Paws for breath: India's pampered pooches get clean air as people choke on smog


GURUGRAM (Reuters) - While most residents of Delhi choked on toxic air this week, the dogs of the city's elite were enjoying ambient music and purified air at a luxury resort for pets.

Pollution in the capital rose to "severe" this week after revelers let off fireworks to mark the Hindu festival of Diwali, adding to the heavy smog caused by crop burning, vehicle fumes and industrial emissions.

Delhi's air is among the worst in the world, although many in the city of more than 20 million are unable, or unwilling, to protect themselves from the cocktail of gases and particles.

But at the TopDog Luxury Pet Resort, Gautam Kari, the chief operating officer who studied animal behaviourology in California, is offering relief for posh pooches.

Rooms at the site, next to an organic vegetable farm in Gurugram, one of Delhi's satellite cities and an IT hub, start at 2,000 rupees ($28) a night - more than five times the average daily wage.

The canine guests - many owned by politicians, diplomats and business figures, the resort says - have had their outdoor time reduced during the bad-air days of Diwali.

The air in their rooms is cleaned by purifying machines made by American manufacturer Honeywell.

"We don't want them out smelling the air for more than 45 minutes," Kari said.

Kari said clients brought their dogs for training and the resort's other luxuries, including food imported from Canada and music more commonly heard in high-end spas.

But air pollution is also a concern for owners.

"I think the air purifiers ... are as relevant to dogs as well as to human beings," said Vineet Durani, an executive at U.S. software giant Microsoft, who was collecting his Siberian husky Juno.

"It’s hard to breathe."

Other guests include a trio of dogs owned by Japanese diplomats, and two Portuguese water dogs, Peanut and Snicker, from the Dutch embassy.

The resort's presidential suite - named after former U.S. President Barack Obama's dog Bo - is occupied by a pair of street dogs adopted by an employee of the World Health Organization, the agency that developed international standards for monitoring air quality.

For those unable get their pet into TopDog, a pollution mask for dogs, which its makers say is a world-first, will soon be coming to India.

The K9mask, that costs $39.99 and promises "easy air intake for resting or panting", is looking for an Indian distributor.

"India is definitely a place experiencing air quality problems that will benefit," said Kirby Holmes, managing partner of the Good Air Team, which manufactures the masks.

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Martin Howell, Robert Birsel)