PETA receives nearly 60 calls a day on their 24-hour helpline number where people report and seek help on cruelty towards animals and emergency cases.
With Valentine’s Day round the corner, there will be many who might opt to gift their beloved a puppy, kitten or even a furry white bunny.
And while gifting pets on that day might make wonderful fodder for selfies, Instagram stories and social media posts aimed at getting the maximum ‘hearts’ and ‘likes’, the question remains, are they really that good an idea?
Deepak Chaudhary, Emergency Response Coordinator, PETA India says that nearly half of the calls that they receive post Valentine’s Day are about people confining their “pets” to a small cage, balcony or a room. In worst-case scenarios, there are reports of some people even abandoning them on the road.
Most of the animal shelters are filled beyond capacity with homeless animals, many of whom were former “pets” who, for one reason or another, didn’t fit into someone’s lifestyle and he adds that no matter how much they would like to, many people who receive animals as gifts find that they are unable to make the lifelong commitment to care for their new companion, thus leaving them behind in shelters or on the road.
Purabi Patra, Founder of Ekamra Animal welfare trust, Odisha questions the notion of considering a ‘living being’ to be a ‘gift’ as well.
“We don’t gift human babies, do we?” asks Patra adding that contrary to whims and fancies, keeping a pet is a very responsible decision which should not be taken abruptly.
“You just can't discard the animal like an old furniture whenever you feel you are not capable to keep them,” she says, adding that gifting someone a pet should be a big no because one can never take guarantee of their friend and their family's willingness to take the responsibility of the pet for another 10-15 years.
She urges people to stick to flowers and chocolates rather than gifting animals.
Shakuntala Majumdar, too echoes similar sentiments. The founder of Thane SPCA says that gifts should always be something useful to the person receiving it, or something a person is hankering for.
“On occasions like Valentine's Day, it is highly unlikely that either party knows each other well enough to know if the receiver is married enough to the idea to take on such a responsibility,” she says.
As a result, the pets gifted are mostly abandoned, uncared for or abused once the novelty wears off.
“Pets should not be the result of any impulsive emotion,” she cautions.
Not only activists, actor Jaya Bhattacharya is firmly against the idea of gifting a life on Valentine’s Day as well.
“Having a pet is a big responsibility that needs to be taken consciously after weighing all the pros and cons,” the seasoned actor says, urging, that it can't be forced and pets are not objects to be handed over as gifts as in most cases this leads to abandonment or changing owners.
For Director HSI India, Alokparna Sengupta, pets are for life and while gifting pets might seem like a nice surprise, one needs to be ready for this lifetime commitment. If a person or a family is not prepared to commit, it may end up being disastrous for both.
Experts say that it becomes very difficult for dogs or cats to change families constantly, and they can become confused, distraught and emotionally upset when moved to a new setting, just as we would in such a situation.
That, paired with the fact that they need a lot of time, love and care just does not make it a practical ‘gifting’ option for any occasion. Fizah Shah, Trustee for In Defence of Animals India, goes on to add that animals being abandoned on streets or in shelters often cause them to die lonely deaths.
“Animals are not for entertainment or gifting,” he opines.
Most importantly, Dr Naresh Upreti, Chief Veterinarian, Animal Rahat, advises that before adopting, one should consider the time and money involved in proper animal care. Questions like will he/she have time and patience to exercise and house train the animal? Is he or she prepared to pay for food and veterinary care, should become important criteria, he says adding that having a pet in a person’s life entails a lot of responsibilities.
“Questions like these need to be asked and considered before signing up for a pet,” he advises.
Animals, like us, require love and proper care to flourish. It is never advisable to buy an animal from breeders or pet stores. Animals are not gifts. If a person expresses willingness to look after the animal, the people involved should go to the local animal shelter together to choose the animal, having already discussed the obligations and long-term commitments involved.
As for gifting pets on V-Day, recent studies show that bulldogs and pugs have become one of the most popular breeds to be gifted on Valentine’s Day sparking a serious concern from vets in Britain who have called for their faces to stop being used on the cards to curb their popularity.
The British Veterinary Association say their prominence on merchandise is fuelling a craze for flat-faced pets despite concerns over their welfare, many of whom are increasingly being dumped over health scares, concerns and loss of interest.
As actor Jaya Bhattacharya says, “Don't treat pets as things.”