There’s disappointment in store for dog enthusiasts who prefer shopping abroad for their preferred breeds, with the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) issuing a directive, effective from April 15, that forbids the import of pedigreed dogs unless the importer has lived abroad for at least two years without a break and is moving back to India.
While the CBEC’s new rule is ostensibly to ensure dogs from foreign shores don’t face problems in India due to the local climate, it has raised hackles among dog owners and breeders over what they term an unreasonable restriction but the new restriction is not without welcome.
|At Priya and Roshan Poduval’s farmhouse in Chandni Chowk
Imports of pedigreed canines have been largely unrestricted in the past five years. In the past year alone, the city saw 10,000 imported breeds being registered and the numbers continue to rise steadily, says Laxman Maddewad, administration in-charge at the Poona Kennel Club.
“The number of registered pedigreed dogs has been increasing over the last five years. The new rule could change this trend. Not all pedigreed dogs are direct descendants of imported ones; we often need to trace their lineage. But breeders who regularly import dogs will surely suffer,” he said.
Vijay Chavan, a Wanowrie-based breeder, agrees, saying this restriction on imports will affect the quality of lineage of future generations of pups that are bred here, besides affecting business.
|Khadki resident Sebastian David with Scruffy, his St Bernard
What could be more worrying is that the business of importing dogs could turn into a smuggling racket. As it is, adds Chavan, the long journey via air cargo has a negative impact on the canines. “Many die en route, while those who survive land here in a weakened condition.
Later, they are groomed and fostered to make them fit for breeding. Banning imports won’t curb the trend; it’ll just become an illegal operation,” he said. The question of acclimatisation arises mainly in the case of breeds like the St Bernard, a native of the Italian and Swiss Alps, and Siberian Huskies which are built for survival in much colder climes, says freelance trainer Neha Nageshkar.
“The anatomies of such dogs, physical and mental attributes and life spans are typically influenced by their geographies. Taking them out of their natural habitats and relocating them to warmer regions amounts to cruelty towards them, in my opinion. The new CBEC rule is welcome,” Nageshkar points out.
|Kunal Mhaske with his pets
However, dog owners like Sebastian David beg to differ. David, a Khadki resident who owns Scruffy, a 16-month-old St Bernard, says he spends up to Rs 10,000 per month on his dog including on air-conditioned environs.
“Imposing restrictions on grounds of health hazards and climate acclimatization seems non-researched. My St Bernard is absolutely fit. Certainly, owning highly-pedigreed dogs is feasible only for those who can afford it. Restrictions on import will defeat their passion,” says David.
The CBEC circular, dated April 8, states that it is in accordance with the Baggage Rules, 1998 which states that the import would be subject to production of requisite health certificates from the country of origin, and examination of the said pet by the concerned Quarantine Officer here. Import of pets, in general would continue to be governed by Directorate General of Foreign Trade Policy.
Dr Amit Apte, a veterinarian, says a blanket norm for all kinds of dogs is difficult. “Many parameters come into play while planning to move a dog from one country to another.
Breeds like the Rottweiler, St Bernard, Siberian Husky and so on are typically meant to inhabit colder regions. When they are shifted to warmer regions like India, it can lead to an adverse impact on not just the quality of their life but their life span as well,” he says.
Apte adds dogs aged three months to six years could possibly sustain air travel better than younger or older ones. “There can’t be a thumb rule for all breeds.
For snub-nosed breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs and Boxers, air travel can pose respiratory issues at high altitudes in cargo holds, where temperatures can be extreme. Moreover, the decision to transport a dog from one place to another should be studied on a case-specific basis,” he says.
Supreme Court lawyer Dhruv Shukla, who has studied the CBEC circular, says, “The circular fails to reason what exactly would be achieved by allowing the import of pets as baggage to persons transferring their residence to India after two years of continuous stay abroad. Also, the circular is silent on the issue of import of animals for testing by drug and cosmetic makers.”
Nightclub Penthouze’s director, Kunal Mhaske, owns three Labradors, one Caravan hound, four horses, ducks, hens and birds. “The circular lacks sense and logic. How can the CBEC standardise the process of importing pets? It needs to be decided on a case-to-case basis.
One norm can’t be applied to all dogs. This circular will lead to deterioration in the lineage of high-end breeds. Instead, the government should focus on curbing cruelty during transit. Banning imports is not prudent.”
Priya and Roshan Poduval, breeders and founders of Peppy Paws Pets’ Resort in Mundhwa, own a farmhouse in Chandni Chowk where eight of their pet dogs — two St Bernards, four Labradors, one British Bulldog and one Shih Tzu — reside.
“We bought the bulldog on a vacation to Bangkok three years ago. It cost us about a lakh of rupees back then. Certainly, challenges to maintaining such dogs are plenty,” says Priya.
The new CBEC circular
• Applicable to persons transferring their residence to India after two years of continuous stay abroad
• Not more than two pets can be imported
• Mandatory health certificate from the country of origin of the pet
• Mandatory examination of said pets by the concerned Quarantine Officer in India
► Banning imports won’t curb the trend; it’ll just become an illegal operation. Plus, it will affect breeders’ business
- Vijay Chavan, Breeder, Wanowrie
► Taking the dogs out of their natural habitats and relocating them to warmer regions amounts to cruelty towards them
- Neha Nageshkar, Certified trainer