BENGALURU: Pugs, with their goggle eyes, seem to have waddled into a social-media war. The cafe Let’s Pug, which opened two months ago in Indiranagar, has received much flak online from several animal rights activists for promoting this particular breed.The Humane Society International has also written a letter to the owner Santhosh, an ex-analyst at an IT firm, pointing to the ill-effects of promoting the breed. They fear this could increase the demand of the breed and later, abandonment when the pet parents realise their health issues and medical expenses. They say, even the British Veterinary Association has advised pet owners against having brachycephalic – with broad, short skull – breeds.
N G Jayasimha, managing director, Humane Society International/India and former AWBI representative to the Karnataka State Animal Welfare Board, says, “It is important to educate people about it. He (Santhosh) might have been driven by good intentions and it is a good business proposition. But he can do better with Indie dogs, and abandoned senior dogs. He responded to our letter saying he’d like to discuss it further.”
The cafe allows only pugs and provides 90-minute slots to pug lovers on reservations to play with the seven dogs at the cafe. The registration cost `250 per slot. The owner himself has a four-year-old pug Notty. He says he bought seven puppies for the cafe three months ago after he got inspired by the pug cafes in Japan and UK. “I wanted India to have the third pug cafe in the world,” he replies on WhatsApp. When asked why did he decide to have just pugs, he writes, “For now, I would just like to say that I did it for my pug.”
Too many strangers?
Debradita Jadav, an animal rescuer, says, the dogs can also develop anxiety issues as they meet several different people every day at an unknown place. “Having animals as means of entertainment is not a good idea. It is animal cruelty. Promoting such businesses, especially with just one breed, can adversely affect our awareness campaigns against illegal breeding and supporting adoption of dogs,” she says.
An animal welfare worker Reena Chengappa says that this cafe has incurred wrath of all animal welfare volunteers. “By the pictures I have seen online and that have been shared with me, I see signs of inbreeding in the dogs. Usually, puppies are snatched away from their mothers when they are about 30 days old, though they have to be together at least for three months,” she says. She is also concerned about the dogs’ welfare if the cafe shuts down.
Santhosh says he does not use pugs as props at the cafe. “They are given breaks after each slot. And now, after 50 days, I have announced 10-day vacation for my pugs,” he writes adding that in future, he might allow other breeds but he’s not sure. “There’s a reason why it’s called pug cafe, not dog cafe,” he adds.
Reena says they have been trying to reach him for a discussion but he’s not been responsive. “We even asked him to visit our shelter and adopt four pugs we have so that he can set an example.” Also a parent to a pug Puglee whom she adopted from CUPA in 2014, she says Puglee had multiple health issues when she was found. She still has a heart condition and undergoes scans and blood tests regularly.
‘May help pet parents’
Animal rights activist Priya Chetty-Rajagopal has mixed feelings about the cafe. “These initiatives can expand the ecosystem and help build a support system for pet parents. When you have facilities like this, the number of pet owners will increase, which means more boarding facilities will open and more people will sign up to be pet sitters. But I do not support promoting a breed. Instead, they should have programmes to encourage young people to adopt dogs,” she says.
Humane Society International/India has asked the owner to promote Indie dogs. They also mention in the letter, a copy of which is available with CE, that the café could also reach out to shelters in Bengaluru and help introduce rescued dogs from shelters to the customers. This will not only help make the café more compassionate but will also promote adoption of rescued dogs.
When CE visited the cafe, it was shut. The staircase to the cafe read ‘All you need is a pug’. Santhosh says that his only intent is to show humans the unconditional love of dogs. “I am aware that pugs are prone to diseases and people who find it difficult to pay medical expenses for them would not adopt or buy them. And once they do, they become a family member,” he says adding that he’d like to ask other ‘fellow humans’ if they would ever abandon their parents once they grow old and sick. “You’ll get your answers then. It’s the breeders who leave these dogs on roads after they grow old. We need to put an end to that.”
Medical troubles pugs face
Brachycephalic airway syndrome: Upper airway abnormalities make breathing extremely difficult. A dog with brachycephalic syndrome may be affected with a combination of one or more of these abnormalities.
Intertrigo: Skin diseases due to the skin folds that retain moisture.
Corneal ulcers and eye injuries: Their eyeballs protrude from their flat skull, making them prone to ulcers.
Intervertebral disc disease: Weak spine prone to injury and disease because of their body being set on short, disproportionate legs that cannot properly bear the weight of the dog’s body.
Hip dysplasia: Weak hip joints prone to dislocation and extremely painful hip joints that make it very difficult even to walk normally.
Dental issues: The pushed-in face having limited space in the mouth cavity results in overcrowding of teeth, making these dogs prone to irregular dental formation, and other dental problems.