These are not happy times for dog lovers in India.

There has been a rise in sadistic attacks against street dogs around the nation, with the cruelty reaching an appalling degree in July, when a video appeared showing some boys burning three puppies alive. Days before this, another video had surfaced showing a medical student in Chennai throwing a five-month-old puppy, Bhadra, off a terrace. In both instances, the perpetrators got off lightly.

Breaking this cycle of callousness, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, India, wanted to find the Cutest Indian Dog Alive. In its fifth year, the Animal rights group’s contest was looking for desi dogs only.

Organisers say they "pawed through hundreds of entries" before picking the ten finalists. Voting ended on September 23 and results will be declared on September 28.

One of the finalists, Rosco, was found tied to a tea stall by Spandana Raj. Raj adopted the handsome brown-and-white stranger immediately.

"He has been with us for two years now," Raj said. "He is a happy and loving dog."

Goa pooch Petu was rescued by Minima Peres when she saw him being bullied by other dogs. Petu's left eye was severely injured at the time, but has healed under Peres' care.

"I saw a scared and screaming dog, went to Petu and started petting him," Peres said. "I carried him and brought him home, and now he's a part of my family."

Multicolor was adopted from the street by Garima Sharma, who regularly feeds strays near her home. Sharma brought her home, when none of Multicolour's siblings survived the streets.

"She is neither black, nor white nor brown," said Sharma, explaining her four-legged friend's unusual name. "She has splotches of all three."

Other finalists include the kohl-eyed Snowy, bindi-wearing Nekti Karmakar, animal-abuse survivor Jinke, Chiku, Lotus, Lassie and Browny.

According to PETA, the lucky winner will receive a certificate and a "100% Desi Dog" dog T-shirt, and his or her guardian will receive a “I Heart Desi Dogs” T-shirt as well as a copy of Ingrid E Newkirk’s book Let’s Have a Dog Party.

The first and second runners-up will also receive certificates and T-shirts. All the winners will appear in the upcoming issue of Animal Times, PETA India’s magazine.

PETA Chief Executive Officer Poorva Joshipura said, “All rescued dogs are already winners because their lives were saved by people who love them for who they are.”

The international organisation, with more than 5 million members and supporters, believes in urging prospective pet owners to adopt Indian community dogs from the streets or animal shelters, rather than buying puppies from pet shops.

With the rise in attacks against street dogs, contests like these help create awareness and sensitise people.

Recently, a Bengaluru woman was in the news for turning down a man's marriage proposal because he did not like her dog. The man was aghast that the woman found his dislike for dogs a deal-breaker. Social media praised the woman's stance for sticking up for her dog.

PETA's Cutest Dog Alive contest might help Indians realise that desi dogs deserve a shot at happiness too.