Like many nuclear families coming to accept the new normal of work and study from home, we were looking for an outlet for our 11-year old. A couple of months ago, our son began asking for a pet that would be his companion. Many of his zoom classmates and friends had begun to acquire pets and Vijay didn’t want to miss out on the bandwagon.
It has been a little over a week since we got Max, our Labrador Retriever home and we took him for his first vaccination. In the week since he came home, Max has been settling in and winning the heart and the minds of our family. And did I say he is a bouncy little pup who is more than a handful?
If you are looking to acquire a pet dog, there is a tremendous amount of information online, but most of that is generic. Therefore, I thought I’d take some time to share some of my insights on acquiring a puppy in Bengaluru in 2020.
How much is that doggie in the window?
Unlike Patti Page’s old classic song, it is not easy to spot litters of puppies at pet-shops in Bengaluru. One may spot the occasional litter of stray (Indie) puppies in neighborhoods around the city but picking up a puppy from the street is not everybody’s cup of tea.
Some local pet shops stock an assortment caged birds or rodents, but very few puppies. It took me a few weeks of searching online and making calls before we finalized on Max. Here are a few observations
· Arm yourself with basic knowledge of dog breeds – there are 8-10 popular (common) dog breeds and as a buyer, you should be aware of what you want based on your budget, temperament and ability to manage. Most agents offer two kinds of dogs – ‘pet quality’ and ‘show quality’. The latter comes with KCI papers and a microchip and show-quality dogs can cost almost three to four times the price. There are several online resources and YouTube listings to familiarize you with dog breeds and their traits.
· There are a wide variety of breeds and varieties of pups and the prices are all over the place. The demand for puppies shot up post-COVID and the puppy mills, many of them operating in shoddy conditions, are operating in full-swing out to make a quick buck.
· Dealers out to make a quick buck - while experts suggest weaning away pups from moms after 8 weeks (about 2 months), it is all too common to see dealers touting 21-28 day old pups. Early weaning of puppies is not only detrimental to its growth, but can lead to a lot of anxiety for buyers who have to spoon or bottle feed it till it gets stronger.
· One can find a number of online forums and listings, but there is rampant fraud. The most common fraud is the listing-and-shipping switch where puppies are listed online for a rather attractive price and after the buyer sends the amount, the seller asks for an astronomical fee for ‘shipping and handling.’ The enticed client might end up paying an arm and a leg.
· Sifting through online listings can be overwhelming. Pet-dealers and agents continually barrage online forums to entice prospective buyers and those who evince interest are hounded online and offline. The dealer whom I eventually dealt with began sending me WhatsApp updates of available puppies on a daily basis, following up with phone calls.
· Puppy-mills are too busy breeding and farming young pups and are content to leave the marketing to shoddy agents and pet dealers. Finding a reliable pet-dealer is hard since those who have been swindled are hesitant to share contacts of their agents. When I asked a few acquaintances who had bought pups recently, they simply said they got it from a ‘friend’ preempting further queries about their experience with a pet-dealer.
· The market for pups is gray with several layers of shady breeders, agents, and middlemen. Breeders and Kennels don’t encourage visitors. Most probably operate with cages our of garages or rooftops in their homes and the conditions would horrify many of us. Link to a few recent articles on the topic - After 10-day-old maimed husky dies, activists start #AdoptDon’tShop || Social media fury over animal abuse leads to FIR on breeder
How did I end up choosing Max?
I began my search for a pet online and after some preliminary research I got an idea of prices that were swinging all over the place. A pet-quality Lab, for example was going for 12- 18 K, German Shepherd for about 20 K etc.
After calling a few online pet-sellers, I decided to check if local pet-shops would have a listing of local pet vendors. I stopped by a pet-grooming center that had a contact of Sanjay, a pet dealer who was operating out of our neighborhood.
I gave Sanjay my requirements and he began to send me listings of available pups with prices. I wanted a male black Labrador puppy and I decided on this breed for a couple of reasons. Labs seem to be the most popular pet breed, akin to Pomeranian that were ubiquitous a generation ago. These are easily available and seem to be relatively easy to maintain. Beige or Fawn colored Labs are very common, and I wanted a Black for a bit of differentiation.
After a few weeks of back-and-forth, Sanjay sent me a picture of a seller with four black labs, out of which one was a male. We agreed on the price and I decided to drive down to check out the puppy and pick it up. We reached an underpass near a Metro station at the designated time and the sellers drove in a scooter with a pet-carry box. They handed the puppy over to my agent who showed it to me before we finalized the ‘deal,’ and I paid the amount before driving back with Max.