The Government of India has announced sweeping new regulations that are expected to end the suffering of dogs bred indiscriminately and without basic needs like food, water, and shelter; improve conditions for animals sold in livestock markets; and ensure that fish sold in aquariums and fish stores are not caught using destructive fishing practices, or taken from protected areas. It’s one of the biggest packages of animal welfare reforms ever adopted by a major nation, and it’s going to be implemented on a subcontinent with more than a billion people and countless millions of animals at risk.
These are just the latest advances in our work to protect animals in India. Since opening our offices there five years ago – with the Dalai Lama joining me in the packed celebration in Mumbai of this new capacity and our new initiatives – the Humane Society International/India team has succeeded in ending the biggest animal sacrifice on earth at Gadhimai in Nepal, helped end the imports of fur and exotic skins into India, and made significant gains on ending animal fighting and cosmetics testing.
The new regulations are expected to improve the lives of millions of companion animals, farm animals, and marine animals who, until now, had no protections under the law. They prescribe a comprehensive procedure for the care, cost, maintenance, veterinary treatment, and overall well-being of animals seized from markets and from cases of animal cruelty. Confiscated animals will be seized and handed over to an animal welfare organization until there is a verdict for the owner. Any person convicted for cruelty will be barred from owning that or any animal in the future.
Breeding dogs in India typically live in deplorable conditions. The vast majority of puppies sold in pet stores in India come from breeders who do not provide the animals with the most basic necessities. Unweaned puppies less than two months old are sold to consumers without any registration or records. Whelping mothers are impregnated continuously, resulting in harm to the mothers and the well-being of the puppies. The animals are deprived of the most basic necessities, including food, water, and veterinary care.
Under the new rules, all dog breeders must now be registered, and the facilities being used to house the dogs will be open for state inspections which, we hope, will reduce the abuse and suffering of the dogs and force breeders to provide at least the most basic care. The new regulations will also set age and sterilization requirements before dogs are sold, and will regulate the number of litters each female dog can produce.
The rules concerning livestock animals are a direct result of our work in Gadhimai, where our team found that nearly 80 percent of the animals being brought into Nepal came from India.
It is estimated that each year hundreds of thousands of cows, bulls, buffaloes, horses, goats, sheep, donkeys, camels, and birds are transported to the markets. Once conscripted into the trade, they have no access to food, water, or rest. This is considered cruelty under an Indian prevention of cruelty law already in existence, but that law was not being properly enforced. Under the new rules, animal market monitoring committees will ensure that markets provide housing, sufficient food and water, feed storage areas, water troughs, ramps, enclosures for sick animals, veterinary care, lighting, bedding, toilets, proper drainage, and other facilities for the animals.
Aquariums and fish shops will be banned from sourcing fish caught using destructive fishing practices, like bottom trawling, cyanide fishing, use of explosives or dynamite to kill or stun fish, or the use of fish trapped from coral reefs or from other protected areas. Aquariums will be required to be registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India. The rules also prohibit the display and trade of cetaceans, penguins, otters, and manatees, among other sea creatures. These are among the strongest fish and aquarium standards in the world, and we are proud to have played a role in their passage.
Let’s take a moment today to celebrate these important victories in India, to thank political and judicial leaders in India, and to send thanks for the determined efforts of our extraordinary staff in the world’s second most populous nation.