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No watchdog for private clinics

High court frowns upon lack of regulation in pet healthcare

Brinda Sarkar | Published 16.02.24, 11:28 AM

Pet parents know there will come a time when their beloved will pass on. But there’s no consolation if this happens before time and, especially, due to medical negligence.

In such cases, despite the grief and anger, the parents are unable to take much action as there isn’t any specific door to knock on. The Calcutta High Court has highlighted the need to set up a regulatory body to monitor private pet clinics where pet parents and other stakeholders can take their complaints.


The observation was made by a division bench of Chief Justice T.S. Sivagnanam and Justice Supratim Bhattacharya last week after a cat parent filed a case upon losing his pet due to “extremely callous and wrong diagnosis” by a veterinary clinic. The plaintiff pointed out that a trade licence was all that was needed to start the clinic and that it operated without any checks on the infrastructure or the qualification of its vets. He prayed for regulations for pet clinics on the lines of the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Act.

The high court has asked the lawyer of the Animal Welfare Board to be present at the next hearing which has been fixed three weeks later.

Vet watch

The news comes as a positive development to pet parents, many of whom are still hurting from premature losses.

Pallab Saha, secretary of North Calcutta Kennel Club, still can’t get over the demise of his Dachshund Brounny, who died during a Cesarean in 2018. “Brounny was a champion of champions but died of medical negligence,” says Saha, a resident of Baguiati.

He had wanted to take Brounny’s vet to court but was denied the option. “The vet used his clout to temporarily shut down the post-mortem section at the vet college in Belgachhia. Without that, no legal proceedings could be begun. A report from private clinics would not be accepted and a report from a government college of another state would not be accepted either,” he says. The vet in question continues to practise, including in Salt Lake. “We urgently need a regulatory body to keep such malpractices in check.”

Corruption charges are flung at the vets too. A pet parent, who had wanted to open a clinic a few years ago, had approached a vet who practises in Salt Lake and New Town.

“The first thing the vet asked me was how much commission I would offer him. He saw the pet supplements lying about and said he would sell them off in a week, provided I compensated him generously. I showed him the door without another word,” he says, adding how this doctor now has a flourishing business and swanky lifestyle. “Vets might know their job but their honesty and integrity are suspect. A regulatory body can protect patients’ interest,” he says.

Beware of lab

Another vet in our area speaks at length about fly-by-night clinics and path labs.

“Recently, my client from Murshidabad had asked a laboratory from east Calcutta to drive over and collect their dog’s blood sample. But the man smelt a rat when he got the report within two hours. He rang up the driver who had come for the collection and learnt he hadn’t even reached the laboratory yet,” says this senior doctor, who did not wat to be named.

A few years ago, this doctor was working with a new laboratory and checking slides for blood samples. “When I found a certain sample positive, I rang up the attendant so he could alert the family and start treatment immediately. The attendant laughed and said the negative report had been sent to them long back and that the dog had died too,” says the disillusioned doctor who resigned from his post thereafter. The laboratory, meanwhile, has opened a second branch in our area.

Another doctor speaks out against vets claiming to be specialists in treating eyes, bones, cancer, or even exotic pets like iguanas and guinea pigs. “These animals are not even taught in college. The Veterinary Council of India curriculum is tilted heavily towards large animals like cows. Small animals are a tiny portion of the syllabus and so unless a vet has done a specialised course from abroad, he doesn’t know squat.”

“There are government vets who receive non-practising allowance but have thriving private practices where they write prescriptions on papers sans letterheads. An ailment that can be treated with a Rs 10 ointment will be treated with a Rs 2,000 one so the vet pockets a fat commission and is taken on paid tours around the world for conferences,” he says.

Loss of lives

When Arijit Mukherjee opened the Cats n Dogs clinic in CK Block he applied for several licences. “Since we would be using syringes, saline, and medicines, their proper disposal is important. So I got a licence from the pollution department. I doubt other clinics even know about this,” he said. Another popular clinic said they only needed a trade licence to start.

A few years back Mukherjee had led a campaign against surgeries by under-qualified vets. “I appoint vets who have a minimum of a master’s degree in surgery. Any vet less than that may be qualified to diagnose a disease but would have no experience in operating. Many pets have died under the knives of non-surgeons,” he says. “But more than individuals, a regulatory body can enforce this effectively,” he said.

Bitter pill

The owner of one of the biggest pet stores around draws attention to small units doing spurious business.“A small pet shop on the fringes of Salt Lake had been selling medicines without prescription to drug addicts. I caught them red-handed a few months ago,” says shop owner.

“To sell medicines the shop needs drug licence and pharmacy licence, which they did not have. They were buying the medicines through the vet, who was also caught. I went to the police with all the evidence. Miscreants had come to my store, too, to buy medicines in bulk that I realised were to be smuggled. Since the police is clearly unable to handle such cases, a dedicated regulatory body is the need of the hour,” he says.

What steps need to be taken to improve pet healthcare? Write to The Telegraph Salt Lake, 6 Prafulla Sarkar Street, Calcutta 700001 or email to

Last updated on 16.02.24, 11:36 AM

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