It’s a life of luxury for many dogs in India

In a country of more than a billion mostly poverty-stricken people, the status of dogs —  purebreds at least — is reaching new heights.

India, home to nearly half of the world’s hungry, has seen a surge in pricey dogs (including pugs, like the one pictured, featured in the advertising of a cell phone company, Vodaphone) and pricey dog goods and services.

it’s not uncommon for wealthy families to spend more on imported dog food in a week than the weekly budget of the 420 million Indians officially classified as poor.

Pets are becoming big business in India, and predictions are that the industry will continue to experience annual growth of 10-15 percent, Agence France-Presse reports — even though about 40 percent of India’s population lives below the global poverty line of less than $1.25 a day.

India’s pet industry is valued at around $45 million dollars annually, according to the research firm Euromonitor, compared to the annual $40 billion dollars of the U.S. market.

Experts say that thanks to the economic boom of the past decade, pets have become status symbols in a society that is seeing shifts in its family structure.

“Often both parents work and there’s no longer any grandparents around for the children to come home to, only the maid,” said Linda Brady Hawke, publisher of Indian pet care magazine Creature Companion. “An animal is something which will greet the children with love,” she said.

Among the breeds seeing increasingly popularity are Great Danes, dalmatians, Afghan hounds and pugs, which soared in popularity after one was featured in a mobile phone TV advertisement.

Labradors and golden retrievers have shown staying power, with owners willing to spend up to 300,000 rupees (6,000 dollars) for a championship-level imported purebred specimen — and to leave the air-conditioning on so thick-coated breeds such as giant St. Bernards won’t perish in the summer heat, the article says.

Money’s not an object, either, with many clients of ScoobyScrub, offering such services as “full body massage” and hair streaking, which can cost up to 1,000 rupees, more than most maids earn in a week.

“Families want to spend more on pets whether it’s branded foods or toys — that’s part of the ‘humanization’ process” of the animal, said Euromonitor researcher Yvonne Kok.