With an estimated 79.9 million homeless cats and dogs in the country living in shelters or streets, India has the highest relinquishment level compared to countries like the US, China, and Germany, a report by Mars Petcare India said on Thursday. Mars Petcare India, in partnership with an advisory board of leading animal welfare experts, released 'State of Pet Homelessness Index' report, identifying contributing factors in India.
The Index revealed that an estimated 80 million homeless cats and dogs in India are living in shelters or on the streets. Based on various factors influencing pet homelessness - all pets wanted, cared for, and welcome - India had an overall index tally of 2.4 out of 10.
Despite an increase in pet ownership during the COVID-19 pandemic, India figures show that during the lockdown two-thirds of pet parents had a newfound appreciation for their pets, and six in 10 people felt encouraged to adopt one.
However, India's data highlighted several challenges like housing limitations, financial limitations, practical barriers, and lack of behavioural awareness about stray pets, leading to people buying breed dogs and cats instead of adopting from shelters.
Relinquishment levels are higher in India than on a global level with half (50 per cent) of current and previous owners stating they have relinquished a pet in the past, compared to 28 per cent on a global level. About 34 per cent said they have abandoned a dog on the streets, and 32 per cent have abandoned a cat.
The Index is derived from data from more than 200 global and local sources across nine countries, supplemented by new quantitative research based on attitudinal data.
"Until now, there was no way to measure and track the scale of the issue of homeless stray dogs and cats across the world and in India...The EPH Index is a call to action, we know this is just a beginning and we welcome partnerships with government, NGO, and individual stakeholders who want to ensure all companion animals are wanted, cared for, and welcome," Mars Petcare India Managing Director Ganesh Ramani said.
As per the EPH Index data for India, 82 per cent of dogs in India are considered street dogs, 53 per cent of people feel street dogs present a danger to people, 65 per cent of people fear a dog bite, and 82 per cent of people believe that street dogs should be removed and put in shelters, out of the streets.
Education around street dogs can play a large role in reducing stigmas and driving a culture of ownership. Vaccinations can reduce animal-human conflict and effective sterlisation can reduce the number of strays on the streets, it added.
On the 'All Pets Wanted' scale that evaluated reproduction control programmes, roaming, and stray populations, and cultural attitudes towards pet ownership, there was a relatively low amount of companion animal sterilisation and vaccination in India. The country also scored low on proactive partners enabling responsible breeding practices and enabling owners' skills and knowledge.
Under 'All Pets Cared For' category that evaluated rates of shelter adoption and pet ownership and access to veterinary care, the report found that there is a low number of veterinarians per capita, specifically small animal vets per capita as well. Also, there was a high percentage of diseases in dogs in India, including rabies, TVT, and fleas/ticks.
The Index evaluated barriers to pet ownership/adoption and responsible pet ownership, as well as government support and policy under 'All Pets Welcome'. The report stated that the cost of owning a pet is relatively expensive in India and that the total market value of the pet care industry in India is low, though it is growing rapidly.
There is a need for stronger enforcement of animal welfare standards and law enforcement against cruelty to animals, especially at local levels of government, it added.
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