Birds and animals are kept in cramped wire cases with no space for movement

Pet shops in Puducherry continue to flout rules and have a free run with the State Animal Welfare Board, the enforcement agency for animal housing and care, yet to be constituted in the Union Territory.

Despite a direction of the Supreme Court in 2008 to all States and Union Territories to have functional State Animal Welfare Boards, the territorial government has shown little interest in constituting the board.

"The term of the State Animal Welfare Board ended in 2018 and the government is yet to reconstitute it. We are in the process of establishing the State Animal Welfare Board and the file is pending for approval with the government," said an official of the Department of Animal Husbandry.

The Centre had notified rules for pet shops in 2018 setting standards for animal housing and care across the country. The rules mandate that no person can operate a pet shop or carry on with the business of trade in pets without a certificate of registration from the board.

Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, 2018, notified by the Centre, pet shop owners have to register with the board within 60 days. The rules mandate that the local authority (municipalities) cannot issue licence for pet shops without a certificate of registration from the board.

A number of pet shops have mushroomed in Puducherry over the last few years and most of them have been functioning illegally without the certificate of registration. A visit to a number of pet shops revealed that birds and other pet animals are kept in cramped wired cases without being able to move about comfortably. Cockatoos and Budgerigars, an exotic species from Australia which are in high demand among pet lovers, are sold illegally.

A senior government official said most of the birds die in captivity due to ill-treatment such as clipping of their nails and wings and lack of water. "With the State Animal Welfare Board yet to be constituted, the department of animal husbandry can only monitor the pet shops. We can take action based on specific complaints and cannot seize the birds," he said.

In 2015, the State Animal Welfare Board was constituted with the Minister of Animal Husbandry as its chairman.

The board had met only once during its tenure, the official added.

Normally, the board, with a three-year tenure, would advise the government on measures to prevent unnecessary pain or suffering to animals generally and particularly when they were transported from one place to another or when they are used as performing animals or when kept in confinement.

An animal rights activist on anonymity said the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) too remained non-functional in Puducherry.

The illegal trade of wildlife and exotic species has been on the rise in pet shops and aquariums in Puducherry.

A few shops have been violating the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, by selling prohibited species, including star tortoises, sea horses, sea corals, Alexandrine parakeets and rose ringed parakeets.

The government should reconstitute the State Animal Welfare Board and Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SCPA) to regulate the pet shops, he said.

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