#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.
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 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!’”
“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.