The Indian law protects our four-legged companions!
In 2010, Central Mumbai Consumer Disputes Redress Forum gave a strong directive to a group housing society who was charging a pet parent a monthly fee for using lifts for his pooch. The court clearly said, ‘Dogs are part of a family hence they have the right to use the lift just as any other member, and we cannot decide who is a family member and who isn’t, each family decides for itself.’
Earlier in 2008, a similar order came from a lower court that clarified that pets are part of family and cannot be restricted from living or using the residential complexes.
In 2012, Gurgaon Municipal Corporation was the first of its kind to issue strict notices to all central government health scheme (CGHS) and residence welfare associations (RWAs) in Gurgaon, warning them not to formulate rules and regulations against pets and that any such move is in conflict with the law. The notices clearly stated – ‘Such a move may lead to dissolution of the RWA and prosecution of its office bearers, says the letter. It is illegal to remove animals from the area through security guards employed by RWAs. Nor can they intimidate residents who may be feeding those animals. Under stray dog management rules 2001, it’s illegal for an individual, RWA or estate management to remove or relocate dogs. The dogs have to be sterilised and vaccinated and returned to the same area. Vaccinated and sterilised dogs cannot be removed by the municipality too. Under Section 506 of the IPC, it’s a crime to threaten, abuse or harass neighbours who feed animals.’ The Indian Constitution states them very clearly via various Sections.
After the Stockholm Declaration in 1972 the Indian Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 inserted for the first time specific provisions to protect and improve the environment.
- Article 51-A (g) states – ‘It shall be duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.’
- Article 48-A – ‘The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.’
- Article 19 deals with the fundamental rights of the citizen. So, ‘Right to Protect the Environment,’ comes within Article 19.
- Article 25, 26, 27, 28 provide religious freedom to all citizens and preserves the principle of secularism in India. According to the constitution, all religions are equal before the State. Citizens are free to preach, practice and propagate any religion of their choice in their own way. Feeding animals like dogs is a part of the same in many religions.
- Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act makes all animal cruelty a criminal offence. Fines and imprisonment are both provided for. The Indian Penal Code has similar provisions.
- The Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules, 2001, enacted under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, provides for sterilisation and vaccination as a means of stabilising/reducing stray dog populations and eliminating the risk of rabies; and prohibits relocation of stray dogs, i.e. throwing or driving them out of one area, into another.
- Under Stray Dog Management Rules, 2001, it’s illegal for an individual, RWA or estate management to remove or relocate dogs. The dogs have to be sterilised and vaccinated and returned to the same area. Vaccinated and sterilised dogs cannot be removed by the municipality too.
- Under Section 506 of the IPC, it’s a crime to threaten, abuse or harass neighbours who feed animals.
- IPC Section 428 and 429 provide severe punishment (up to five years imprisonment) to people resorting to dislocation, abduction and acts of cruelty towards community animals or pets.
- Delhi Police Act 1968, Sections 73 to 79, 99 give special powers to police to take action when an animal offence has been committed.
- Ministry of Public Grievances notification and a similar notification by Animal Welfare Board of India dated March 2008 provide immunity to animal feeders and restrict government employees or bodies such as Resident Welfare Associations from harassing people who try to feed or help animals.
- The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 at various places protect the stray dogs against any kind of cruelty.
- Directive of the Central Mumbai Consumer Disputes Redress Forum, given on 22/11/10 came down strongly against the housing societies who were charging a resident for use of lift since October 2008 for pets.
- High Court of Delhi in 2011 passed an order asking the police to provide protection to dogs and dog feeders and has made it a punishable offence in case anyone restricts, prohibits or causes inconvenience to any person feeding a street dog or resorts to removal, dislocation or killing of a dog.
- The Supreme Court of India in 2009 gave a similar stay order against removal, culling or dislocation of a dog anywhere in India.
3-Step solution to curb street dog population
- Semi-adoption of street dogs by RWAs, commercial and institutional establishments. By adopting, RWAs are limiting the number of dogs as these dogs won’t let other dogs come into their areas. Dogs guard from dogs. Immigration of feral and biting dogs will be automatically checked by these community dogs.
- Contacting local NGO/AWO for ABC AR (Animal Birth Control and Anti-Rabies) of these dogs and ensures they are brought back into the same area. By vaccination and sterilisation, the RWAs can make sure the dog bites, aggression at time of mating season and that by lactating female dogs is reduced. Plus these rabies-free dogs would provide protection from other rabid dogs. Their population will not increase for at least 8-10 years, which will give NGOs enough time to do the ABC AR programme in the entire city.
- Regular feeding will domesticate these dogs to the level that they would protect humans from any threat and within neighbourhood bites will become zero. Humans become the primary food source who the dog would guard and protect, unlike a case when the dogs will protect the garbage dump from the humans.
(Rishi Dev is founder of Citizens For Animals Rights (CFAR), Dwarka, New Delhi).