After the death of 21 day old Bagheera sparked protests and campaigns which led to Quikr and Indiamart to stop the online sale of pets, the government finally puts the activity under legal purview.
In a major victory for animal rights activists, the government, in a notice issued on September 12, placed the online sale of pets under the purview of the law.
The government notification includes the rules for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop), which mainly relate to physical space and the upkeep of the animals within such spaces. Animal rights activists have hailed the notification, saying that finally online pet sale has come under a legislation.
It all began in May 2018 when Priya Chetty-Rajagopal – a CX consultant by profession and an animal rights activist by passion, brought to public lime light the tragic tale of Bagheera.
The malignance of online platforms
Bagheera was a white male Labrador, one of thousands of puppies who went on sale via online platforms such as Quikr, OLX, Indiamart, Dogbazar.org, Dogsindia.com and even Facebook (which while does not permit for sale via its ‘Marketplace’ service, however, allows for listings for sale on groups). These websites had been known to disregard the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 by exploiting a loophole in the legislation that does not specify anything in regards to the sale of animals online.
When Bagheera was bought online on Quikr for INR 13,000 (EUR 154) by first time dog owners, nobody could have expected that the story would morph into something as tragic. Within six days, on April 19, he was handed over to CARE, a foster home for dogs.
There, it came to light that as a result of unhygienic breeding and living conditions, Bagheera was afflicted with canine distemper. Furthermore, he had not yet weaned off his mother and the combined trauma led the young pup to lose his life just fifteen days later.
Chennai based animal activist Shravan Krishnan had said in a Facebook post, “He (Bagheera) went because some of the biggest online sites didn’t care enough for either his suffering or to obey the nation’s law to ask for a breeders’ certificate or check if the dog was above the minimum 8 weeks of age. And we didn’t speak up. Check the 728 pages of listings of pups that still exist on the site. Or the puppy listings on Facebook. Check out the new meat – squirming baby Bagheeras for sale, while relaxing with hot tea on your couch. Check out the blood on your hands.”
Priya Chetty-Rajagopal had mentioned in an interview with an Indian media, “There are many examples of dogs being sold on OLX, and Facebook groups also indulging in similar trade. This is even after Facebook’s policy states that sale of guns, drugs and animals is not allowed on its platforms. The anonymity that the internet provides has only catalysed the replaceability and commodification that has become associated with puppies.”
Not soon after, Chetty-Rajagopal joined hands with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) India, to launch a campaign against sites like Quikr and OLX to ban the online sale of “pets”.
While, OLX responded by saying that the company was observant of the laws in regards to pets and had taken necessary steps to seek the advertisers’ compliance with the rules, Quikr claimed that it fully supported the campaigner’s perspective and fully planned to eradicate the sale of animals on its site. In a communique sent to Chetty-Rajagopal, Indiamart, too, agrees with Quikr and plans to put down the sale of animals on their site.
On September 12, the government finally released the notification that officially cleared the legal loopholes present in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 by placing the online sale of animals under legal purview and for the first time in gazette notification history clearly cut out and updated the definition of a “pet shop”.
The current scenario
This means that online marketplaces and classified sites will now have to check for breeders’ certificates from the retailers who post their ads, online. They would also have to ensure that the animals being advertised are provided with safe and clean living accommodations as well as ensure if they are properly vaccinated or not. Without proper documentation, the retailer is not to be allowed to post their ads online and any organisation found to be skimming over their duties would be facing legal action.
As animal rights activists, all across the country rejoice, a few are cautious and wish to have the celebrations down for later. Akash Dutta, an animal rights activist associated with Safe Paws, an animal rights organisation in Kolkata told Media India Group, “It is but a small victory. The battle is won but the war goes on. Of course, you must understand that huge organisations like these do not simply have the time or man power to properly vet out the thousands of ad posters who use their sites and I suppose that’s where the government comes in… But, it’s a start. A start to a more optimistic future.”