The Centre has notified rules to regulate pet shops under which such establishments will have to get a certificate of registration from the State Animal Welfare Board.
Lauding the new rules which set standards for animal housing and care in shops engaged in sale or purchase of pets animals in India, animal rights body said if thoroughly implemented, they will spare tens of thousands of animals from abuse in the industry.
Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, 2018 notified by the Environment Ministry, every pet shop registered under it will have to submit a report to the state board annually with information regarding the total number of “animals sold, traded, bartered, brokered, given away, boarded, exhibited, died or euthanised,” during the previous year.
The then Environment Minister Anil Dave had in 2016 said the rules will be notified factoring in the need to rein in pet business which is mushrooming with “little or no accountability”.
A series of representations were also made by various bodies including Humane Society International/India and People for Animals, (PFA) apprising the ministry of the cruelty in pet shop industry.
Animals transported and traded to meet the demand of the pet shop industry are kept in “inhumane conditions”, animal rights activists alleged. They said these animals are typically denied complete veterinary care.
While puppies are separated from their mothers soon after birth, birds, rats, mice, hamsters and guinea pigs are stuffed in small cages without access to adequate water or food, they said.
Other common harmful practices include mutilation in the form of de-beaking, tail-docking, feather plucking, nail clipping and de-clawing, they alleged.
An estimated 40 percent of animals die in captivity or during transportation, they claimed. They also alleged that pet shops often grossly violate the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 by blatantly selling wild animals.
Under the new Rules, every pet shop owner will have to ensure that animals are displayed or housed for sale in accommodation and environment suitable to their species with respect to situation, size, temperature, lighting, ventilation and cleanliness, and other similar standards.
The Rules also specify that pet shop shall be located within a permanent structure or building, with adequate arrangement for basic amenities such as water and electricity, and adequate power back up.
It also prohibits any person from operating a pet shop in a shanty, shack, on pavement or any temporary or make shift arrangement.
The rules say if any violation of the requirements of these rules is discovered during an inspection of a pet shop by the inspector, the State Board will issue a notice as to why its registration should not be cancelled.
“The State Board may, if it is not satisfied with the response of the pet shop owner, or if no response is received, cancel the registration and communicate the reasons thereof in writing to the pet shop owner,” the rules said.
Gauri Maulekhi, a trustee at PFA, said animals sold in pet shops are treated as commodities and the cruelty they are subjected to at the hands of pet shop owners is “unthinkable”.
“The situation in pet shops demanded a crying need for regulation and we are pleased that the government and the Environment Ministry supported us in identifying the issue.
“The notification of these Rules is half the battle won, and what we now await is a thorough implementation of these rules to ensure that no pet shop owner is allowed to thrive illegally,” Maulekhi said.
The Rules also specify that every pet shop owner will have to maintain a record book, which should have particulars of breeders and suppliers of pet animals intended for sale, including name, address, contact details, and date of transaction and the number of pet animals received, their breed or species, and bird band number.
Pet shop owner shall ensure that the suppliers who supply imported, exotic breeds of birds and animals are importing these animals after obtaining all necessary approvals or license or both from the Director General of Foreign Trade.
Sanitary Import Permit and Permission from Regional or State Animal Quarantine and Certification Services. “The pet shop owner shall satisfy himself that the imports of live animals have been done through legal and appropriate channels,” the rules said.