More than three years after notification of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules 2018, making it compulsory to register pet shops in Delhi and other states with the State Animal Welfare Board (SAWB), no only one pet shop in Delhi has registered so far, according to a Right to Know (RTI) response from the state’s livestock department. A department official told HT that they have already started working on registering pet stores.
Aiming to make the city’s pet store trade more accountable, rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Store) Rules 2018 also require stores to keep records of the different animal species they have, their purchase and their sale; details of veterinary checks; and other criteria to ensure decent living conditions for captive animals.
A three-month inspection – from October to December last year – of more than 30 pet shops in Delhi by a team of Ahimsa Fellowship volunteers, organized by a group of animal welfare NGOs, also revealed a number of violations in pet shops, ranging from the sale of animals prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, cramped cages, lack of temperature control systems and lack of separate quarantine areas for injured or sick animals, among others.
Lack of data on Delhi’s pet shops had become an issue during the pandemic, when the March 2020 lockdown forced many people to abruptly close their shops, leaving birds and animals locked inside. The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) had subsequently issued instructions in April, asking SAWBs to evacuate animals stuck in pet shops with the help of the local administration, but the lack of data on these stores posed a problem.
An RTI filed by the Fellowship – HT has a copy – in November 2021 shows nothing has changed a year later with the Delhi Livestock Department – under which the SAWB falls – stating that it has no trace of a pet store in the city. Sunayna Sibal, an Ahimsa fellow who filed the RTI and also participated in the inspection, said the pet shops are technically operating “illegally” and violating several standards in the process.
“Ninety-five percent of pet stores had cages that were too small for the bird or animal they housed. There were no exhausts or temperature control systems in most stores which made the situation uncomfortable for these animals and no pet store had a separate quarantine area for sick or sick animals . We also found stores displaying animals outside, leaving them exposed to the elements,” said Sibal, saying he discovered at least seven species banned for sale under the Wildlife Protection Act in these stores. .
“These included the Indian star tortoise, scaly-breasted munias, quails, lesser wigeon ducks, parakeets, gray francolins and Indian silverbills, among others. An inspection by the SAWB reportedly led to the seizure of these animals and when the store closes, but the lack of accountability results in these animals being sold openly,” she added.
Asher Jesudoss, who was also part of the inspection, said that since no sale and purchase trails were maintained by pet stores, it was difficult to determine how the animals were purchased. “The rules make it mandatory to keep records of sales and purchases, to prevent forced breeding and illegal acquisition of animals. We are unable to verify this currently,” he said.
Ahimsa member Akshita Kukreja said they shared a report on the inspection with Delhi Chief Secretary Vijay Dev on December 28, 2021 but have yet to receive a response. “Another RTI will be filed soon as to whether action has been taken or not,” Kukreja said.
Emphasizing that every registration of a pet store will fetch the government ₹5,000, Gauri Maulekhi, administrator of People for Animals (PFA), said compulsory registration is one that will also benefit the national treasury. Maulekhi estimated that there are more than 500 pet shops in the capital.
“The pet trade is a multi-crore business that was completely unregulated until 2018. Now, the new rules call for each of these businesses to pay a registration fee to the state government, complies with imposed conditions and provides receipts to customers. Keeping multiple species in dirty and crowded spaces is not only cruelty to animals, but also a danger to public health,” said Maulekhi, adding that despite several appeals over the past few years, the development department of Delhi had not acted.
An official from the state Department of Animal Husbandry, on condition of anonymity, told HT that the department has data on around 150 pet shops in Delhi. “So far, we have only received two applications for registration. Advertisements and notices have been posted in the past asking pet stores to register with us, but a new campaign will be launched soon to ensure the same,” the official said, adding that officers at the district level were also asked to prepare a database of pet shops under their jurisdiction.
“This will ensure that there is no cruelty in Delhi’s pet shops. We will not impose an immediate fine on any shop and a little more time will be given to them to register, otherwise the shop will be sealed,” the official added.
In the meantime, the development department has not responded to HT’s questions.
“Not an easy process”
Pet store owners, when contacted, said the lack of transparency in the registration process made it difficult for most to complete the process. “A number of owners have tried to register through the website, but the state animal care board website does not work most of the time. They also don’t have a physical office currently, which makes them difficult to approach,” said Pawan Garg, owner of Bittoo Pet Shop in the Safdarjung enclave.
Lakshay Kumar, owner of the Fancy Fish Aquarium and Pet Shop in Rohini, also supported mandatory registrations. “There is no clarity on the registration process, but all pet shops want to be registered,” he said.