youSheetal, 77, has had Bruno since he was 18. The Rottweiler is his brother, friend and support system all rolled into one, especially on days when he has anxiety attacks. But on Tuesday, his concerned parents told him he might have to “go away for a while” to his grandparents’ house in Meerut. The Gurugram District Consumer Dispute Redress Forum ordered the Gurugram Municipal Corporation to ban pet dogs of 11 breeds from November 15.
The corporation identified so-called ‘thug breeds’ that have gotten a bad reputation over the years. Rottweilers were on the list, which also included American Pit Bull Terriers, Dogo Argentino, Napolitan Mastiff, Boerboel, Presa Canario, Wolfdog, Bandog, American Bulldog, Fila Brasileiro, and Cane Corso.
The order came after a domestic worker was attacked and seriously injured in the Civil Lines area of Delhi by a Dogo Argentino in August. The forum also ordered the MCG to award interim compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the woman. He also said that if MCG wants, the compensation amount could be recovered from the dog’s owner.
The dictation has exposed the divisions among the wealthy of Gurugram. On one hand, pet owners who have spent lakhs on these breeds are concerned about how this will play out and what it means for their pets. And on the other hand, there are families who see these dogs as a security risk and are demanding that Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and societies start enforcing the rule without delay. But it is not that simple. Many high-profile lawyers have expressed surprise at the consumer forum’s approval of a directive that it technically doesn’t even have the power to make. And even animal rights activists, who have long argued against the sale of foreign breeds in India, say this has not been well thought out.
“This is absolutely heartbreaking. Bruno is so gentle, and even if you irritate him, he’ll probably roll on the floor. Everyone around us loves it, including our newspaper guy,” says Sheetal, who works at a multinational company in Gurugram.
Rohan Sharma, a resident of Sector 54 Gurugram, saved for years to buy a Boerboel in 2019. This huge, muscular South African Mastiff is known for its strength and agility. “Other people want cars and bikes. I always wanted a Boerboel and saved up to buy Shrek,” he says. But Shrek is now on the banned list.
Sharma’s society has already started issuing instructions on these dogs and although he is currently staying at his parents’ home in Himachal Pradesh, recent events worry him. “I can’t leave him with my parents. How can the authorities arbitrarily decide something like this? he asks.
Animal activists are concerned that people are abandoning their dogs. Those who find it too much of a nuisance could actually pen their breeds up, possibly exacerbating the problem by making their pets more aggressive, they say.
Lucknow to NCR
The ban on Gurugram is just another in a series of recent orders that have been passed through NCR following a July incident in which a Lucknow Pitbull, named Brownie, bit the mother of its owner, who subsequently died from the wounds.
The Noida Authority recently passed an order that fines dog owners Rs 10,000 plus treatment charges if their pets bite someone. Ghaziabad also banned three breeds: Pitbull, Dogo Argentino and Rottweiler.
Owners who have paid a premium for these breeds, a status symbol to many, without any knowledge of the care and training they need, often abandon them. These cases skyrocketed after the Lucknow incident.
“There were knee-jerk reactions after the Lucknow incident, and now families are not confident in handling even very friendly pitbulls or family members are now facing opposition. Now, pitbulls are not even adopted anymore,” says Tandrali Tuli, head of the adoption department at Friendicoes, an animal welfare organization in Delhi.
Tuli points out that irresponsible breeders and owners are equally to blame in such cases. Breeders, driven by profit, often continue to breed dogs without proper checks on their genetic history or lineage. As a result, they are more likely to breed puppies that may develop health problems later on.
And as for owners, buying a dog without proper knowledge about its breed or temperament can prove disastrous, as recent incidents have shown. But a blanket ban is definitely not the solution, according to Tuli. “It is impractical. It’s not that people can’t have new dogs anymore, it’s just that they can’t have them anymore. This will mean that families will be forced to give up the dogs or the city,” he says.
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One family, one dog policy
The Gurugram forum also issued instructions on dog ownership, such as mandatory metal chains and tokens for all canines and that a family can only have one dog.
Pet owners of multiple dogs are now concerned.
“I have two labs, and with this address, I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do. I can’t give up one of them. We may have to change if this happens,” says Rati Tandon, who lives in DLF Phase 3 Gurugram.
People with multiple properties don’t really face problems under this new directive. They can register different dogs under different ownerships.
Nikunj Sharma, executive director of Mercy for Animals, notes that while the forum decided to end dog attacks by allegedly “fierce” breeds, it has spawned another form of cruelty. “Asking dogs to muzzle longer is extremely cruel. Dogs cool down by breathing through their mouths, and longer muzzles can lead to heat stroke,” he says.
Tandon is not the only one affected by the extensive instructions of the order. Mihika Soni regularly feeds his society’s three stray dogs that he found on a cold night in December 2020.
“They were shaking and I rescued them, covered them with blankets and have been feeding them ever since. I don’t understand how you can pass that address. It means that they will take Joey, Rambo and Sushi. This is inhumane,” she adds.
Stray dogs in the area are regularly fed by people, and feeders also often fall on the receiving end of RWA aggression for feeding them. The fear of being attacked by dogs has been increasing. However, not all RWAs share the same opinion. “Dogs are like family members to pet owners. This arbitrary decision is meaningless, legally or otherwise. We have also written to the MCG commissioner to request further directives, but have received no response,” says Dhruv Bansal, RWA administrator and spokesperson for DLF Phase 1 to 5 and DLF Qerwa.
The problem goes deeper
While existing laws require breeders to be properly certified, many do not hold the required certification. High rates of abuse are also often recorded in many breeding facilities. The highly unregulated trade and corruption in the sale of fancy dogs means the problem isn’t just skin deep.
Dog breeders are also not happy with the decision. “We have lost our hearts (It’s a real shock for us),” says Devendra Tanwar, a dog breeder from Gurugram. His breeding service deals with pit bulls and has provided many families with healthy dogs, he says. “Our dogs have never received any complaints. We take the utmost care to verify genetic origins and temperament before delivering any puppies.”
Breeding many of the banned varieties of dogs is a huge investment and can cost upwards of 1 lakh if done correctly. Depending on the breeder and parentage, a good quality Pitbull can cost almost Rs 90,000 while a Dogo Argentino can cost Rs 2 lakhs.
Also read: RWAs in Indian cities have declared war on dogs. Pet lovers are on the defensive
The legal point of view and ‘realistic’ solutions
The forum has treated all MCG contributors as consumers in order to pass judgment. That in itself is a misreading of ‘consumer’, according to top lawyer Saurabh Kirpal.
“The person who has passed the order doesn’t even have the authority to do it. The order can easily be overturned if someone files a petition. But it is a pure waste of time and resources, ”she adds.
Animal rights organizations like PETA stress the need for authorities to protect breeds that are often used for dog fighting, but also noted that some of the recommendations are “useless.”
“While we agree with some of the District’s Consumer Dispute Redress Commission’s recommendations to protect vulnerable dogs and responsible guardianship, such as picking up after the dog, some of the instructions demonize them, which is not help,” says a PETA spokesperson.
Meanwhile, animal shelters are concerned about the influx of dogs they will see if the ban is enforced. “The shelters do not have the staff or the capacity to take in so many dogs, strays or abandoned. There is also a risk of a rapid spread of the infection,” says Mansi Rautela of the Wagging Tails Foundation. It seems the forum has tried to make a point without consulting animal activists, attorneys, or even being aware of the reality of animal shelters in NCR.
While everyone awaits the actual implementation of the order, some have offered workable solutions. “People who want such breeds can work with trainers to understand and care for their pets,” says Parvathity Rajendran, who cares for stray dogs at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The problem is very complicated and there are no simple solutions. The consumer forum directive has added more layers to the problem and increased the possibility of people abandoning dogs. While the matter awaits further action, pet owners like Rati, Sheetal and Rohan will continue to spend sleepless nights in fear of losing their fur babies.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)