What has Faith, this skeletal German Shepherd, got to do with the good government, you might ask. Well, for one, she might still be alive. For the last few years, Bengaluru has seen more elections, politicians, coalitions, but less governance and government. There are so many things that need to be done on the animal welfare front — yet, these things move hardly at all because of code of conduct, new ministers, bureaucratic shuffles and everything else, except ensuring that good government happens. Pet shops have kept animals in the most pathetic conditions. Go to Russell Market and see puppies piled up one on top of the other, without food, water or care. So did we do anything? Little, I’m afraid.
Don’t get me wrong, the rules are pretty strong. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA), however low the fines are, is still a strong framework, and the Dog Breeding and Marketing Rules (DBM) 2017 clearly enunciates how an exploitative breeding industry can at least be compassionately run and licensed. The Pet Shop Rules (PSR) 2018 demonstrate how the pet shop needs to be maintained and the licence needed. The BBMP Corporator Council Meeting has had the two laws, i.e, DBM & PSR on their agenda from July 2018, after a petition from CJ Memorial Trust. Despite our requests to simply implement what is already law in the city, it has still not seen light of day.
Hence, the government is responsible. Faith would never have had such a tragic life — starved, bred and exploited to death. When she was rescued a few days ago, she wagged her tail. She was given a hot meal, wagged that tail some more and then slept on a sofa — safe and with her belly full — perhaps for the first time in her life. Tragically, she never woke up.
We need a State Animal Welfare Board (SAWB) in Karnataka to implement the laws for animals. Not having one is a contempt of the Supreme Court, which had directed all chief secretaries to ensure SAWB and SPCAs at district level were set up. So the implementation of these excellent rules (which would check puppy mills, pet shops and wanton impulse buying of pets) just cannot go forward, and the state is also losing millions in license fees.
Why is it that Karnataka government despite its complete mish-mash in the last two years — jostling for steel flyovers to build a purse for the national election, elevated corridors to fund the continuance, and shameless horse trading to cling to power — has not moved a muscle despite several online petitions (bit.ly/sawbi & bit.ly/BucketteList), including one PIL that is awaiting response from the State Animal Husbandry (AH) Department. Even BBMP has been moved enough to write to the AH requesting the setup of the SAWB. But they just pass the buck. Breeders are an important stakeholder you see, and it’s also about an entity that doesn’t vote — the animal.
Why bother? The Chairman of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) had a commitment and confirmation from CM Kumaraswamy when they met him in Aug 2018 that the SAWB would be immediately set up. The files go back and forth, despite the Supreme Court mandate. This time, we are confident that the Chief Justice will emphatically rule on the pending PIL by CUPA to insist that the law of the land is followed. We hoped that at least cruelty can be remedied by a good judiciary, if not by good government.
But even here, we had to wait for code of conduct, then court vacations, an indifferent Animal Husbandry Department and minister, and now, we have the unholy mess —Karnataka politics. As we speak, several dogs like Faith remain inside breeders cages, starved and abused while producing litter after litter that you and I will buy. Unhealthy pups will be discarded as they develop problems — more pressure in the shelter system and our hearts. It seems we can do nothing about it, and clearly, neither can bureaucrats.
When political parties count their spoils and berths, look at her gently remonstrating eyes. Remember Faith and many others lie cold in their unmarked graves, simply because the political purse was mightier than their very indifferent pen. ‘