‘Indians Prefer Pedigree Dogs But Know Little About Pet Ownership’

Gargi Sen, a Kolkata-based documentary filmmaker, says the middle class often scoffs at native dogs and shirks their responsibilities as a pet parent. Her views:

Large cities contain several cities within themselves, often distinct from each other, with well defined boundaries and cultures, at times language too. Kolkata has several such pockets. It is a city with a large population that defies imagination. The fault-lines that carve out the city are not visible easily unless you know what to look for. And the prism to view might not be the city at all. I found a prism in the dogs of Kolkata.

The ‘Mahanagar’ is strangely kind to its population of street dogs. I say strangely because I have not encountered this level of care and compassion anywhere else. At the opposite end are pedigree dogs kept by the middle class. And this too is strange because I have met very few middle-class families who keep Indies, or rescued, as pets. It is a prestige issue really!

I have five ‘rescue dogs’ and two cats. The cats came with me from Delhi but the dogs got added here. I was looking for a dog as I was living alone, and cats, though the most lovable companions, are no good with strange noises or disturbances. They run away. My friends brought Star (Tara) to me from Bombay. A few months later, my neighbour, Soma, asked if I could keep two dogs in the gallery outside my home. They have to be kept tied and once they settle in, they can be let loose. It didn’t work.

I couldn’t bear to have the two dogs tied up. The gallery is open to the elements. Moreover, two street dogs live near my home. Elderly and lovable, they would get disturbed with this new element. Laali and Tara had spent their entire life being tied under the Gariahat Bridge. They are delightful companions. Mahadeb had been abandoned twice. A big dog with sad eyes, he behaves like a pup. Finally, Bagha. He was abandoned outside my house by his owner. Initially, I let him be outside and only fed him. But my neighbours didn’t like him at all and he faced violence. So, he joined my menagerie.

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I brought in a dog-trainer, consulted my friend Aaron in Delhi, who is an animal behaviour specialist, and I read. The Hidden Life of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas opened up the mysteries of dog-behaviour. I found this to be the most useful of the lot. The advice went against the grain of popular beliefs and very soon my dogs settled in and by and large became easy, happy and obedient who lived in harmony with each other and the two cats. Actually, the cats rule the roost.

The pejorative term for street dogs in Kolkata is Neri Kutta. My neighbours are offended that I keep Indies. My sister-in-law’s friends complained to her about my strange behaviour, living alone and keeping street dogs. My immediate neighbour snarled at me: “Why do you keep Neri Kutta? Can’t you keep ‘good’ dogs?” His wife threatened to send Mafuza, my house-help, to jail. Yet, this gentleman is silent when members of the ISKCON, behind my house, sing so loudly, and tunelessly, with drums, at ungodly hours. Or, during the Navratras, the Ved Bhawan held all-night singing sessions with instruments, on a mic, and periodically raised the battle cry of ‘Jai Shri Ram’. He neither snarled nor protested. In fact, the quietude of the ‘bhadralok’ residents was loud indeed. Not a peep in protest!

The middle class keep pedigree dogs, bought with obscene amounts of money. Dog-walkers walk these pet dogs mostly, though there are exceptions. Most dogs are muzzled to stop them from smelling or eating the garbage. No one carries a poop scoop, which, in Delhi, is a law. I used to carry one but people laughed so much that I stopped. Therefore, these entitled pets of the entitled, take a dump anywhere, on the road, pavements, in front of doorways. The dog-walker is not bothered. Indeed, the classist behaviour of the entitled middle class is adding filth to this already filthy city.

As told to Amit Sengupta

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‘Why Penalise All Pet Parents For The Fault Of A Few Bad Apples?’

Tushar Srivastava, a pet parent, says a blanket ban on supposedly ferocious dog breeds is akin to throwing baby out with the bathwater. His views:

As a devoted parent to a Rottweiler, lovingly called Gabbar, the recent ban on 23 dog breeds has left me deeply troubled. This blanket prohibition not only unfairly targets responsible pet owners but also promotes misconceptions about certain breeds, casting a shadow on the future of canine companionship. As I am trying to recover through all-round stigmatization and prejudice against select pets, I implore society to reconsider its approach to our furry companions.

This ban not only penalizes responsible pet parents like me but also threatens to erase these majestic creatures from our communities. It is heartbreaking to witness the misguided belief that banning breeds will solve behavioral issues, as it neglects the root cause of canine misbehavior and neglects the responsibility of owners. Such an approach is akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The imposition of fines on pet owners whose dogs misbehave is a reasonable measure to encourage responsible pet ownership. However, banning entire breeds only serves to perpetuate fear and discrimination. It is akin to punishing an entire classroom for the actions of a few disruptive students. Instead, we should focus on education, training, and support for pet owners to foster positive relationships between dogs and their communities.

We must encourage our children to form meaningful bonds with dogs

Moreover, the notion that certain breeds are inherently dangerous is not only scientifically unfounded but also unjust. Rottweilers, like any other breed, thrive in loving environments with proper socialization and training. They are not born aggressive; rather, aggression is often a result of neglect, abuse, or lack of socialization. By condemning entire breeds, we risk endorsing stereotypes and depriving our future generations of the joy of canine companionship.

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As a dog parent, I refuse to let fear dictate my love for the furry companions. My Rottweiler is not a threat to society; he is a beloved member of my family, showering us with unwavering loyalty and affection. He deserves to be judged based on his individual temperament and behavior, not on misguided perceptions of its breed.

Furthermore, the consequences of a blanket breed ban extend far beyond the realm of pet ownership. By prohibiting certain breeds, we send a message to future generations that dogs are to be feared and avoided rather than being embraced as loving buddies. We risk depriving children of the opportunity to form meaningful bonds with these incredible animals and instead perpetuate a culture of fear and mistrust.

Instead of resorting to draconian measures, let us work together to promote responsible pet ownership and create communities where all dogs are welcome. This includes providing resources for training and socialization, implementing stricter penalties for irresponsible owners, and challenging harmful stereotypes about certain breeds.

In conclusion, the recent ban on 23 dog breeds is not only unjust but also counterproductive. As a Rottweiler parent, I urge society to reconsider its approach to pet policies and embrace a more compassionate and rational approach. Let us not condemn entire breeds based on fear and prejudice but instead celebrate the diversity and beauty of our canine companions.

Together, we can build communities where all dogs, regardless of breed, are valued and cherished members of society.

As told to Deepti Sharma