One need not go far to see what backyard breeding exactly is, just a visit to the slums in Vepery is sufficient. Exotic breeds like St. Bernards can be found crammed in cages, the females forcefully impregnated and the pups sold off when they’re barely 20 days old, so the breeders can earn a quick buck. “A female must be mated only when she is 18 months or above of age, she can have only five litters in her lifetime (usually between 1.5 years to 8 years) after which she should be spayed,” says Renuka Jayapal, canine behaviourist. “Backyard breeders don’t follow any of these rules; it’s extremely cruel to sell a life form especially online,” she states.
Chinthana Gopinath plays a vital role in her pet’s life, that of a mother, not an owner — under her care is a backyard bred dog. “One of my dogs is an online product, a classic example of the misery such animals are put through. Separated at 20 days from the mother, the dog was sold off to someone in a box. He eventually came to me and not one day has gone by without an ailment surfacing. He has hereditary skin and behavioural issues, which after months of care, going in and out of the emergency room at the vet’s, umpteen injuries and more, have finally stopped,” says this volunteer, who’s associated with Second Chance Adoption Centre, CUPA.
While petitions definitely shine light on the tragic conditions in which the ‘demand and supply’ of pedigree dogs in India are met, it mustn’t stop there, says Muralidharan Sivalingam, founder, Indian Centre for Animal Rights and Education. “Laws concerning backyard breeding and sales online must be formed, so people should file cases in court against those indulging in such malpractices,” he feels.
There are guidelines in place, which state what it will take for a breeder to obtain a licence — they should be in proper health and have updated medical records, history of lineage of the dogs to be mated is a must, the dogs should have a Kennel Club of India registration certificate and microchip, etc. “If you take such rules into consideration, not even five per cent of the dogs in India are ‘breedable.’ So we must come down heavily on backyard breeders who don’t comply by these norms,” he says.
As individuals, it is impossible for anyone to seize all the dogs ill-treated at puppy mills, but here’s how you can do your bit to prevent this, says Chinthana:
Adopt a dog whose behavior is going to suit your lifestyle: You don’t need a Beagle or German Shepherd because you’re not going hunting or herding sheep into a farm. Those breeds were raised for a purpose that are obsolete now, so find a dog that will suit your home and needs. If you need a companion, find a dog suitable for that specific purpose
Speak up on social media: Spread awareness about these malpractices among your circles and educate people about the atrocities backyard bred animals go through
Don’t encourage forums that sell pets online: report or block them
Spread awareness: Educate your friends who have female dogs to spay them so accidental or forceful pregnancies are avoided
Tie up with animal welfare organisations: Sign up as a foster parent so animals with special needs due to negligent breeding are in safety until adopted.