their area, they will remove dogs from the cages, claiming that these are pet dogs. They turn on us for being cruel and taking their beloved dogs away,” he says, “When you call them for a dog, they will insist on bringing the dogs to your house. Sometimes, they will bring the dog with one guy and tell you that this guy is having trouble keeping this dog because he is poor, so you will be ‘rescuing’ the dog rather than buying it. You will feel more inclined to buying the dog then.”
Sly tricks aside, what breeders do is dangerous. “While you are blindly importing dogs from Thailand or Australia, you are also importing foreign diseases,” explains Dr Sharma. “During routine testing at our blood blank, we found that some imported pedigrees have heart worms. Heart worms are fatal for animals and can transfer to humans.”
One criminal act snow balls into more criminal acts. “Shaadipur area in New Delhi is notorious as a thriving market for illegally bred and stolen dogs,” says Saurabh, adding, “This is a Kalandar-community colony, most men work as dog trainers. When they find brilliant dogs, they steal them. Police is hand in glove with them. Of the 20 raids we have conducted here, only 4 have been successful.”
What can you do? Be a conscious consumer
“When the Doberman is no longer the flavour of the month and is replaced by the Pug, owners have no compunction in abandoning their original dog and acquiring the new status symbol,” says Dr Krishna, adding “The Blue Cross receives at least 50 cases a month of pedigree dogs being abandoned.”
As consumers, it is our responsibility to push up standards for dog breeding. Dr Sharma lists points to keep in mind, “Make sure the pup is older than eight weeks. Demand for things like KCI papers (which include information about lineage), vaccination records (most important), de-worming records. We should go to the breeders’ site and check the facilities. A good breeder should have records of three generations of a pup. A dog is your responsibility, so be realistic. If you cannot give ample time and nutrition to the dog, do not keep one,” advises Dr Sharma. “If you have time, space and money, then only go for a dog. Now add one more, have love.”
Dog breeding laws in other countries
Most Western countries have breed-specific laws by identifying characteristics of different breeds and making regulations accordingly for breeding and keeping these breeds as pets.
Since 1989, tail-docking of dogs has been banned. More recently, a law was passed that requires pedigree dogs to be tested for genetic disorders and registered as legitimate pedigree with the Swedish Kennels Club. The law prohibits breeding of dogs that have genetic disorders.
Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010 lays down guidelines for functions, operation and management of dog breeding centres.
Like in India, puppy mills and breeders exist side by side sometimes merging into each other. Animal welfare organisations try to contain the spill out of this unregulated business.
State-wise regulations govern welfare and standards, while some states have no laws. Voluntary regulations also exist.
Federal and state laws govern commercial dog breeding in the United States. The Animal Welfare Act, 1966 is a federal law governing certain animal activities such as commercial breeding of cats and dogs. It lays down minimum standards of care for dogs, cats, and other species bred for resale, research or exhibition. Commercial breeders must be licensed and open to routine inspection by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The UK has had a law governing dog breeding and welfare since 1973. The latest law, Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999, builds on the provisions of the older law and the intermediate, Breeding of Dogs Act 1991. This legislation lays down stringent and detailed rules for breeding establishments in the business of breeding dogs for sale.