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Why Activists Are Up in Arms Against Illegal Sale of Dogs Online

Online platforms such as OLX, Quikr and Facebook are indulging in illegal sale of pets.

Updated
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“Import bloodline lab puppies available pure breed”

“[phone number] majestic quality shihtzu puppies available”

“Call [phone number] American Pitbull Registered Crop Ear puppies for sale”

These ads run onto hundreds of pages on Quikr, a website used to sell used and new furniture, appliances, and personal goods.

Online platforms such as OLX, Quikr and Facebook are indulging in illegal sale of pets.
Online platforms such as OLX, Quikr and Facebook are indulging in illegal sale of pets.
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Bagheera was one such puppy who was advertised on the site. Just 21 days old, he was bought online for Rs 13,000 and landed up in the possession of a young first-time dog owner.

No one would have predicted that the white Labrador puppy would soon meet a tragic and painful end.

As a result of unhygienic breeding conditions Bagheera soon became afflicted with canine distemper. Furthermore, the young pup had not yet weaned off his mother. He was given up to a foster home and then handed over to CARE on 19 April. After 15 days of suffering, the little puppy breathed his last.

Online platforms such as OLX, Quikr and Facebook are indulging in illegal sale of pets.
As a result of unhygienic breeding conditions Bagheera soon became afflicted with canine distemper.
(Photo Courtesy: Bagheera)

Facebook posts about Bagheera’s ordeal have been doing the rounds on Facebook for the past few days.

His death has animal activists and welfare workers up in arms against unethical and illegal online sale of pets.

A petition started by the Bengaluru-based CJ Memorial Trust, founded by CXO search consultant Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, urges Quikr CEO Pranay Chulet, Indiamart co-founders Dheeraj Agrawal and Brijesh Agrawal, Facebook policy head Ankhi Das, Ministry of Environment and Forests and many others to ban online sale of pets.

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Online platforms such as OLX, Quikr and Facebook are indulging in illegal sale of pets.

Many More Bagheeras Get Unnoticed

According to a post by Anushree Thammanna, who was caring for Bagheera during his last days, Bagheera would “search for a nipple” whenever she carried him. He would also cry “every hour and a half – probably for his mother.”

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While Bagheera’s story is tragic, it is one of the few which have come to light. Animal lovers and welfare workers who have been sharing the petition and making noise around the issue, have reiterated time and again that we are all responsible for many such Bagheeras.

He (Bagheera) went because some of the biggest online sites didn’t care enough for either his suffering or to obey the nation’s law to ask for a breeders certificate, or check if the dog was above the minimum eight weeks of age. And we didn’t speak up. Check the 728 pages of listings of pups that still exist on the site. Or the puppy listings on Facebook. Check out the new meat – squirming baby Bagheeras for sale, while relaxing with hot tea on your couch. Check out the blood on your hands.
Chennai-based animal rights activist Shravan Krishnan said in a Facebook post
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Priya also explains that this is not a new issue — it has been around for several months now. This is also not the first time activists have tried to draw the online platforms’ attention to it.

There are many examples of dogs being sold on OLX, and Facebook groups also indulging in similar trade. This is even after Facebook’s policy states that sale of guns, drugs and animals is not allowed on its platforms. The anonymity that the internet provides has only catalysed the replaceability and commodification that has become associated with puppies.
Priya argues in a Facebook post
Online platforms such as OLX, Quikr and Facebook are indulging in illegal sale of pets.
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When TNM checked OLX, we found a number of posts selling cats, some of them advertising explicitly – “for mating purposes only”.

On Quikr and Indiamart, there are many classified ad listings for the sale of puppies with many posts, including photos of someone holding very small pups.
Online platforms such as OLX, Quikr and Facebook are indulging in illegal sale of pets.
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Flouting Regulations and Laws

Priya insists that while the petition and the social media campaign against online sale of dogs is driven from a place of grief after Bagheera’s death, the reasoning itself is rooted in law and existing regulations.

“A bleeding heart does not always mean bleeding brain,” she says, and explains three ways in which online sale of pets is illegal.

Firstly, section 4 of the Dog Breeding and Marketing Rules (2017) of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), mandates that all breeders must obtain licenses.

Further, “all licensed pet shops shall source/procure pups from licensed and registered breeders only, with proof of the same being available in the shape of adequate records,” the rules state.

Priya argues that aggregators such as Quikr are supposed to ask for and display licenses of breeders from everyone who posts a sale of puppies on their platform.

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Online platforms such as OLX, Quikr and Facebook are indulging in illegal sale of pets.

Secondly, puppies have to be a minimum eight weeks of age before being sold or even transported (unless the AWBI permits otherwise in specific cases). Like Bagheera, there are many puppies, much younger in age, which have been put up for sale on these platforms.

Thirdly, public display of puppies on a public platform for immediate sale is also not allowed under section 13 of the Dog Breeding and Marketing Rules which talks about ‘conditions for sale’.

“So technically, display of pups online in a public forum contravenes this. It’s illegal,” Priya argues.

OLX, in response to the petition, said that the listings for cats were visible on their site because sellers do not need to obtain licenses, unlike for dogs. An OLX spokesperson said:

We are cognizant of the regulatory regime in relation to trade in dogs and have taken necessary steps to seek advertisers’ compliance with it. 
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“Only users licensed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rules, 2016, are allowed to post advertisements in relation to dogs on OLX. It is relevant to note that the restriction under these rules apply only to traders and breeders of dogs. Advertisers in relation to cats are not required by the rules to obtain a license. For this reason, you may have encountered advertisements in relation to cats on the OLX platform,” the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, Quikr responded saying, "We were recently made aware of dog breeding malpractices and thank the petitioners for bringing it to our attention. We fully support them in eradicating cruelty towards animals and are committed to healthy practices. We are working on doing the right thing.”

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Taking the Campaign Forward

Priya shares that they have received plenty of support from animal welfare and rescue organisations from other cities as well, including, Mumbai, Chennai and Pune.

A number of people have also come together to report the Facebook posts illegally and unethically selling dogs and puppies on social media platforms on Tuesday.

They will also be reporting similar ads on marketplace aggregators to the consumer forum.

The option of filing a PIL is also under consideration, Priya stated.

The online petition has over 11,000 signatures so far. You can access it here.

(The story was originally published on The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)

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