My sister and I adopted Pumba when the pandemic had just hit the world. Barely four months old, the Indie puppy had had a quite poor experience with his previous owners.
And that’s when we found out how hostile the environment has become for dogs in Indian cities.
Adopting Pumba seemed easier than entering the parks in Delhi. One soothing winter morning seemed like the perfect time to take him out.
“Keep out!” was the message when we entered our South Delhi park one September day in 2020, wearing our masks and treading out slowly for fear of Covid. No sign said ‘No Entry’ or ‘No Pets Allowed’. But like in most Delhi neighbourhoods, self-appointed sentinels of public spaces were on the lookout. Two were sitting on corner benches soaking up the sun. We let Pumba off the leash after checking whether they were comfortable with it.
He bolted from corner to corner, sniffing every tree.
Soon, an elderly man approached us, asking about the pup. At first, we thought he was striking up a conversation, but then he opposed the idea of letting him lose in an ‘almost empty’ park.
More importantly, we always carry extra paper bags to clean up the mess as we understand the essential idea behind clean and hygienic surroundings.
The elderly man went on about dogs dirtying the park, which Pumba clearly hadn’t done. He asked us to vacate the space and walk the dog outside. To be told to walk away by an unknown person without any incident is uncivil.
But this is not an anomaly in India’s capital city, most residents seem to oppose bringing pets to community spaces. And the anger is growing by the day.
The RWA’s wrath
Recently, a recent feature in ThePrint by my colleague Ratan Priya highlighted how several dog-bite incidents in recent weeks have put Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and housing societies on edge. In Delhi-NCR, and recently in Mumbai, dog bite cases are going viral on social media.
It has led to an all-out war between dog owners and RWAs—in parks, gated communities, and even lifts.
“I have an American Bully, and unlike how the breed has been perceived, he is quite friendly and mingles instantly. We have tried taking him to local parks, but someone or the other complains. We try to avoid taking him inside the parks when there are kids and the elderly, but it’s rude when we are interrupted for such common day-to-day acts,” a friend lamented to me.
No words and a lock
My sister and I decided to politely leave that September evening because it seemed wiser at the time than a full-blown confrontation. But we were extremely disappointed with the rash behaviour and humiliation. But you can only control your own actions. We stopped going there.
The walk timings were changed. We picked the afternoon because most streets and parks bear a deserted look then. It was becoming tough during summers, strolling in the scorching heat just to avoid the glares of “neighbourhood watchers”.
Days went by, seasons changed, and it was almost the next winter. Pumba had turned a year old and grown into an ‘alpha’ (according to him). By that time, we had started frequenting a different park, which already had stray puppies living inside. That was a bonus for us. Some residents had even made a shelter for the puppies and their mother to tackle the cold and rain. Many came and fed them. Pumba made new friends, and we breathed a sigh of relief. But all too soon, we were halted at the gate with a lock on it.
“You cannot walk your dog here as it’s only accessible for the residents,” said a man. We were puzzled as the stray puppies could be spotted playing inside. We asked if there was any other specific reason, but he simply denied us entry.
It seemed like gates were just shutting in our faces for no good reason. No amount of logic or Delhi High Court-supported rights could open the locks. We gave up.
Thankfully, many others are carrying on the fight. It’s no one’s case to let dogs dirty a park or not train them. But NCR colonies are shutting gates one by one. Not every dog has its day.
Views are personal.