The Animal Welfare Board of India, a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India has come out with a revised Circular dated 20th February 2014, that clearly states what is lawful and unlawful with regard to the treatment of street dogs and pet dogs, by residents as well as Resident Welfare Associations (RWA), Apartment Owners’ Associations, Cooperative Group Housing Societies etc.
Why is this circular important and how should you be using it?
- This circular assumes importance because everyday, we as well as the Board receives numerous complaints from pet dog owners and street dog caretakers about the RWAs either putting restrictions on them for having pets, use of lifts or by pets or harassing street dog caretakers and/or attempting to harm/dislocate street dogs.
- So, now with this Circular in your hand, the next time you, being a pet owner or a street animal caretaker, face an unruly RWA with misplaced intent of harassing you or the animals you care for, please argue your case and educate your RWA representatives by sharing this Circular and its contents with them.
- The law is on the side of you and your dogs, so please do not succumb to any pressure or harassment and let go of your dogs.
- The same circular, if required for may also be extrapolated for street cats and pet cats, though there is no Government run programme yet for Sterilization of Stray cats; but then Cats also have as much of a right as Street Dogs to live on the streets where they are born and belong.
- Download this Circular by clicking here and keep a print out of the same handy with you.
The full text of the Circular is shared below:
Dated: 20th February 2014
TO WHOMSOEVER THIS MAY CONCERN
SUBJECT: PET DOGS AND STREET DOGS –THE ANIMAL WELFARE BOARD OF INDIA’S REVISED CIRCULAR
This Circular is being issued in place of an earlier Circular on this subject dated, 1st February 2014. It seeks to supplement what was earlier issued and to add to it; and the circular of 1st February 2014 stands hereby withdrawn.
The Board is acting in response to several requests received, to lend clarity and provide answers to recurring vexed questions. What I state below, is based on inputs received from the Board’s legal members and lawyers, on the correct position in law with regard to various aspects concerning pet dogs and street dogs.
The issuance of this circular has also been necessitated because it is well known that in recent times, RWA’s, Apartment owners’ association cooperative group housing societies and other gated complexes have taken to imposing many unreasonable restriction on pet owning resident such as disallowing the use of lifts or park by pets or even banning pets altogether. They’re also known to frequently encourage mistreatment, dislocation and dumping of street dogs. Moreover, compassionate persons that wish to tend to and feed street dog are often discouraged, and pressurized to refrain from doing so. There is widespread resentment against these moves, which apart from being unreasonable, are also unlawful and against recent court rulings.
As an RWA or an apartment owners’ association group housing society, gated complex, etc. you may often be getting complaints regarding street dogs, and requests that they be driven away, through beating by security guards or otherwise, or just dumped elsewhere. If you accede to these requests, you will not only be violating laws and pronouncements of courts, but also, you will not achieve any permanent solution either. The problem will become perennial; and you will also run afoul of animal welfare people that are increasing in number by the day, and banding themselves into well organized groups.
Set out below. Are some Dos, and Don’ts, with respect to PET DOGS & STREET DOGS
- WITH RESPECT TO PET DOGS & PET OWNING RESIDENTS: what you (i.e. the RWA/residents) CANNOT do:-
a) Even by obtaining consensus, or even if the majority of the residents want it. You cannot legally introduce any sort of ‘ban’ on the keeping of pet dogs by resident/s. You cannot insist that ‘small sized’ dog is acceptable, and ‘large sized’ dogs are not. You cannot cite dog barking as a valid and compelling reason for any ban sought to be introduced by you.
b) Even by amending bye-laws or regulation or otherwise such a ‘ban’ cannot be put into place since it is illegal, and does not have the sanction of law in fact, in trying to ’ban” pets or limit their number, you interfere with a fundamental freedom guaranteed to the citizens of India i.e. the freedom to choose the life they wish to live, which includes facets such as living with or without companion animal.
c) If the resident that have pets are not violating any municipal or other laws, you cannot object. The general body cannot frame or amend bye-laws that are at variance with the laws of the country. Even by a complete majority, a general body cannot adopt an illegality. Please remember, you, as an RWA, do not have the right to legislate and ‘lay ‘ down for residents, and apartment owners or even tenants.
d) Use of LIFTS by pets: There are court rulings to the effect that pets cannot be disallowed from the use of lifts; and no charge can be imposed either, by housing societies for the use of lifts by pets. One court is in fact known to have observed that dogs are family, and can use lifts by pets for free please ensure that this sort of restriction is not therefore imposed- neither a ban, nor any special charges for the use of lifts by pets.
e) Use of PARK by pets: Banning pets from garden from park is short-sighted. Firstly, you may or may not own the garden or park in question. Pets that are not properly exercised may show aggression in frustration; and that surely, cannot contribute to the benefit of the residents. It may be better to fix timing when pets can be walked without inconvenience to other residents. These timings can then be intimated to the general body.
f) Use of leashes/muzzles by pet owners, defecation by pets in community premises, imposition of fines and other similar measure: You can request pet owners to keep their pets in leash, when walking them in common areas. You cannot however insist on the use of muzzles. Please remember, the law already provides the penalties for negligent pet owners, which the aggrieved parties can avail of.
g) In the absence of central or state laws requiring cleaning of pet excreta by pet owners, you cannot impose any rule, regulation or bye –law, with respect to mandatory cleaning of the same, or impose special charges or fines on pet owners. You can, of course, request them to do so.
h) You can also experiment with the creation of various pet defecation areas within community premises. These can be imaginatively spaced out within the precincts, and you can request pet owners to train their pet into using the same. You cannot however impose fines and special charges of any kind of pet owners, because there is no mandate in law for the same.
i) Intimidation: Lastly, please also always bear in mind that if any association succeeds in intimidating a pet owner into ‘giving up’ or’ abandoning’ a pet, it will actually have abetted violation of law; and may well be aggravating the menace of ownerless animal on the street, that are not accustomed to living on street and therefore get involved in the lead to accidents, injuries and deaths. Please also bear in mind that intimidation is an offence in law.
- WITH RESPECT TO STREET DOGS: what you (i.e. the RWA/residents) CANNOT do:
a) Beating and driving away street dogs, is NOT ALLOWED; Animal Birth Control and release back into same locality/territory, is ALLOWED: As per Indian law street dogs (i. e. stray dogs) cannot be beaten or driven away or dumped elsewhere or killed. They can merely be sterilized in the manner envisaged in the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, vaccinated and then returned back to their original locations. For the area-wise sterilization program that the law mandates shall be followed, dogs have to be returned back to their original habitat after sterilization and immunization.
b) The rationale behind release back of street dogs into the same locality/territory after sterilization and vaccination: Dogs, being territorial in nature, tend to fight off other dogs. And keep them from entering their territories; and in the manner, the dog population in each territory/ within each locale stabilizes.
c) Street dog feeding, whether inside or outside community premises and gated complexes: there is no law that prohibits the feeding of street animal. Citizen who choose to do so are in fact performing a duty cast upon them by the Constitution of India – of showing compassion to all living creatures Various Court including High Courts have upheld street dog feeding since the same reduces human – animal conflict and suspicion, and facilitates animal birth control (by making dog catching easier).
d) Animal cruelty: please also note, animal cruelty is an offence – under Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, and Section 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code – punishable with imprisonment and fine.
e) Intimidation: Attempts to interfere with, or harass persons who choose to tend to and feed community dogs maybe tantamount to the very grave offence criminal intimidation.
f) Aggression to dogs counter productive: Last but not the least; any aggression or hostility that the dogs may be subjected to will only render them aggressive, and hostile to humans. They may then resort to snapping and biting in self defence. If the same happens, the human aggressors shall be the only to blame.
Please bear in mind that the Board (Animal Welfare Board of India) vide the present Circular, is merely setting out what is lawful, and what is unlawful, on the subject of treatment or mistreatment of pet dogs and street dogs.
Dr. R.M. Kharb, Maj. Gen. (Retd.), AVSM
Chairman, Animal Welfare Board of India