After animal rights activists successfully campaigned to have the online sale of dogs banned on platforms like Quikr and Indiamart, a government notification that came out on Wednesday put online sale of pets explicitly under purview of the law.
Called the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, 2018, the rules are part of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. They talk about the various conditions under which one may be allowed to set up a pet shop and conduct sale of pet animals. These include registration of the shop with the State Animal Welfare Board, ensuring comfortable and appropriate infrastructure for the animals, veterinary care and health of the animals, and so on.
The gazette notification includes in the definition a pet shop, for the first time, “online platforms over which the sale and purchase of pet animals is carried out wherever the context permits”. Other things included under a “pet shop” are “a shop, place or premises, including any shop, place or premises in a weekly or other market, where pet animals are sold or housed, kept or exhibited for sale, or where any retail or whole-sale business involving the selling or trading of pet animals are carried out.”
While the rules pertain mainly to physical spaces and the upkeep of the animals in those spaces, animal rights activists say that this is a step in the right direction – from online pet sale being an unregulated area, it has now come under a legislation.
Gauri Maulekhi, trustee at People For Animals and government liaison officer for Humane Society International (HSI) India, said that considering the deplorable conditions of animals in pet shops, it was heartening that the Government and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had supported them 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,” she said.
As to how these rules will apply to online spaces which sell pets, Alokparna Sengupta, Deputy Director HSI India, explained that online marketplaces for pets or people who want to sell pet animals online will now have to register, and the registration will be granted based on whether they are the requisite infrastructure for the animals, the animals pass the required health checks and kept in proper premises and so on.
“It will also fall upon platforms where you can advertise such sales to check on the users who are posting the ads to ensure that they are registered, and fulfil the requirement to have a pet shop,” she adds.
Priya Chetty Rajagopal, Bengaluru-based CXO search consultant, who was one of the people who campaigned against the illegal sale of puppies and dogs on platforms like Quikr and Indiamart, says, “While large platforms may still not conduct checks on everyone who posts such ads for selling pet dogs, the regulation ensures that they can be brought to book. For the first time, a law deals with online sale of pets directly and holds sellers accountable.”
Priya and several others had come together three months ago to start an online petition to stop the online sale of dogs – ads which ran into dozens of pages on platforms like Quikr and Indiamart. This happened after the death of Bagheera, a Labrador puppy who was purchased online at just 21-days-old by an inexperienced first-time dog owner.
As a result of unhygienic breeding conditions Bagheera soon became afflicted with canine distemper. Further, the young pup had not yet weaned off his mother. He was given up to a foster home and then handed over to CARE, a Bengaluru-based NGO. After 15 days of suffering, the puppy breathed his last.
His death sparked a debate and campaign against the unregulated online sale of dogs and pets.
Last week, in a victory for the campaigners, Quikr and Indiamart both agreed to stop the online sale of pets.
Some of the salient features of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, 2018 are:
1. Anyone who wants to carry out a business of trade in pet animals needs to register with the State Animal Welfare Board. Any person already operating pet shops may apply for registration within 60 days from the date of these rules.
2. If one fails to procure this certificate of registration beyond the specified period of time will risk their pet shop being sealed. The animals from such a shop will be placed in the care of an animal welfare organization recognised by the Board.
3. A non-refundable fee of Rs 5,000 is required to apply for registration, and a separate application will be made for each branch or premises of the shop. The certificate is valid for five years and is non- transferable, and subject to a yearly review.
4. Pet shops will be inspected by an authorized veterinarian after the application for registration is received.
5. Among the provide standards for accommodation, infrastructure, housing, general care, veterinary care and other operational requirements mentioned in the rules, there are significant measures like elimination of wire mesh for the floors of the enclosures, a health certificate from a veterinary practitioner for every animal on sale, and a written exercise plan for any pup over 16 weeks of age.
6. Pet shop owner will have to maintain a record of the details of breeders and suppliers of pets, trade transactions and customers. Additional records like “mortality register” and “health register” are also to be maintained.
7. In case of a complaint of non-compliance against a pet shop, an inquiry will be conducted through the local authority or SPCA. If animals are found to be mistreated or ill, they will be confiscated and placed with an animal welfare organization for treatment, the expenses of which will be borne by the pet shop owner.
8. If violations are discovered during an inspection, the State Board will issue a show cause notice to the pet shop owner. In case the State Board is unconvinced with the response of the owner or the lack therefore, their registration stands to be cancelled, the reasons for which be communicated in writing. Subject to appeal, the pet shop stands to be sealed until the time registration is reinstated.
9. Every registered pet shop owner will be mandated to file an annual report with the State Board with details about total number of animals traded, boarded or exhibited during that year.