Prime Minister Narendra Modi put an interesting and significant twist to his ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ campaign by exhorting people, in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ on Sunday, to bring home Indian breeds of dogs, in preference to those with ‘fancy pedigrees’. He will certainly find support for this cause across all sections of society, irrespective of political affiliations. This has been advocated for years by animal rights activists and, hopefully, the large number of Modi fans, particularly, will take this to heart. In this context, he should have also underlined that the often ill-treated street dog is the most ‘Indian’ of breeds, having the characteristics to be a useful and loving pet. The mix of genes ensures not only immunity to diseases, but also suitability to tough environs.
The obsession with ‘pedigreed’ dogs, no matter how unsuitable they are to the Indian climate, also creates an environment of cruelty towards them. Large breeds that normally require open areas are cooped up in small homes and flats merely to satisfy the egos of owners who want to be noticed for how expensive their pets are. Dog breeders, who can obtain only a few animals of any breed, churn puppies out like factories. This results in inbreeding and much suffering for the animal owing to susceptibility to several ailments. Even more, this kind of breeding aggravates aggressive behaviour in some breeds, leading to their ill-treatment, quite severe in some cases.
This concern for the well-being of animals should also include support for the very important campaigns being undertaken in many parts of the country to immunise and sterilise the street dogs, to combat the spread of rabies and keep their numbers under control. It must also be noted that this does not imply in any way the total elimination of such dogs in the towns and villages of the country. Traditionally, every ‘mohalla’ has had its dogs that provide security against thieves and other anti-social elements. They provide the necessary warning about various activities so that the local people can respond appropriately. It is worth mentioning that, in the present day, there are many people who realise the value of such animals, feeding and taking care of them. Civil society, led by the moral support provided now by none other than the Prime Minister, should adopt the right attitude towards them. Too often has it been seen that the occasional negative incident involving them is blown out of proportion by media and public opinion that is not sensitised on these issues. This is why the right sentiment needs to be encouraged, which will bring great happiness to humans and canines, both.