Govt changes law, flying designer dogs into India gets tougher

FPDogs like pugs have traditionally come from Russia or Thailand

India's designer dog market hit a significant roadblock this month with an amendment to the country's baggage law that will allow only those airline passengers who are relocating to India to bring pets on board international flights.

The law has for 11 years let anyone flying into India carry on or check two pets as luggage with sufficient health certificates. Dogs such as chihuahuas or pugs custom ordered by Indians have historically come from breeders in countries such as Russia or Thailand who have used the baggage law to dodge import duties.

Now, after a year of noise about animal welfare and financial repercussions from MP and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi, the government has restructured the law.

"As per the new policy which has come into force from April 15th, 2013, import of two pet animals as baggage shall be allowed only to persons who transfer their residence to India after two years of continuous stay abroad," Finance Minister P Chidambaram wrote in a letter to Maneka.

The BJP MP from Aonla said the change would ultimately stop international animal trafficking and the duty-free delivery of thousands of custom-made animals to Indian homes.

"People who were pretending to be tourists were actually couriers," she said. "Once a week or twice a week they bring these dogs in duty free bags saying that they were their pets and they sell them to breeders in India for Rs 25,000 to 50,000 each, then have a great holiday in India at our expense."

The dogs were also often too young to be taken away from their mothers and not cared for appropriately, Maneka said, so her animal shelter was seeing an influx of five "throwaway" dogs a week.

The 1998 baggage law once required that all animals be accompanied by an import permit from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade, but was watered down in 2002 after internal and passenger complaints about the complexity.

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