Working Animals

The International Labour Day falls on 1 May. Shouldn’t it cover animals made to toil? And, shouldn’t we aim to liberate them from man-desired demands?

Expectations from working animals are fast changing and becoming exceedingly worse. They are no longer simply beasts of burden such as donkeys and ponies used down the ages for heavy labour. Although BWC has, to its horror, come across so-called animal rights people, who, instead of working to end such exploitation, recommend the use of elephants, camels and monkeys for pulling loads in sugar and other factories!

Elephants, Horses, Mice and Birds

Elephants continue to be domesticated for logging operations in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, are astonishingly considered State Government servants and are made to work from dawn to dusk. It is obvious that they do not like this because they often simply stand still without moving; they are then goaded with a stick.

It is unfortunate that elephants kept captive in pathetic conditions at Haathi Gaon are made to work by carrying tourists up to Amber Fort in Rajasthan. That 10 amongst them have TB and are still in circulation is another story. And yet another story is that 13 elephants from Haathi Gaon were transferred to Gujarat in December 2020.

They say it takes forty-one weeks to transform a horse into a police horse. The Ahmedabad Police carry out night patrols with mounted cops and the Kolkata Police have sixty-seven horses. The Jharkhand state government has set up a special task force of trained dogs and horses to control crowds at their mega sport complexes at Ranchi in the same way that dogs and mounted police control crowds during matches in Kolkata’s Eden Gardens. Beginning 2020 Mumbai Police announced the return of the force’s mounted unit after a gap of 88 years.

The Delhi Mounted Police’s horses ensure law and order. For example, two were on duty at the Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium in December 2015 during the India-South Africa cricket match. But, they had to be cautiously taken to the location because horses get into a frenzy by the honking of vehicles. A month earlier after a period of twenty years, forty two-year old stallions were inducted in the force. The horses retire at seventeen or eighteen years.

In 2016 at Dehradun, a stately thirteen-year old white Kathiawari mare, by the name of Shaktimaan, belonging to the Uttarakhand Police was brutally assaulted with sticks by an angry MLA and his people. The poor horse got multiple factures on her hind leg resulting in partial amputation. Out of pity an American flew in with a prosthetic limb for the horse. The MLA and others were arrested and it is hoped the punishments fit the crime.

The Dutch Police tackle the menace of drones that pose a threat to public safety with the help of eagles trained to hunt them down at airports and other places. The eagle glides towards the drone, catches it in its talons and drags it to the ground.

Eagles with transmitters tied to their tails have been captured not far from the Indo-Pak border. Two pigeons, one white but coloured pink and green with code names of suspected terrorists along with their phone numbers stamped on their tails were found in the Jammu region traditionally known for rearing and flying pigeons.

Carrier pigeons used for delivering messages during World War II continue to exist in India although now it is more a sport with pigeon racing clubs operating in several cities. In Bosnia, a pigeon was impounded after it was discovered that prisoners used it to smuggle drugs into the country’s high security jail; similarly homing pigeons (having been raised in the jail) have been used to smuggle drugs and phone parts into Brazilian jails. And Iran has captured “spy” pigeons found with metal rings and invisible strings attached.

Israeli researchers have developed a unit consisting of live mice or sniffer rats which they say are better than full-body scanners and pat-downs at detecting any would-be bombers and drugs couriers. The device looks like a metal detector or full-body scanner, but one side of it houses three concealed cartridges, each containing specially trained mice. The animals work four-hour shifts, milling around in an allocated cartridge while sniffing air pumped in from outside. When they pick up traces of explosives or drugs, they flee to a side chamber, triggering an alarm. To set the pattern of shifts, air is pumped to a different cartridge every four hours. This gives the rodents some hours to sleep and play (sic!) before they are required to clock on again. The mice take around ten days to learn their first smell. Subsequent odours take just a few days each. The researchers feel that unlike sniffer dogs, mice do not require constant interaction with their trainers or to be piled with treats to keep them motivated and they believe the concept may appeal to those who fear that the full-body scanners introduced at many airports are exposing them to harmful radiation and invading privacy.

In 2023 a Ghoda library on four legs had been established in the Kumaon. Horses were made to trudge from village to village carrying books which were lent out. BWC wrote to the Chief Minister, Uttarakhand and also to all our members in the region in the hope that we can successfully convince them to use mechanical carts in place of animals. Accordingly some influential people of the region, including the Tourism, Cultural and Irrigation Minister of the Government of Uttarakhand who was approached assured to do the needful regarding the use of a horse-cart in the venture.

This reminded BWC how 30 years earlier we created awareness about the “unique” Pet Libraries which had sprouted up in a few cities and were enthusiastically but unthinkingly supported by animal lovers. They took pride in loaning live creatures like dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, tortoise, fish, snakes and birds (parrots and mynas) all given swanky names. It was dealt with no differently to borrowing books from a library. BWC pointed out that the “pets” go through enormous psychological strain being shifted from one home to another and handled by umpteen humans. Within a short period of time the libraries were successfully convinced to close down.

Beasts of Burden

Livestock fall into two categories:
• Animals for food production (like cows, buffaloes, chickens, pigs, goats & sheep)

• Non-food production animals (like oxen, donkeys, mules, horses & ponies)

The latter provide draught energy and help farmers, but strangely India does not consider them as livestock! They the beasts of burden: the mules, donkeys and horses & ponies, even yaks. In India 70% of working equines are found in the brick kiln industry where they are known to suffer horrific injuries.

The 2019 Livestock Census found India’s equine population had significantly decreased: donkeys were 50.24% & mules 8.83%, whereas horses & ponies 40.93%.

Only 1,20,000 donkeys were left in India, the population having fallen by 62%. The reason for this was that donkeys were killed to meet the demand for Ejiao which is Chinese medical gelatine made from the skins of donkeys. India exports donkey skins both legally and illegally.

As for mules they are produced by mating a jack (male donkey) with a mare (female horse) with the sole aim of extracting hard work out of this sterile offspring that more often than not turns out to be stubborn and is therefore mercilessly whipped to work. The Kalandar community began breeding and selling mules after their dancing bears were taken away from them.

In 2018 the Supreme Court ruled that the use of mules to ferry pilgrims from the Katra base to the Vaishno Devi shrine in J&K should be phased out and the mule owners be rehabilitated. The bench had expressed concern over the mule dropping lying enroute. The National Green Tribunal had earlier said that a new path should be constructed to the shrine exclusively meant for pedestrians and battery-operated cars and no mules (donkeys, ponies or horses) should be allowed on this new route.

Suffering for Man’s Best Friend

The number of Labradors and German Shepherds that have played a part in British military operations since World War II, as used by the Royal Army Veterinary Corp (UK) as their specialist canine teams in Afghanistan has more than tripled. They are trained to sniff out buried bombs, concealed explosives and suspected militants. The Police in Utah, USA, have even trained a Labrador that was rescued from a shelter as a puppy to sniff out electronic storage devises containing images of child porn-hidden by paedophiles, distinguishing between an iPad & a USB drive, and ignoring remote controls & alarm clocks as they all smell different.

The American Auburn University’s Canine Performance Sciences Program researched and developed training methods for dogs to detect hand-carried and body-worn explosives. Also in 2011 a new technology was developed by American scientists to convert sniffer dogs into super dogs that can take on dangerous tasks. Their invention is a custom vest fitted with GPS, spatial sensors, a processor and a radio modem which can be accessed wirelessly. Though the emission of vibrations on the dog’s left or right side, it can be directed through the tightest of gaps without the need of a handler nearby. The team tested the harness at the Auburn University’s Canine Detection Research Institute with a trained Labrador taking on a series of navigational tests. This goes to prove human self-centeredness with no consideration whatsoever for the dog’s safety in making him fearlessly go into areas where he wouldn’t want to.

In November 2011 based on an 18-month study, it was reported that over 5% of 650 military dogs deployed by US had developed canine post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This was because they were made to play a frontline role in war, etc. Their reactions (similar to panic attacks in humans) were ranged from becoming timid to aggressive with their handlers, however, most stopped doing the tasks they were trained to perform… good enough reasons not to make dogs working animals.

A dog that is not merely a pet or companion in a home, and does more than eat and sleep, play and bark is called a working dog. He knows more than how to sit, stand and sniff. But, unfortunately, some canine trainers and behaviourists see no wrong in training dogs for agility as they term it. To make a pet dog manoeuvre around, over and through obstacles as directed just for fun is no different to making dogs perform in circuses where they are taught to walk on two legs, ride bicycles and salute. BWC condemns such training and performances. For example, at the 2017 Regional Equestrian League and Southern Star Horse Show at Pune an Army dog was made to jump through a ring of fire.

It is unfortunate for dogs that this was followed by a National Canine Sports Week organised to provide a platform for trainers, breeders and so-called dog lovers in order to make the canine training industry grow.

Police dogs are trained as:
Crime Sniffers: These dogs are taught to sniff out the path taken by criminals, chase down and zero in on suspects on the run.
Narotics detectors: These sniffer dogs taught to specialise in detection of contrabands hidden in boxes, vehicles and other places.
Bomb detectors: The dogs are taught to detect explosive material like RDX, ammonium nitrate and other substances.

Guards for Police: The dogs are trained as security guards for use during bandobast.

In 2021 it became mandatory for Police dogs that were part of Canine Squads of Central Para-Military forces to be evaluated annually based on a K9 Proficiency Evaluation Test (PET) and K9 Behaviour Assessment Test (BAT) developed by the Ministry of Home Affairs in line with global performance standards. The Pune Police’s K9 Squad has a social media campaign around their nine dogs highlighting their contribution to help the Police fight and prevent crime. Post completion of their tenure, they are given a dignified retirement and a loving and caring home. Retirement is based on physical fitness or at the age of 10 years.

Guard, not Watch Dogs

Breeding, raising and training animals for work has no limits – far more than the commonly known trained guide dogs for the blind and hearing impaired. There are trained service dogs like mobility dogs, seizure, diabetic and allergy detection dogs, mental health dogs, autism therapy dogs, and post traumatic stress disorder therapy dogs.

Outstandingly intelligent ones like Labradors and German Shepherds are turned into sniffer or tracker dogs by training them to sniff out buried bombs, concealed explosives, and suspected militants. But not all like the job they are assigned. For example, in 2017 a dog was “sacked” by the Police Academy in Australia for rolling over and having his tummy rubbed rather than standing to attention or help arrest an offender. He was therefore shifted to the Queensland Governor’s residence.

Special training is also given to certain dogs to improve their instinctive abilities to guard. In 2014 the New Delhi Municipal Council decided to set up a “May I Help You?” force of sterilised, adopted and trained stray dogs as in-house home guards. The two-fold benefit citied was that the dogs would be off the streets, and they’d help humans make the capital a safer city. We heard no more, so doubt it came into being.

BWC feels, with or without training, mixed breed dogs make excellent watch dogs. People who have kept mutts know how natural it is for them to protect people and places. Dogs have been guarding sheep for centuries. They guard buildings and people too. They are successful because people fear dog-bites.

Usually Labradors are trained to locate explosives and Dobermans to pick up trails, but sniffer dogs like German Shepherds made to detect narcotics, are said to be rigorously trained by the Police to find drugs by forcibly making them drug addicts on the presumption that how else would they learn to locate them. Many others are part of bomb squads of different departments like the Railways, Criminal Investigation Department (CID), and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) which is in charge of security at airports, plus the Police of course.

Police forces worldwide prefer the Belgian Malinois dogs – 69 were with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in July 2012. Some corporate houses and security agencies have begun acquiring these dogs too. In India Malinois are trained at a 40-acre academy called the International Tactical and Canine Training Centre at Sundraan (Dera Bassi, Punjab) by American and Punjabi trainers. The training course for handlers is up to 10 weeks, but for the dogs the duration is 5 weeks. The dogs learn to detect by imprinting: they are exposed to odours ranging from cocaine, heroin, currency notes and live explosives.

Zanjeer a Labrador-Retriever belonging to the Mumbai Police served as a detection dog in 1993 when he recovered 11 military bombs, 57 country made bombs, 175 petrol bombs and 600 detonators. He passed away in 2000 and was buried with full state honours. Similarly Babu, a Labrador from the Delhi Police Dog Squad won a Gold Medal at the 61st All India Police Duty Meet held at Chennai in February 2018.

The basic work of police dogs is to sniff out explosives, etc. and ward off attacks. Quite often, their mere presence acts as a deterrent. That is the reason why animal welfare societies have suggested that smart stray dogs should be trained and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had agreed to the proposal but like Delhi, it did not materialise then. However, by 2019 many strays had been trained and were employed by the Police in different parts of India. Quite often they were better than the German Shepherds and Labradors.

There have however been complaints about Hotels using, rather abusing the services of Labradors (for example, Hotel Marriot at Chennai, Gurgaon and Hyderabad, and Hyatt Regency, Pune) made to check out by sniffing each and every vehicle that drives up – machines and men could as well detect bombs. The unhealthy exhaust fumes are inhaled by them during their long work hours with no time to rest in-between. They are always on the leash, even when given water to drink. In short, they are made to work like machines day in and day out. It is truly a dog’s life, hunger and unease – a rotten job and a miserable unhappy existence; and it shouldn’t happen to a dog.

The canines used are usually pure bred German Shepherds, Labradors, Belgian Malinois, Great Mountain Swiss Dogs and Mudhol Hounds trained by the Army Veterinary Corp at Meerut and a training centre of the Border Security Force in Madhya Pradesh. They are trained for guard duty, patrolling detection of explosives and mines including IEDs and sniffing contraband; and to help during avalanches and disaster relief operations. However, since few are actually able to sniff out explosives, the handlers of these dogs complain that they are overworked. These dogs are supposedly given the best quality of food, travel in first class air conditioned comfort along with their handlers and are insured like their human counterparts. But all this means nothing to the dogs.

Tracker dogs are trained in discipline, obedience, and public conduct, but it's surprising they are also taught to beg like circus dogs. They attack suspects by tracking scents of criminals and even mothers of abandoned babies. The dog follows the scent of the suspect and the Police follow the dog. In addition to which they learn how to save people from drowning and during fire. For example in November 2018, Dino a Labrador belonging to the Indian Army, after sniffing a sock of one of the slain terrorists, tracked the route that he and two other terrorists had used from the national highway which was around 1200 metres away.

Interestingly in the 1990s the Western Railway acquired 4 dogs to catch ticket-less travellers at railway stations, but as the public vehemently protested they were not put to use!

After the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks an elite anti-terror squad ‘Force One’ was formed. ‘Attack Dogs’ from among over 200 trained to combat terrorist activities in the country were to join this squad. However, till 2011 the dog squad only investigated murder, narcotics and theft cases.

Soon after the US Navy SEALS’ operation in Pakistan during May 2011, Indian security forces decided to train Belgian shepherds and Malinois breed of dogs in “find and fix” anti-Naxal operations.

In April 2016 the Delhi Police got 30 new 1.5-year-old Labradors from the Indian Army, doubling their dog squad strength: 45 sniffer and 15 tracker dogs, but not a single one to detect narcotics.

The Jharkhand Police use a trained dog squad (in place of baton charge, water cannons and tear gas) to disperse and chase protestors. That’s not all, the canine squad is expected to keep away poachers from the tiger reserve and locate hidden body parts in inaccessible areas where poachers hide them. Help is taken from Haryana’s National Dog Training Institute. In Karnataka too such a dog squad is in operation.

Since 2008 sniffer dog training is being undertaken by TRAFFIC India at the National Training Centre for Dogs (NTCD). German Shepherds as young as six to nine months old are trained to become wildlife sniffer dogs. They are deployed by the Forest Departments of states in order to foil and track down wildlife poachers, and have been responsible for scores of seizures. These canine dog squads have successfully sniffed out body-parts belonging to poached tigers, leopards, elephants, sambars, pangolins, monitor lizards, tortoises, and grey francolins. A particular dog was even awarded a Certificate of Merit by the Madhya Pradesh government in 2013 because he helped in the detection of over 41 cases and 9 poacher arrests.

Beginning 2021 recently trained canines were being used to detect Covid-19 by sniffing troops (urine and sweat) headed for forward areas at a transit camp in Chandigarh.

The NTCD (National Training Centre for Dogs) at Bhanu near Chandigarh was started in 2005 although the place has been training dogs since 1995. Over 17 years around 3,600 dogs and 4,600 handlers have been trained to serve the ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police), NSG (National Security Guard), SPG (Special Protection Group) and state police forces. The Mudhol breed of Karnataka, are also trained although Belgian Malinois are the ones in demand. The dogs are bred in-house; and basic obedience training begins when they are 5-6 months old, lasting for 12-14 months. However, when the dogs are 10 months old they are tested for social behaviour and those that fail are discharged from training but others continue being trained in batches of through rigorous training from 5.30 am to 6.30 pm with breaks for meals and rest.

The ITBP became is first CAPF (Central Armed Police Force) to induct women handlers to train at the NTCD. The ITBP K9 motto is: Mera Dog, Meri Jaan, Paltan ki Shaan, Desh Kare Samman.

In October 2022, a 2½ year old Belgian Malinois Military combat dog named Zoom who was attached to the assault unit of the Army’s 15 Corps, was seriously hit with 2 bullets due to which he died a couple of days later, but he successfully flushed out heavily armed terrorists hiding in a house in Kashmir.

Government Dog Training Centres

Established in 1970 at Tekanpur in Gwalior District of Madhya Pradesh, the National Training Center for Dogs is a premiere institute functioning under the Border Security Force, Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India. It trains dogs and dog handlers for BSF, CPOs, SPOs and Law Enforcement agencies of India.

The breeds trained are:
Labrador Retrievers
Doberman Pinschers
German Shepherds
Cocker Spaniels

Training starts at six months and the longest duration is 36 weeks for tracker training. The other courses of 24 weeks duration each are to train dogs in:
Explosives Detection
Narcotics Detection
Search & Rescue
Infantry Patrol

Pune’s Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation buildings are guarded by dog squads for which tenders are invited. In 2011 the Pune Police decided to get two pedigreed Labrador pups – to add to the existing three of which two specialise in burglaries and one in sniffing out narcotics – trained in detecting explosives.

The Dog Training Centre (DTC) is situated at the Shivajinagar Police HQs, Pune. It was formed in 1965 as part of the state CID, Pune. Regular and refresher dog training courses are organised by the Chief Dog Master under the supervision of the Additional Superintendent of Police. There are four Head Constables or Dog Trainers and Attendants working under the Chief Dog Master. There are 32 Dog Units in the District and Commissionerates in the state. Each dog unit is headed by an Officer of suitable rank who is assisted by a number of Dog Trainers. All the police dogs of all the units are trained at the DTC. The initial training period is of six months. However, the duration largely depends on the ability of a dog. Generally, the training consists of the following phases:
Initial Training Course
Obedience Training
Detection of Explosive and Narcotics
Refresher Training

After successful completion of training, the dogs are sent back to their respective units. DTC officers visit various units periodically to inspect and examine the dogs on duty.

In November 2011 it was announced that Dog squads across Maharashtra will double the number of sniffer dogs so 300 Labradors, German Shepherds and Dobermans will be trained and added to the existing 240.

Then in January 2017 the CID said that there were 300 dogs in service in Maharashtra; and that 72 acres had been earmarked for a new training facility in Daund since at Shivajinagar only 20 dogs could be trained at a time. Each tracker dog whose training lasted 9 months began when the dog was 6 months old; while those who learnt detection of explosives and narcotics were trained for 6 months. Each dog had 2 handlers and was made to retire at 10 years. Then in 2018 the state police decided to breed dogs at Daund instead of buying them.

In 2019 on the eve of Ganesh Visarjan, the Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad dogs were made to search all the mandals in Pune.

A year earlier in 2018 a national facility at Tadiwala Road, Pune, was set up by the Railway Board, but adequate facilities were lacking even in 2020.

Military Dogs

In 2011 the Indian Army’s first unit of ‘Canine Spies’ were formed to help troops with visual guidance during tricky situation and hostage crisis. In order to reduce the risk to human lives, the Army’s unit of dogs have small video cameras mounted on their heads which help during dangerous situations. In short, humans matter, dogs do not. Experiments in this regard were carried out in the Army Dogs Unit, Remount Veterinary Corp Centre and College in Meerut. The breeds raised and trained included Labradors, German Shepherds and Belgian Shepherds.

During the Pathankot terrorist attack in January 2016, after seven security personnel had died, a Belgian Malinois sniffer dog named Rocket of the National Security Guard’s K-9 unit was made to go inside a building that was ablaze at the Indian Air Force base. It was proved that a terrorist was inside when the dog came out with a pouch in his mouth. Sadly, the dog suffered burns on his paws and forehead which took months to heal.

In July 2015, a question had been asked by a MP in Lok Sabha to which the Union Defence Minister replied that the Army had around 1,000 dogs and 10,000 horses & mules; and since 2012, 1,989 animals had been disposed of in accordance with specified Army regulations.

Earlier, in June 2015 following an RTI reply that “Horses and dogs are evaluated for their fitness with respect to the performance of duties. The animals which are considered unfit for one month active service are disposed of by humane euthanasia” the newspapers prominently revealed that the Army’s working dogs when old were euthanized, not retired.

BWC immediately wrote to the President of India who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces of India, the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and Chief of Army Staff, saying that it was morally, ethically and culturally wrong to kill these dogs when they were old and unable to work.

Since they had served the nation, they required to be retired in style. When the demand for One Rank One Pension was met, we asked the government to consider including a pension (to be used for their upkeep) for the animals.

BWC also suggested that some dogs could be given to senior or even retired Army personnel to keep and take care of in their homes. Whereas the others could retire in a shelter (retirement home) specially set up for them where they could live out their natural lifespan.

And last but not least the new rules could cover all animals like horses and mules also used by the Defence Forces so that they are all appropriately rehabilitated.

A month later, in response to a PIL, the Centre admitted that the current practice of putting the Army’s retired service dogs (Labradors, German Shepherds and Belgian Shepherds) to sleep was against the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and assured the Delhi High Court that the Defence Ministry would come out with a policy by March 2016 to stop euthanasia and detail the arrangements for the dogs after they retire or are found unfit or inactive. Then, in November 2016 an adoption drive was organised by two NGOs in Delhi for some Army retired military canine solders.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence replied BWC that necessary instructions had been given for “immediate cessation of further destruction of old and worn out animals”. They had been creating facilities to house them. Therefore, in 2017 an old-age home was set up at the war dog training school in Meerut.

The issue of Army animals is dealt under the Defence Service Rules and the final policy is yet to be adopted. However, in November 2015 the Directorate released an advertisement in the national newspapers inviting expression of interest from individuals and NGOs for the rehabilitation of unfit dogs, horses and mules. About 50 dogs and 1,000 horses and mules retire annually.

Dogs, horses, camels, yaks and mules used by paramilitary services are now all retired with benefits (just like humans of their corps) and no euthanasia or auction is conducted for worn-out cases. Luckily the practice of sending retired horses and mules to vaccine manufacturing centres where they were tortured to produce anti-venom serum was stopped years ago in 2001. This used to happen despite having named a mess lounge Pedongi after a bay mule that pulled loads from 1962-92 in the Indian Army’s Transport corps. In fact, mules played an important role for India during wars (like Chinese aggression of 1962 and Kargril 1999) although soon after Independence the Indian Army had unsuccessfully tried to breed mules from the wild asses of Saurashtra.

The Compassionate Crusaders Trust (Kolkata) feels that the Army needs a transit place close to each of their Commands to handle adoption of retired animals. And, like BWC they too feel that mandatory pension for the animals should be given so that post-retirement they can provide for themselves financially and live in comfort in individual foster homes, NGO run shelters, or in exclusive facilities the Army may create.

Then, on 26 January 2016, Army dogs of the Remount and Veterinary Corps were made to march in the Republic Day Parade. Specially chosen 36 German Shepherds and Labradors along with their handlers constituted the contingent which participated in the Parade after a gap of 26 years probably because of the widespread concern about these dogs being put to sleep when old. Since then many retired dogs have been welcomed in the homes of their handlers. For example, in 2021 a male Labrador after 10 years of service in the Nashik Bomb Squad went to live at the home of his handler. Otherwise after 9 years in the force, dogs that are retired are sent back to Meerut.

On 25 April 2016 the Government of India amended its policy with regard to import of dogs. They would only be allowed into India for internal security by the Defence and Police, for medical research on recommendation of the CPCSEA (Committee for the Purpose of Controlling & Supervising Experiments on Animals), and for individuals as pets. The import of dogs for commercial activities like breeding would not be permitted. This Notification was set aside by the Madras High Court on 6 June 2023.

In February 2021 the Indian Air Force inducted 4 Modhol hounds from the Canine Research & Information Centre in Bagalkot district, Karnataka. Their work was to chase away birds and animals that strayed on airport runways and hinder the movement of flights.

Military Mountain Goat

In 1963 the 7 Kumaon Battalion was followed by a white mountain goat all the way back to the unit’s location. He was adopted by them and named SATVIR (acronym for S = 7, A = All the way to battle: the battalion’s motto, T = the name of the then CO Col Thamboo, V = the name of the 2IC Viswanathan, I = the name of the senior most Coy Com Ishwar Singh Dahiya, and R = the name of the then Sub Major Rawat). All SATVIR have had an understudy picked from the hills of Kumaon and take over when the senior Havildar SATVIR retires at around 10 years and on his demise is given a military funeral and buried after a three-gun salute.


A mascot can be a living creature, a costumed human, a picture, or an object, adopted by an institution to bring it good luck.

Remember the Hutch ad with its cute pug? A famous bulldog was the mascot of the Daily, the morninger from the Blitz group that was synonymous with its Editor! The Syndicate Bank’s logo also has a “Faithful and Friendly” dog although dogs are not allowed inside.

However, keeping an exotic or wild living creature in captivity as a mascot is positively cruel – an “attraction” needlessly sentenced for life therefore can be anything but lucky!

Havildar SATVIR, the adopted mountain goat mentioned above, does not fall into this category. Over sixty years ago his first namesake followed the 7 Kumaon Battalion all the way back to the unit’s location and continued to live with them. He could never have been subjected to hunger, torture or fear, kept on display, or trained to perform as in circuses. From all accounts, they get lots of affection and respect.

Such a mascot is no different to a companion dog or cat joining a family, getting extra special attention and being happy. It forms a strong bond with humans making family members feel a sense of belonging among themselves too. Importantly, if people relate kindly to a living goat (or rooster), wouldn’t it make them think twice before eating mutton (or chicken)?

Page last updated on 14/03/24