Introspection Time

Sep 30 2014 : Mirror (Bangalore)

Today, I want to touch a sensitive topic ­ Our responsibility as pet parents. The first question to address is, do we have responsibilities at all? Yes, we do. We do legal ly and ethically. Legally, we are required to treat our animals well. That means give ample food, provide easy access to toilet, protection from the elements and at least some level of social interaction either with people or with other dogs. If not, by law, we can be fined and the dog can be taken away from us.

The more interesting question is our ethical responsibility.
Today, the mood in India is of “Clean India“. Socially, as pet parents, we take up responsibility by cleaning up after our dogs. Carry a plastic bag or newspaper and when our dogs poop, clean it up. Yes, we still need the social infrastructure of sufficient dustbins in public places. But we don’t need to wait for that to happen to start building a habit of cleaning up after ourselves.
In India, while we believe in living in harmony with our environment and the animals around us, we have an explosion in the number of dogs. This balance needs to return. There are several organisations breaking their backs at spaying and neutering street dogs, not to add more dogs into the scene. We can do our bit by adding no more dogs of our own.
By learning as much as possible about dogs before getting a dog, we are less likely to be taken by surprise with how much of a responsibility a dog is. Seek out help of dog lover friends and behaviourists to know what you are in for. Pick your dog based on realistic estimations of what you are capable of doing. This way you are less likely to feel completely in over your head and less likely to abandon your dog.
To further reduce the likelihood of abandonment is to not create more dogs. So not breeding dogs that you have and spayingneutering your dog at the right age will show your solidarity with pet parents and the animal lovers community.
Adopting a dog is also a very nice gesture of responsible pet parenting. It helps take one more dog off the streets and gives a home to a dog that needs one, instead of adding more to an already unmanageable population.
Part of our diversity is that while some people love dogs, some others just can’t stand them. Figuring out a way to live and let live is the only way to live in peace in such diversity. So it’s critical to keep dogs leashed in public places where people who don’t like dogs are going to be around.Work with local communities to see if there can be a time or space sharing arrangement in a local area for off-leash play for the dog. But not on streets. This is as much a responsibility towards our dogs as it’s towards our fellow citizens around us.
Our streets are not safe for our dogs. They are full of manmade machines called cars that our dogs don’t entirely understand. So it’s important for us to protect them from the perils of speeding cars and not expect them to understand the “norms“ of this world.
Introspection is difficult. One that requires us to put away our sense of entitlement, put ourselves in others’ shoes, in those of our dogs even and ask, “Are we doing right by them?“ It’s a tough question to ask. But I promise you that if we all did it, it will help our own little community of animal lovers. It’s introspection time.

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