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What is the ban on certain dog breeds all about?

The letter seeking the ban on the import and breeding of 23 dog breeds in India is still a recommendation, and not a rule as of now. But what does it mean for pet parents and breeders across the country?

The Dogo Argentino is one of the 23 breeds listed in the letter by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Government of India. Photo: Pixabay
The Dogo Argentino is one of the 23 breeds listed in the letter by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Government of India. Photo: Pixabay

The recent news about the ban on the import and breeding of 23 dog breeds in India has created quite a stir. There are also a lot of misconceptions around it. For one, the letter by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Government of India, is a recommendation and not a rule yet. So, the 23 listed breeds, including a Rottweiler and Dogo Argentino are not banned. That would happen only if a gazette was passed and the Union Government decreed the ban as a rule, explains Utpal Khot, a representative of the Animal Welfare Board of India. 

The letter was filed in response to the appeals that the Animal Husbandry and Dairying department received from not-for-profit organisations and activists to ban certain breeds. The petition was filed by The Legal Attorneys & Barristers Law Firm before the High Court of Delhi. The reasons were attacks on humans and animal abuse, as many of these breeds are used for illegal dog fighting, and more.

The recommendation, though, has found both supporters and critics, and has once again opened the debate on buying dogs, especially exotic breeds, versus adopting Indie breeds. It has also highlighted the need for stricter breeding regulations, compulsory training for all dogs and their pet parents, and pan-India sterilisation drives. 

Most animal activists support the recommendation as they believe that the ban will put a stop to illegal dog fighting and also prevent foreign breeds from suffering in Indian climatic conditions. A lot of exotic breeds can’t deal with the hot and humid climate of India. They also require special nutrition, which many dog parents are unwilling to give to them, or are unable to afford the costly dog feed, and only feed them kibble. “As a result, the dogs frequently fall ill and their life span is reduced,” says animal activist Seema Tank. “Why put any animal through this torture?” she asks.

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Dog activists also believe that a ban on the breeds will encourage more people to adopt an Indie that is as loving and smart as any other dog, plus they are resilient to the Indian environment, have stronger immune systems and are low on maintenance. “Moreover, adopting Indies is the best way to bring an end to the problem of street dog bites,” adds Khot.

However, she adds a caveat: If the basis of the recommendation is that all the 23 breeds mentioned are ferocious and out to get humans, then it’s flawed. “Every dog, even a Retriever or a Labrador, which are known to be extremely human-friendly, can become aggressive if not exercised or kept in good living conditions,” says Delano Henriques, a Mumbai-based dog trainer and behaviourist. So, labelling these 23 breeds as aggressive and banning them seems to be discretionary.

There is no denying that many power breeds are used for illegal dog fights, especially in states like Punjab. The breeders also cross-breed them and constantly stimulate them so they can win the fights. “But such breeders are in a minority,” says Jiby, a Rottweiler breeder from Kochi. Also, the dog breeding industry employs thousands of people across India. If the ban is implemented, many breeders will lose their businesses and many others their allied jobs. “Instead of a blanket ban, regulating breeding would be a better idea,” add Jiby.

The government must ensure that every breeder is registered with the local government bodies, that illegal backyard breeding is stopped and all breeders follow the prescribed rules. While some of these rules are already in place, there are hardly any checks to ensure these are implemented. 

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Also, if parents are made accountable for the training and good upkeep of their dogs by law, the cases of animal abuse and abandonment will be controlled. No matter which breed the dog is, it’s important to train them and understand their behaviour, suggests Henriques. That will nip a lot of issues such as dog anxiety in the bud. 

However, if the ban is enforced, many dogs of these breeds will be abandoned and left out on the streets. “There will be a whole new problem that we will have to deal with,” he says. Also, parents, who have these breeds, might be ostracised by their neighbours or building societies. 

Though, Khot believes that, that may not be such a big issue as just a minority of people own these breeds. Also, according to the recommendation, the dogs will have to be sterilised but not put to sleep. So, pet parents need not worry. Even breeders will be given enough time to sell their existing litter before any action is taken against them.

But from all the discussions, one thing is amply clear, the government will need to conduct a thorough study and research of the situation on the ground—of the ban’s impact on various stakeholders in the short run and the long run before taking any decision on the said recommendation. Most importantly, it must also consider the welfare and well-being of all the dogs.

Riddhi Doshi is a Mumbai-based art, culture and travel writer.

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