Squatting inside his new abode, five-year-old Maximus looks baffled as cell phone cameras flash at him. Once a pet, the white Labrador’s owners abandoned him near Lucknow’s Vrindavan Yojana colony. But thanks to the kindness of an animal lover, he reached a shelter run by an NGO in Krishna Nagar.
Two-year-old Bruce, a brown Labrador who was found tied in a city jungle and three-month-old Mia, a cream-yellow Labrador, share the same fate. Their owners didn’t want them and the Labradors—considered a highly sociable and friendly breed—were abandoned. However, they reached the shelter run by Pawsome Foundation instead.
Squatting inside a cage at the Jeev Basera in Lucknow’s Hasanganj, an angry German Shepherd growls at visitors who intrude his privacy.
The four-year-old dog is battling a maggot infection in his right ear and was found abandoned near the Integral university of Lucknow—a few kilometers from the Tedhi Pulia area. It was only when a good Samaritan found him that the dog was brought to the animal hospital and shelter eight days ago.
“He only growls when someone tries to get close to him or serve food to him. When we take him out for treatment, he is calm and easily takes an injection. I think he has suffered some kind of torture,” said Rahul Krishna, a caretaker at the shelter.
Rakhi Kishore, founder-president, Jeev Basera, told ThePrint that they have no idea about the owners of the dog.
Several pet owners want to abandon even friendly breeds after a female pit bull, Brownie, attacked 82-year-old Sushila Tripathi in Lucknow’s Qaiserbagh area. She succumbed to the injuries, raising questions about pet breeds and their behaviour.
Owners part with exotic breeds
About 11 kilometres from Jeev Basera lies Bengali Tola, the Qaiserbagh locality where Brownie fatally attacked her owner Amit Tripathi’s mother in their house on 12 July. Soon after the incident created a scare, the female pit bull was handed over to the municipal corporation, which took her to the dog sterilisation centre.
Fourteen days later, Brownie is undergoing a 21-day training, after which she can permanently return to her owner’s house in Bengali Tola.
However, the extraordinary infamy attached to this incident has spurred a number of dog abandonments, especially in Uttar Pradesh and the National Capital Region (NCR).
Pit bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds and American Bullies have suddenly become a cause of concern and suspicion.
Several animal shelters ThePrint spoke to informed of a spurt in abandonment of pit bulls as well as calls from owners wanting to get rid of their pets.
Friendicoes, one of the oldest animal shelters and hospitals with two shelters in Delhi and Gurugram, has received five abandoned pit bulls in its centres ever since the Lucknow incident.
Tandrali Kuli, head of the adoption program at Friendicoes, said that this incident is only adding to the burgeoning culture of dog abandonment in NCR.
“Since the Lucknow incident, we have got at least five pit bulls who have been abandoned by their owners for various reasons. All pit bulls are pets and none of them are strays. One was found abandoned and defenceless with a muzzle at the Naraina flyover. One was found with a crushed leg on a road near the Bhairo mandir near Pragati Maidan. An aware resident picked up the first one from the Naraina flyover. The trend has only become dangerous because we are running out of space and resources for sheltering so many dogs,” she said.
Video of an abandoned pit bull sitting on the Nala Road in Delhi’s Taimoor Nagar went viral Monday.
“Pit bulls are usually abandoned because of behavioural issues and skin problems and even prior to the incident, some dogs of the breed had reached our shelter,” said Kuli.
In June, one pit bull was left outside the Friendicoes Delhi shelter with a letter tied around its neck.
“We cannot take care of its expensive treatment. Our mother is also in the hospital. Please take care of it,” said the letter.
Excuses run wild
Animal activist Kaveri Rana, who is also a member of the Wildlife and Gaushala committee of Noida’s Gautam Buddh Nagar, said that she has received around 40-45 calls from NCR and western UP from people wanting to abandon their pit bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Labradors, Beagles, ever since the Lucknow incident.
An Aligarh-based family wanted to abandon their one-and-a-half-year-old Rottweiler who they brought home when he was just a 40-day-old puppy, she said.
“When I asked the reason, they said that they were afraid for the safety of their eight-month-old daughter. The scare has gripped pet owners, especially after the Lucknow case. I am simply counselling these pet owners asking them not to abandon their pets and trying to rehome these pets,” she said.
Another pit bull was found abandoned in Noida’s Sector 44 about two weeks ago.
Sanjay Mahapatra, founder of animal dispensary House of Stray Animals in Sector 54 Noida, said that ever since the Lucknow attack, he received 50 such distress calls from different states like West Bengal, Odisha, Karnataka and even Kerala, from dog owners.
“Earlier too, people wanted to abandon their Labradors, German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies during Covid, but the number has increased after the Lucknow case. I have got seven such abandoned dogs in my dispensary including two pit bulls, one GSD, one Labrador, one Pomeranian and one Bhutia,” he said.
Advisory to blame?
Soon after Sushila Tripathi’s death, the Lucknow Municipal Corporation issued an advisory against raising ‘aggressive’ and ‘dangerous breeds’, which animal caregivers say is one of the main reasons behind the threat perception now attached with the pit bull and other strong breeds.
“The Nagar Nigam has issued an advisory but do the authorities have any plan for the upkeep, care, treatment and shelter of such pets in Lucknow whom the owners now want to abandon out of fear?” Kamna Pandey, a sitting member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and former member of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) asked.
But the corporation says that the advisory was not wrongly-worded.
“The advisory was carefully worded against raising aggressive breeds. [However] A perception has been built around the pit bull after the incident, because of its body structure and strong jawline,” Dr Abhinav Verma, a veterinarian in the municipal corporation, said.
Hope for Brownie
Oblivious to the happenings around her, Brownie, however, may soon be declared as “fit” for permanent handover to her owner, Amit Tripathi, after a 21-day behavioural training.
Fourteen days after she was taken by a municipal corporation van and brought to the dog sterilisation centre run by the Humane Society International (HSI) in Jarhara, the dog was handed over to Tripathi on Thursday and is currently undergoing training by a behavioural expert, as directed by authorities.
Speaking to ThePrint, Lucknow municipal commissioner Inderjit Singh said that Brownie will be fit for handing over to its original owner after he submits an affidavit as there is no legal case or FIR registered in the case.
“She is behaving absolutely normal but questions remain about the possible reason for her behaviour that fateful day,” he said.
Owner Amit Tripathi told ThePrint on Sunday that he wants to retain Brownie despite getting several calls from animal shelters and dog lovers hoping to adopt the dog—either out of concern or due to the ‘fame’ Brownie has garnered.
“I am getting several calls from animal shelters and dog lovers who want to adopt Brownie but I can’t trust such callers,” he said.
Verma told ThePrint that Brownie was completely normal during her stay and had even gotten friendly with her caretaker.
“She recognised her boundary and realised that it was her new abode. She was unhappy when she was put in the car’s boot by her owner Amit Tripathi on Thursday. She can be back with her owner but only after training from a behavioural expert,” he said.
When asked about her behaviour, Verma said that she was not generally aggressive and the incident has left several questions unanswered.
Experts suggest that the inability to get the dog out for walks could have resulted in bouts of aggressive behaviour from Brownie.
“Brownie seemed to have missed plenty of exercise and external social life, which is extremely important for a dog’s health. A 21-day training will be of no help if the dog is not taken out for walks,” said Tandrali Kuli.
Animal shelters resort to counselling
Animal shelters say that they are unlikely to get any respite with this news as owners continue abandoning their pets.
Most are turning away pet owners who walk in with the intent of giving their pets away.
“I have got some 10-12 calls from pet owners wanting to give away their Rottweilers, German Shepherds, but I am trying to counsel them and asking them to apply dog-training techniques before thinking of abandoning their pets,” Anurag Mishra, owner of a shelter home in Jaipal Kheda, said.
While most can be counselled, some are still parting with their pets—even if they have spent a few years with them. “We are turning away such owners,” Mishra added.
(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)