The COVID-19 pandemic left millions locked inside their homes and dealt with several mental health challenges. Several people looked for adopting pets to handle their stress and engage in meaningful activities. People flocked to several pet shops to find a furry friend who would relieve them of their stress. However, the trend did not last too long. MARS Petcare and an Advisory Board of leading animal welfare experts released the first-ever State of Pet Homelessness Index and put forward a shocking analysis that revealed that India scored a mere 2.4 out of 10 in the index marking.
When the initial enthusiasm of several trends like cooking, baking, making the famous dalgona coffee, playing board games with family wore off, the will of walking their dogs or playing with cats also did. Many new pet parents realized that committing themselves to the responsibility of handling another member of the family, especially a pet, was not feasible for them. Therefore, they resorted to the next easiest alternative, that is, leaving their home with the pet but then leaving them on the streets to fend for themselves.
How Did India Perform?
In India, on the one hand, six in ten people felt the need of having a pet at home. However, as the trend faded, nearly 50 per cent of the people agreed to have relinquished their pets. The global average for the people who let go of their furry friends stood at 28 per cent. The Index pulls together data on homeless cats and dogs in 9 countries from more than 200 global and local sources, boosted by quantitative research on widespread attitudes. The Index also reveals the most impactful underlying issues that have influenced the score in each country.
India, which was also the worst-performing country in the Index, showed that more than 80 million cats and dogs were stray. The estimated population for stray cats was nearly 9.1 million whereas, the stray dogs accounted to be 62 million. Only 8.8 million of the stray animals, which amounts to a little over 10 per cent of the total strays, is in shelter homes. The Index data for India reveals a high prevalence of stray populations which is bringing the country's 'All Pets Wanted' score down. Nearly 7 in 10 (68%) of the population says they see a stray cat at least once a week, while nearly 8 in 10 (77%) say they see a stray dog as frequently. On the other hand, 78 per cent of the pet owners treated their animals for ticks, as compared to the global average of 76 per cent, thus pushing the 'All Pets Wanted' performance a little higher.
When asked about the importance of caring for animals, Ganesh Ramani, Managing Director at MARS Petcare India Limited, told The Logical Indian, "Pets truly make the world a better place. Increasingly, research has shown that people, animals and our shared environment are closely connected, and it is critical to take care of all three aspects as many factors in recent years has changed interactions between people, animals, plants, and our environment. Humans live in close contact with animals as populations grow – both wild, livestock and pets. Pets, in particular, now live with us in our homes. Close contact with animals and their environments provide more opportunities for diseases to pass between animals and people. For collective wellness, we need to ensure that all pets are wanted, cared for and welcome."
While speaking to The Logical Indian, Ramani also mentioned, "Over years, pets have become a key part of our lives. In India, 6 in every ten people have adopted a pet during the pandemic, and 67% say that they have found a newfound appreciation for a pet during the lockdown. These statistics evidently show that pets play an important role in adding value to our lives even in the most difficult times. India has a stray pet population of over 80 million that are in need of loving and caring homes."
How Did Developed Countries Perform?
When The Logical Indian read through the data for the United Kingdom, we found that the country had only 1.1 million stray animals, out of which 9,70,000 were cats, and 62,000 were dogs. Interestingly, nearly 42,000 dogs were in shelter homes. The Index data for the UK shows a high number of complaints about stray animal activity, such as aggressiveness or noise is bringing the 'All Pets Wanted' score for the country down. In the UK, nearly 1 in 3 (32%) of pet owners also say they think stray dogs are a danger to their pets. The UK data shows potential pet owners actively plan and research before owning a dog, which is driving the 'All Pets Wanted' score for the country up. In the UK, 56% of respondents report researching what it is like to own a dog before getting one, slightly higher than the global average of 49%. Therefore, the UK scored a good 7 out of 10 in the State of Homelessness Index.
On a similar line, the United States of America reported only 45 million stray dogs and cats, out of which 5.4 million were in shelter homes. . Only 23% of respondents say they see stray cats at least once a day, compared to 26% globally. This is helping drive up the country's 'All Pets Wanted' score. There is deep concern amongst the general population around rabies, ticks and other conditions – 35% of the general population believe that rabies, ticks and other conditions are a problem in their area. This is bringing down the 'All Pets Wanted' score for the USA. The cumulative score of the USA stands at 6.4 out of 10.
What Is The Mission Behind The Initiative?
While talking to The Logical Indian about his mission regarding the pet homelessness index, Ramani said, "The State of Homelessness Index by MarsPetcare will provide a direction to animal welfare activists, pet enthusiasts and other key stakeholders in the industry to make informed decisions towards reducing the pet homelessness numbers in India. Mars Petcare has undertaken several initiatives - The Thought Leadership Seminar to bring all stakeholders together to find solutions to this problem, pet adoption drives, indie pet shows, stray feeding activities, and cat shows with adoption drives. The latest Pedigree Indie adoption campaign promotes indie dog adoption and has partnered with 30plus NGOs across India towards facilitating more than 5000 indie dog adoptions".