On the sideline of the launch of Pet Homelessness Index Creature Companion interacted with Ganesh Ramani, MD Mars Petcare. He enumerated the importance of the Index and how they are going to work towards creating better ecosystem for pets and pet parents.

Tell us about the Pet Homelessness Index and its impact.

 We have launched Pet Homelessness Index and the report is an eye opener.

The document revealed that a staggering figure of 85 per cent of companion animals –  dogs and cats included live on the streets;  this percentage 

roughly translates  to 6- 8 CR  is undisputed and of a high magnitude. 

Pet dogs at home number roughly around 3 CR while street dogs are more than double.  These many dogs and cats living on the street is a huge challenge which

everybody is mindful of  but there are no concentrated efforts towards reducing the number. 

Pet Homelessness Index is a way to understand the magnitude of the problem and to address the matter in a systematic manner.  

For the sake of convenience pet population has been divided into: 

Pets  wanted | Pets cared for | Pets welcomed

What inspired Mars Petcare to conduct a study of this magnitude not only in India but also in other countries? 

We believe in a better world for pets and this is one such initiative reaffirming our commitment.    

We humans who gain from pets in both sociological and physiological ways – by enhancing their health and happiness factors, are responsible for creating a better world for them. 

Pets are not just those creature companions we keep at home;  we must extend care and comfort to companion animals on the streets and strive to impact their lives in a positive manner . 

Pet homelessness is a global challenge. In developed countries homeless companion animals are kept in shelters which are well funded. In India, we see them mostly on the  streets due to lack of funding to animal shelters and space constrains.

What challenges do you envisage while addressing this problem and the action plan that you have in place?

 Population increases faster than the result of birth control program therefore multi-prong strategies such as  birth control as well as vaccinations,

supporting shelters and finding homes is the need of the hour. 

Cultural attitude- We need to work towards changing cultural attitude. How people view pets in homes. What are their beliefs? People can be classified into pet lovers;  OR those  who dislike or are uncomfortable,  afraid and indifferent to pets – Unfortunately, this is the larger group. Our endeavour will be to address  

Education: Educating larger audiences about the needs of homeless pets as well as pets at home. People are afraid of street pets because of diseases like rabbis, plague, ticks and fleas. We need to address these genuine concerns.

This requires reaching out to even non-pet keeping population.  

Veterinary Practice: Largely, vets are oriented towards treating large animals, cattle, poultry. There is nothing much in their curriculum on pets. Often those treating pets are not sufficiently knowledgeable. We need to raise the standard of vet practise and the number of vets overall. 

Shelters – Are their enough shelters in India? In order to maintain quality of shelters and keep doing their good work they need funding. 

Ecosystem – Do we have an ecosystem for having a pet? How easy is it to have a pet without interference  by neighbours or the  community at large?

Today  having a pet  in India can prove difficult though a few support systems are being put in place such as boarding centers, pet friendly hotels etc. 

What is the roadmap to implement some of these plans in coming days? 

The challenge is too large so it needs to be a coordinated efforts of various agencies and stakeholders. Mars will play the role of an orchestrator. 

We will encourage pet lovers to adopt Indian dogs rather than pedigree dogs; work towards changing the mindset of people towards pets animals; Work with Government for conducive and pet friendly policies to create an ecosystem for pets. 

Indian dogs are more adopt to the Indian weather conditions. 

Mars Petcare plans to run pilot projects in two to three cities at a time. This could make a significant difference in these cities and created a model to follow.

Success will being more people to join the initiative. 

We are working at city level involving MCDs and other stakeholders such as NGOs. We found them encouraging. In a couple of months there could be serious collaboration happening at the national level. 

An AI based App on lost and found pets will help shelters to find pets; and to track the pet population in the street with regard to vaccinations.

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