India has 80 million homeless dogs, cats, has highest levels of abandonment: Report

With an estimated 79.9 million homeless cats and dogs in the country living in shelters or streets, India has the highest level of abandonment compared to countries like the United States, China and Germany, a report by Mars Petcare India on Thursday said. Mars Petcare India, in partnership with an advisory board of leading animal welfare experts, has released the ‘Pet Homelessness Status Index’ report, which identified the contributing factors in India.

The index revealed that an estimated 80 million homeless cats and dogs in India live in shelters or on the streets. Based on the various factors that influence pet homelessness – all pets are wanted, cared for, and welcome – India had an overall index of 2.4 out of 10.

Despite the increase in pet ownership during the COVID-19 pandemic, figures in India show that during the lockdown, two-thirds of pet parents had a new appreciation for their pets, and six in 10 people felt encouraged to adopt one.

However, India’s data highlighted several challenges such as housing and financial constraints, practical barriers and a lack of behavioral awareness around stray pets, which leads people to buy dogs and cats rather than adopt from shelters.

Abandonment levels in India are higher than globally with half (50 per cent) of current and former owners stating that they have abandoned a pet in the past, compared to 28 per cent globally. About 34 percent said they had left a dog on the streets, and 32 percent had abandoned a cat.

The index is derived from data from more than 200 global and local sources from nine countries, supplemented by new quantitative research based on attitude data.

“Until now, there has been 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 the beginning and we welcome partnerships with government, NGOs and stakeholders Individuals who wish to ensure that all companion animals are wanted, cared for and welcome,” said Ganesh Ramani, Managing Director of Mars Petcare India.

According to data from the EPH Index for India, 82 percent of dogs in India are considered street dogs, 53 percent of people feel that street dogs are a danger to people, 65 percent of people fear a dog bite, and 82 percent of people believe That street dogs should be kept away from the streets and placed in shelters.

Education about street dogs can play a huge role in reducing stigma and driving a culture of ownership. She added that vaccinations can reduce human-animal conflict and effective sterilization can reduce the number of strays on the streets.

On the ‘All Pets Wanted’ scale that assessed breeding control programmes, roaming, stray groups, and cultural attitudes toward pet ownership, there was a relatively low amount of companion animal spaying and vaccination in India. The country also scored low on proactive partners who enabled responsible breeding practices and empowered owners’ skills and knowledge.

Within the “Care for All Pets” category that assessed shelter adoption rates, pet ownership and access to veterinary care, the report found that there were a low number of vets per capita, specifically small vets per capita as well. Also, there has been a high incidence of diseases in dogs in India, including rabies, TVT, and fleas/ticks.

The index assessed barriers to pet ownership/adopting and responsible pet ownership, as well as government support and policy under the heading “All Pets Welcome”. The report stated that the cost of owning a pet is relatively expensive in India and the overall market value of the pet grooming industry in India is low, although it is growing rapidly.

She added that stronger enforcement of animal welfare standards and law enforcement against cruelty to animals is needed, especially at local levels of government.

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