The Chennai Corporation issues licences for around 160 dogs a month. But the unfortunate part is that though there are as many buying or adopting pets, there are almost as many citizens disowning them, say veterinarians and volunteers working for animal welfare organisations.
While there is no complete data on the number of pets being adopted or disowned, it is an issue volunteers try and address time and again. People for Animals (PfA), for instance, receives three to four calls a day from owners requesting that their pet be taken over.
“These are owners of pets ranging between one and 16 years, who say they have become single owner or their tenant is not allowing them or rearing the pet is getting difficult,” says a spokesperson of PfA.
If mongrels are increasingly seen as one of the most adopted pets, then Great Dane, Labradors and Alsatians are among the most abandoned breeds.
Changing lifestyles such as increasing purchasing power, need for a companion and the emerging role of children and youth are also to be noted. These youngsters are also turning Good Samaritans. Whether it is the influence of television commercials or the empathy factor, the good thing is that pets add a whole new dimension to a household.
Maitreyi Sundar, a Standard IV student at KFI, started volunteering for Blue Cross when her pet Labrador Rambo died. This is besides volunteering at dog shows to help community pets find a home. “I do it in Rambo’s memory,” she says.
Little acts of kindness can bring about significant change. This motivated a few school and college students to start The Animal Guardian Society (TAGS) in December 2007. The group has so far saved more than 70 mongrels and have found homes for them. German Shepherd, Labrador, Doberman, Dachshund and Golden Retriever are some of most popular breeds in the city, with Pug being the most wanted pet. While rare breeds such as St. Bernad, Bull Mastiff and Fila Brazillia are also reared by some, they need utmost care and not all might be suitable for the city’s weather conditions.
As much as one is seeing a change in attitude of people towards animals, welfare organisations say one must adopt a local breed. Their argument is that pedigree breeds are not suitable for local climatic conditions and they are unhealthy because of inbreeding.
“Foreign breeds have less immunity and need to be taken care of properly to avoid infection. It is better to maintain their hygiene as disease prevention is better than the costly treatment,” says B. Nagarajan, chief veterinary physician of Ballo Multi-Speciality Pet Clinic. He adds that Persian and Siamese cats are also attractive pets. Some own the rare breed of Mainecoon cats.
However, challenges such as restrictions by apartment complexes and high maintenance costs prevent many from owing a pet. Even a recent ruling by the Madras High Court forbidding pets in houses if they cause nuisance to neighbours is reason enough to discourage homes.
A. Elizabeth Shiney, who resides in an apartment in Aminjikarai, says initially, neighbours took offence to her pet.
“We have now convinced them that our Dachshund will not cause inconvenience,” she says.
“Behaviour of pets depends on the training given. But some apartment complexes in the same street are very clear that they do not want owners with pets.”
Perhaps that is why apartment residents prefer small dog breeds such as Dachshund, Miniature Pinscher, Beagle and Irish Terrier for easy maintenance.
R. Mugilan, a resident of Anna Nagar, has a Golden Retriever for its smartness, Great Dane for being a crowd-puller and toy-sized Miniature Pinscher also called Minpin for its cuteness and easy maintenance. Vets say that as much as there is a need to see more people considering adoption, greater awareness also needs to be created.
(With inputs from Liffy Thomas, K. Lakshmi and Ajai Sreevatsan)