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The Sad Reality of Homeless Dogs and Cats in India

With a recent, and one of the first surveys, it was estimated that there are 79.9 million homeless cats and dogs in India. Has this situation reached its worst or do these animals still have hope?

On Thursday, a report by Mars Petcare India with an advisory board of leading animal welfare experts released a ‘State of Pet Homelessness Index’ report. It showed an estimate of 79.9 million homeless cats and dogs striving on the streets or in shelters, in India. Earlier, there was no way to measure and track this count in India and the world. Now, the EPH Index can help track and be a new start to what can be done. The index has been derived from data of 200+ global and local resources across 9 countries, added with new quantitative research. 

What do the reports say?

  • Shockingly, India has an overall pet homelessness index tally of 2.4 out of 10! 
  • Almost 50% of current and previous pet owners have confirmed that they have abandoned a pet in the past, compared to the 28% on a global level. 32% of people have stated that they have abandoned a cat and 34% said that they have abandoned a dog on the streets.
  • The results also stated that 82% of dogs are considered street dogs, 53% of people feel street dogs pose a danger to people, 65% of people are scared of dog bites, and 82% of people feel that dogs should be taken out of the streets and put in shelters. 
  • The reports also stated that there is a low number of veterinarians per capita.
  • The country also has a high percentage of diseases in dogs includes fleas/ticks, rabies, and TVT.

This data threw light on several challenges why the ratio of homelessness of animals is so high here. Many people have financial limitations, housing limitations, less awareness of animal behaviours, less knowledge about adopting pets resulting in buying breed dogs and cats. The report also stated that the cost of owning a pet is relatively high in India and the total market value of the pet care industry is low.

How the COVID-19 pandemic affected pets

The pandemic has not only been cruel to humans but also to pets and animals. When the pandemic-triggered lockdown started in 2020, animal rights activists witnessed a steep rise in cases of people leaving their pets – dogs, cats, birds on the streets or outside shelters. Some pets were put for adoption because they lost their human parents. Some people were forced to abandon because they weren’t financially stable. Some people gave up because there wasn’t any house help to take care of the pets. 

The survey reports clearly show how 6 out of 10 people felt the urge to get a pet home during the lockdown, whereas existing pet parents had a newfound appreciation for their pets during the pandemic. But when the lockdown was lifted and life got back to normal, a few people realised that they couldn’t take care of pets while managing their schedule. Hence, pets were put to adoption or were abandoned again on the streets. 

Ganesh Ramani, the Managing Director of Mars Petcare India, said “We welcome partnerships with government, NGO, individual stakeholders who want to ensure all companion animals are wanted, cared for, and welcomed”. This itself marks the start! It can be a new beginning if we all could do whatever that we can.

How can you help?

  • Educating people about street dogs can help a lot more than we can imagine. People have a lot of fear of dogs, even when they’re harmless and have never attacked someone. People need to understand that even if there’s fear, they can always stay away but at least not hurt an animal. You, on a personal level, can make people around you understand. You make a difference by making 5-10 people also understand why they shouldn't hurt an animal, even if they're scared.
  • Timely vaccinations can help reduce conflict and fear at the same time. This will help in keeping the spreading of diseases away. We’ve seen a lot of dogs infected with mange (a type of skin disease) or dogs/cats with maggot wounds, but many of us don’t know how we can help. You may contact a local animal rescue organisation so that the animal won't at least suffer on the streets, and get the required treatment.
  • Effective sterilisation can help reduce the number of strays. India scored quite low in the number of sterilisations and vaccinations too. There are numerous organisations where they get animals neutered at a minimal cost. You may take the responsibility of 1-2 strays in your area. Not many people know, but neutering can also avoid several health problems in animals later.
  • India also scores low in enabling responsible breeding practices hence education on that front is also necessary. Also, you could help spread messages about why unethical breeding is bad and how our stray dogs and cats can be given home, instead of buying breeds.
  • If you see an injured or abandoned pet, try to keep it safe. Contact a local animal welfare organisation for help. You could also share adoption appeals on social media because you might not be able to adopt, but someone in your circle might be interested.

  • Providing animals with some food and water is the least and a very important thing that you can do for them. 
  • Donate! Not necessarily money, but you can donate your time or small things like clothes or newspapers to a local shelter. The shelters already work towards the betterment of animals so you could help them in whatever way you can.
  • Stronger enforcement of animal welfare standards and strict law enforcement against animal cruelty is extremely crucial, especially at the local level is extremely crucial. 

Lastly and most importantly, everyone needs to understand that owning a pet is a huge responsibility and they aren’t toys that can be abandoned when there are the slightest of difficulties or if the pet is sick. Several animal rights organisations are fighting for this cause day and night, but people tend to do it despite that. So why not help them in this earnest endeavour?

raksha kulkarni

raksha kulkarni

Jeevoka member since Feb 2020

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