Neither did Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Boxers, or Indian dogs. The new rules also require owners to muzzle their German Shepherds.
I am a mother to seven dogs. I didn’t intend to have so many, but it just so happened that they were either abandoned by their previous owners or released from laboratories after being used to test pharmaceutical drugs. Each of them came to me because they had nowhere else to go.
And now, with deep dread, I read through the new bye-laws that my city’s civic body BBMP (Bengaluru Municipal Corporation) has brought for pet ownership. The rules allow only one dog per apartment and three per independent house.
First of all, it is my constitutional right as a citizen of this country to have as many dogs as I want, especially, if I have the financial means to take care of them, take them for walks on a leash, pick up their poop, and ensure they are well behaved in public.
We are also being told that we could choose which dogs we wanted to keep and surrender the “extra dogs” to shelters. Shelter phone lines are ringing off the hook with panicking families calling them to take in their dogs. Now, which shelter has the space to take in thousands of such dogs? We already know of one case where a dog was dumped on the highway, probably by a family that feared the ire of their apartment owner. Such is the fear among people.
The bye-laws list 64 dog breeds “approved” to live in apartments. I have lived with dogs every single day of my life; I work with dogs day in and day out, with rescue and re-homing. I have never heard of more than half the dog breeds on that list. They don’t have common breeds like Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, etc. on that list, but you can find them in our shelters.
What’s more, they have even forgotten to add our own Indian Native Dog on this exalted list — this breed is found on our streets in the thousands and deserve to be in homes. Instead, you have the Chinese Temple Dog, Bolognese, Hairless Dog etc in the list. It has come to light that this list has just been picked up from Singapore’s housing and development board guidelines. When these babus went on study tours to Singapore, we were hoping for better roads, solid waste management system and mass public transport. Instead, we get slammed with this.
Misinformation in the air
They have even listed the breeds that will have to wear muzzles in public. These include Rottweilers, German Shepherds, among many others that I haven’t heard of. One that I have heard of, however, is the Cane Corso Mastiff. The light of my life, Xena, belongs to the breed, and came home to us after having spent nearly three years in a shelter. She comes from extreme abuse, and hates wearing a muzzle. She enjoys her walks, minds her own business when out. Why should she wear a muzzle?
We got a frantic call from a person who had recently got a Rottweiler puppy. After reading the bye-laws, he thought the breed was a ferocious one that needed to be muzzled at all times in public and would probably attack his family. The puppy has been surrendered and will now need a new home. While we work so hard to educate people not to have breed biases, we now have to deal with this.
BBMP needs to focus their energies on two aspects, both of which they have been colossal failures at.
One is to set up a robust ABC programme for our stray dogs to manage their population. Litters of puppies are being born, which must be rescued off the roads due to a growing man-animal conflict.
Second is to regulate the breeding industry. Litters of puppies are produced, sold and bought like commodities. Dogs the breeders no longer have use for are dumped on the streets, and puppies are given up due to health issues or simply when they are not cute anymore. Welfare workers are constantly cleaning up the mess.
Families stick together
Most of our homes are full of multiple dogs because they need a home too. This bye-law will also reduce the chances of future rescued dogs from getting placed with loving families.
In the past three days, however, citizens have pushed back. We started a campaign called #NotWithoutMyDog to let the authorities know that we will fight to the finish to keep our pets.
The online signature campaign has crossed over 12,000 signatures in three days, the hashtag was trending on Twitter this week, and has gone viral on Instagram and Facebook. People from outside Bengaluru as well as families without dogs are standing with us in solidarity. Mass media channels had no choice but to pick up our story.
A group of us met the mayor and the joint Commissioner of BBMP Wednesday. The public outcry has reached their ears. The bye-laws have been put on hold till the next council meeting is held on 16 June. Legal recourse is also being taken with organisations filing writ petitions and citizens filing PILs against the draconian, unconstitutional bye-laws. Families are meant to stick together; we will not turn our backs on our dogs.
Chinthana Gopinath is a volunteer with a Bengaluru-based group, Compassion Plus Action Unlimited, that rescues and ‘re-homes’ dogs. She also runs a dog bakery called Pupcake.