In the past, getting cats and dogs cremated has been a nightmare for pet owners and rescuers in India. Now, dog owners and animal rescuers in New Delhi won’t need to run from pillar to post to perform the last rites of their pets or dogs they rescued off the streets.
On December 20, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) initiated the creation of the first public crematorium for dogs and cats, where they will be cremated with all the proper rituals, and their ashes will be stored for up to 15 days thereafter. Spread over 700 square meters, the project will come up in Dwarka, a residential neighbourhood in the Indian capital.
The project, for which tenders will soon be floated, will be a public-private partnership (PPP), according to a senior SDMC official. They also said that because pets are like family, the grief of losing them is akin to losing a family member for their loved ones. At the same time, deaths of stray dogs in India often go unnoticed. It’s not uncommon to spot them on the street or the road and at the most, the sight elicits a sad reaction, before people go on with their lives.
“We want such animals to also have dignified last rites, as we do for humans. So, we have asked for provisions to be made to have a priest at the crematorium who will perform the rituals in a traditional way for a dead pet,” the official told PTI.
The veterinary department officer added that many pet-owners wish to immerse ashes in rivers (Hindu ritual performed after cremation) a few days later, so that the “sentiment will also be kept in mind”. To facilitate this, provisions will be made so they can collect the ashes up to 15 days after the cremation. “Dogs also deserve dignity, as we expect for humans,” the official said.
Prices have been set for using the facility. To cremate a dog weighing up to 30 kg, the rate will be Rs 2,000 (approx. $27), and for dogs weighing more than that, the owners will have to pay Rs 3,000 (approx. $41). Stray dogs will be cremated free of charge.
Although the facility is being built by the SDMC, pet-owners living in areas outside the territorial jurisdiction of the municipality will also be able to avail the facility for their pets, with the same fixed charges. However, someone bringing a dead stray dog or cat from areas falling under the North Corporation or the East Corporation, will have to pay Rs 500 (approx. $7).
The facility will house two units, one with a capacity to hold 150 kg biomass to handle heavy dogs, and another one of 100 kg capacity, primarily for stray dogs.
In the past, residents of the city have had a hard time figuring out how to cremate or bury their dogs in an appropriate manner, and have had to rely on obscure private services. In the absence of a public facility, many have been forced to drive to the outskirts of the city or to abandoned grounds to provide their pets a dignified burial. Several carcasses are buried on the banks of the Yamuna, which can lead to pollution of the river.
"At present, people do last rites of dogs at a small private crematorium for pets located in south Delhi. But, this will be the first public facility for all Delhiites. In case a dog carcass needs to be picked, the Department of Environment Management Services does that job. Once, the PPP mode comes up, the selected private company will do that job," the official said.
In urban India, pets act as friends, companions, and more often than not, as a status symbol. The 2012 (19th) Livestock Census found that there were 63,289 dogs in rural Delhi and 87,164 dogs in its urban parts, which was also found by many to be an understatement. A service of this kind is clearly needed then in the capital, and the step has been lauded by pet owners and other animal lovers alike, especially in South Delhi.
“The breeds mostly kept as pets here include Pomeranian, Labrador, German Shepherd, Alsatian and Rottweiler. We hope this new crematorium would give solace to pet-owners and peace to the souls of those dogs,” the official said.
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