Stroking a dog or cat causes the release of feel-good hormones. This can be traced back to our ancient history with primates where grooming one another was a major part of primate societies, and deep down the vestiges of this need to groom something hairy has remained in the recesses of our minds which is satisfied by stroking a dog or cat. This could be one of the many reasons why having companion animals is alluring for most humans. Parenting a companion animal has various benefits – for the animals in terms of giving them a better standard of living, and for humans like sensitisation towards animals and nature – and dates back centuries with accounts of royalty and nobility in the Middle Ages keeping animals and treating them with utmost care and the choiciest of foods. The growth of consumerism however saw the boom of the pet industry which has posed concerns for animal welfare over the past few years.
Illegal breeding of companion animals in India is a growing issue that contributes to the suffering of these animals. The trend of owning pedigree dogs or cats, or even exotic animals for that matter, has increased trait selection, illegal breeding of animals, and the illegal capturing and trade of wild animals. Despite there being laws in place, many shops all over the country operate illegally which by extension involves the disregard towards the welfare of the animals that are used for breeding. This type of breeding often takes place in inhumane conditions, with animals kept in cramped and unsanitary conditions. The breeders are often motivated by profit and ignore the welfare of the animals leading to widespread suffering. Cruel practices like forcing dogs to mate while restraining the females, enclosing them in tiny cages and unhygienic conditions where they develop diseases and behavioural disorders, and then finally abandoning them when they are deemed useless are all part of the illegal breeding industry. Constant inbreeding contributes to various birth defects or diseases in the animals that are either noticed when they are born which leads to them being killed due to non-profitability, or are noticed by the caregivers much later and lead to abandonment of the animal. Trait selection for the purpose of aesthetics poses a detriment to the health of the animals too, like respiratory issues caused in flat-faced animals. Illegal breeding also contributes to the overpopulation of companion animals in India, as the animals are mostly not sterilized and are often abandoned or sold to pet stores.
Encouraging the adoption of the Indian breed is the need of the hour. The implementation of existing laws against illegal breeding, capacity building among the public regarding animal welfare and illegal breeding, in addition to provision of better resources for companion animal care are major gaps that need to be filled urgently. Funding into these areas would help alleviate the suffering of these animals.
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