Love Labradors? Experts say are one of the most abandoned dog breeds in India.

Why are the most loved dog breeds also most abandoned in IndiaFrom left: Labrador, Pug, and Golden Retriever dogs
Features Animal welfare Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 18:28

Sudha Narayanan remembers when she and her team found Dot and Dash three years ago. The brother sister Labrador duo had been abandoned in Amruthahalli, Hebbal in Bengaluru.

“Both were around six years old and in pathetic condition. They hadn’t moved from the roadside for five whole days until someone found them. Dash looked like he had been beaten routinely. Dot’s body bore tell-tale signs of having been used for excessive breeding,” Sudha, the founder and trustee of Charlie’s Animal Rescue Centre (CARE) in Bengaluru.

“Even with medical attention and rehabilitation, they remain weak. For instance, both of their platelet counts fluctuate a lot,” she says.

Dot and Dash’s story will resonate with many animal welfare workers across Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad.  

And it is the most popular dog breeds which they often find left on roads and highways, secluded areas and tied to poles and gates of shelters.  

The most loved, and abandoned breeds

All the five people, who have years of experience in animal rescue and rehabilitation, told TNM that Labradors were the most abandoned breed in their experience.

“The abandonment of Labradors is directly proportional to their demand, which is quite high,” says Shravan Krishnan, an animal welfare activist from Chennai, “You get Labrador puppies for as little as Rs 3,000 these days. People just think that they are cute and amicable animals so they buy them. What they don’t realise is that having a dog is a big responsibility too.”

Some Labradors are abandoned because people find them too big to handle once they grow up. Sudha also observes that most Labradors she has found are around five to six years old. It is because their health problems start showing around that time. Senior dogs are also routinely abandoned.

A Labrador

Shreya Paropkari, manager at Humane Society International (India), is based in Hyderabad. She has observed that people tend to buy dogs on an impulse. The videos and photos they see don’t really document the hard work that goes into bringing up a dog, so when they are required to spend time and resources into taking care of the dog, they tend to back out.  

In her experience, Labradors and Retrievers are most commonly abandoned. They are followed closely by Pugs and St Bernards.

Pugs are another breed which animal rescuers see commonly abandoned. People tend to get them believing they are a smaller, low maintenance breed.

“Pugs are prone to many health issues too – they have respiratory issue because of a flat snout. Their eyes bulge from a flat skull which makes them likely to scratch their cornea if they so much as bang into something. The folds in their skin make them vulnerable to skin infections too,” explains Shreya.

Rescuers say that almost every pedigree breed is prone to being abandoned. But other than Labradors and Pugs, German Shepherds and Great Danes are also commonly found on the streets. And these days, Huskies too are joining the list, as their demand is rising after the popular TV show Game of Thrones.

Pedigree breeds are not suited for India

Vinay Moray, founder and trustee of Bengaluru based Sarvodaya Sevasabha Samstha, observes that more often than not, buying pedigree dogs is about fad and prestige for people, even though they are not suited to the Indian climate.

Unregulated breeding has made the situation worse.

For instance, the Pug you see today is not how Pugs originally looked, says Chennai-based animal activist Antony Rubin. The dog was a popular pet for royals in both China and Europe. “It actually had a snout, which made breathing easier. But bad breeding practices and a lot of in-breeding, the pug’s bone structure itself has changed,” he says.

A painting of a Pug bitch from 1802 by Henry Bernard Chalon. Photo: Bonhams London/Wiki Commons

Shreya points out that all pedigrees come with congenital problems they are prone to. Great Danes tend to have bowed legs, and are prone to cardiovascular problems. Labradors are vulnerable to hip dysplasia. Huskies, with their thick fur, are not suited for India’s hot climate, she explains.

Unregulated breeding and burdened shelters

Apart from owners, breeders contribute equally, if not more, to the problem of abandonment of dogs. And while it may be tough to tell with males, the bitches often bear tell tale signs if they have been abandoned by breeders, like having hanging nipples or discharge from their vulva, says Shreya.

Once, Antony recalls, he saw a Great Dane bitch, abandoned by a breeder, who could not even stand. “The vet told me that she had given birth at least six times. And that the breeder had used a larger, very aggressive Great Dane male for mating. It left her hind legs fractured and brittle,” he recounts.  

Great Dane dogs

In-breeding is also rampant. For instance, a breeder may keep the male puppy and once it’s old enough, make it breed with its mother. The resulting litter therefore is prone to health issues. Breeders also sell puppies as young as 25 days old, when it has not even weaned off the mother.

It doesn’t help that people often want to abandon healthy dogs due to financial, geographical or space constraints because they do not plan before getting a dog, argues Shravan. “Shelters are for the sick dogs, not for healthy, abandoned ones. Yet, I get 10-15 enquiries a day from people who want to give away healthy dogs for reasons like they are moving houses. Even if we say no, sometimes we find dogs left tied to our gate,” he says.

What needs to be done

Experts say that the foremost thing which will help check abandonment is to regulate breeders.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change released four gazette notifications earlier this year one of which laid down rules for dog breeding and marketing. While it calls for breeders to be registered with the State Animal Welfare Boards, and prohibition of breeding without registration, it has not really been implemented.

“The state should ensure that each of these dogs have a microchip before being sold. This will not only enable us to track them if they are lost, but also show the details of the owner if the animal is found abandoned,” Vinay asserts.

He adds that vets should have with them records of registered breeders and when the dog visits, they should verify using the microchip that it has come from a verified breeder, he adds.

There should also be a push towards adopting, over shopping, agree experts. Not only will this ensure that the abandoned dogs find homes, it will also bring down the overall demand and in the long run, reduce breeding. 

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