Liquid brown eyes stare dolefully from behind the mesh at the entrance of the animal enclosure at the Union Government’s Animal Quarantine Centre. This little beagle puppy is one among the 69 who are being held at the centre due to a major discrepancy in the documentation pertaining to their import. “Beagles are gentle, loving dogs that do not get aggressive at all. , That is why they are used in the laboratories. They are normally 4-9 months old when experiments are performed on them and as per regulatory protocol, these dogs are killed after experimentation, said Shiranee Pereira of the People for Animals Trust.

This batch of puppies however, may be lucky as Union Minister Jayanthi Natarajan has taken up their cause and promised strict action if any violations of rules were unearthed in the ongoing investigation. They were brought here on October 19 by Bangalore-based, Advinus laboratory and bred by Beijing Marshall Biotechnology Company Limited, China. The latter had claimed that the puppies were pets though later, it was found they were to be used for testing.

“I certainly think we need to strengthen our laws. I want to be the voice of these 70 voiceless animals. Such cruelty in the name of science is indeed a terrible crime,” said Ms. Natarajan, who visited the centre on Saturday.

“I am delighted that the Minister has taken this step.” says Dr Chinny Krishna, chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India. “There is substantial research to show that animal testing is not as essential as people make it out to be.”

According to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, animal testing is not disallowed but is strictly regulated by several bodies including the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experimentation on Animals (CPCSEA). While the laboratory had a license to import 434 animals to conduct 14 separate tests, investigations reveal that the tests for which the animals had been imported had already been conducted. Chinny Krishna, chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India, said “This indicates that either the dogs were left over from a previous experiment or they were bred in-house and the CPCSEA was not intimated. We have incomplete information as of now but we are planning to issue a show-cause notice and will take required action.”

According to Chaitanya Koduri, Science Policy Advisor of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the CPCSE needs to have more stringent guidelines on the absolute number of animals imported.

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