On the afternoon of 10th August 2010, the Jaagruti helpline received a call from Mrs. Usha Gulati in Faridabad who informed that the residents welfare association of the colony in which they stay had objected to them taking their Pet dog Pixie up and down the building lift from their 5th floor flat. Ms. Gulati and her family was willing to take Pixie down (for his walks) using the stairs but given his age (Pixie is 10+ years old) and the fact that they live on the 5th Floor, the Gulati family was not willing to cow down to the demands and orders of the RWA in any way and were even willing to take this matter to court should the RWA remain adamant in its stance on this subject.
Most of the times the arguments that RWA office bearers give to pet owners while objecting them to using the building lift with their pets- ‘the pets odour is harmful for human health’, ‘pets are dirty’, ‘pets make the lift dirty’, ‘pets can pounce or growl or attack other people in the lift’ and the list goes on as per the whims and fancies of the RWA representatives.
Ms. Gulati mentioned to us that she has a copy of a news clipping that came out in Times of India newspaper in December 2008 in which a Mumbai resident had approached a consumer court for his pet dog Shimu. Further to this Ms Gulati wanted to know from us if there was any previous judgment in this regard that they could use to help Pixie. Below is presented a step-by-step guide on how to tackle such a problem which, as we learnt is a common problem faced by many people living with their pets in buildings with lifts face across many cities in India. The key to coming out victors in such a situation is to have cent percent commitment towards your pet and to be willing to stand up for your pet’s rights, for pets are family!
Through the power of the internet, we enquired upon this ‘Pets being denied lift access’ subject from people across the animal welfare fraternity across India, the following facts came to light and we are sharing this information in our effort to inspire all those who face similar problems to act accordingly when faced with such situations. As for what transpired in the story of Pixie, read this till the end:
The only preceeding judgement in such a case was when Mr. Ajay Marathe, a resident of Mumbai’s Vashi Colony approached the Consumer Court (on 26th September, 2008) when his colony’s association passed a resolution disallowing them to use the building lift with their pet dog ‘Shimu’, who was then 11 years old who was suffering from osteo-arthritis (pain in the bones and joints)
The following trail of news stories on Shimu’s case illustrate the trail of events on this subject as well.
No entry for pets in lifts, Vashi Housing Society tells residentsIndian Express
N GaneshFri Sep 12 2008, Mumbai :Says odour may be harmful to health; SPCA takes up issue
Life for 11-year-old Peter-Pan alias Shimu, a Labrador Retriever, has become tougher than ever. Shimu stays with his owners, Ajay and Nandini Marathe, on the fifth floor of New Sarvodaya Co-operative Housing Society, at Sector 4 in Vashi. Shimu has been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, an ailment in which the patient suffers from severe joint pain. However, Shimu will now have to use the staircase instead of the lift, as a resolution passed by the general body of the society bars pets from using the building elevator.
On August 3, 2008, the general body resolved to prevent use of lifts by residents accompanied by their pets. According to a notice issued to Marathe and the general body resolution, the society fears that the odour of the pets which is left behind in the lifts, can be hazardous to the life and health of the building residents. In the month of May 2008, the society sought numerous documents certifying the fitness levels of the dog. Marathe, who has a licence for the dog, produced a certificate issued by the Bombay Veterinary College that dog is licenced, vaccinated, healthy and does not suffer from any infectious or contagious disease. The Bombay Veterinary College certificate also adds that since the dog is aged and suffering from osteoarthritis, it should be allowed to use the lift, as climbing the stairs would be a painful task.
Marathe tried to find a way out by using air fresheners after the use of lift by the pet dog. However, the society officer tersely told Marathe that use of air fresheners was not recommended.
After a complaint of Marathe, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has taken up the issue. S B Kadam, assistant secretary, SPCA said, “SPCA inspectors have paid a visit to the society and asked the office bearers to be practical and permit use of lift for the pet dog concerned. We will be hearing from them soon.”
Marathe said, “I paid the watchman from the neighouring building to carry the dog up and down the building thrice a day so that he could answer nature’s call. This arrangement worked fine for a few days, however he stopped coming after being warned by society office bearers.”
Meanwhile, Marathe has temporarily shifted Shimu to his in-laws place at Pen in Raigad district. Chairman of the housing society Arvind Palwankar said, “It is a very old sick dog with a bad odour. We only prevented Marathe from using the lift. Moreover, Marathe is a nuisance as he relentlessly complains against the society to the authorities about all things trivial.”
What the law says
Advocate Rahul Thakur who is associated with In Defense of Animals (IDA) said that the society resolution violates section 11 (3) of Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act 1960. It is also against article 51 A (g) of the Indian Constitution according to which it is the duty of every citizen to have compassion for animals, living creatures and improve the natural environment. Thakur said, “The society resolution is illegal as it is unconstitutional.”
Please note the underlined portion in the last paragraph of the above story.
Luckily for Shimu, who is now in good heavens, the Consumer Court upheld the society’s resolution and passed the judgement in his favour and also asked the Association to pay Mr. Ajay Marathe Rs.5000/- in lieu of the damages and the expenses incurred by him on this court case.
Please read through the following news stories:
Peter Pan can use apartment lift now
N Ganesh Dec 17, 2008
The consumer forum came to the rescue of a 11-year-old dog, Peter Pan alias Shimu, who was not allowed to use the apartment lift by the office bearers of a housing society in Navi Mumbai. Shimu, a pet belonging to Ajay and Nandini Marathe, residing on the fifth floor of New Sarvodaya co-operative housing society was barred from using the society lift. Shimu had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis — an ailment that causes acute pain in the joints.
In its order dated December 11, 2008 the Thane District Additional Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum ruled that the housing society’s move to prevent pets from using the apartment lift without any valid reasons amounted to deficiency in service to the members as per section 2 (1) (g) of the Consumers Protection Act.
The Marathes were asked to produce documents certifying the illness of the dog. However, despite producing the required certificates and reports, the general body of the housing society in August 2008 resolved to ban pet animals from using apartment lifts.
The housing society contended before the forum that the dog was not a consumer of the housing society and hence the forum cannot hold the society liable. The consumer court however said in its order: “The issue of ‘dog’ being or not being the consumer of the society is not valid, instead the valid issue should be whether the complainant is consumer of the housing society or not.”
Since the membership of the Marathes to the housing society was not disputed, the consumer court said: “The dog has valid license and has been certified by a veterinary doctor of having no contagious and infectious disease. It has received all its vaccines. The doctor has also recommended the use of lifts owing to its condition.”
The housing society contended that the use of lifts by pets threatened the safety of the residents. However the Consumer court held that the housing society’s decision to ban pets from using lifts was without any valid reasons and hence amounted to deficiency in service. The court has ordered the housing society to pay Rs 3000 as damages and Rs 2000 as legal expenses to the Marathes.
Mumbai: An 11-year-old Labrador has emerged a champion of dog rights by not only winning for himself the right to travel in the elevator of his apartment complex in a Mumbai suburb but getting his master a Rs 5,000 compensation from the apartment’s anti-pet managing committee.
The Thane District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum passed an order, defending Shimu aka Peter Pan’s right to use the left and directed the society to compensate the owner for the harassment he faced. The dog’s owner, Ajay Marathe (52), a fifth floor resident of New Sarvoday Cooperative Society at Vashi, told TOI on Wednesday: This is a very good judgement given in our favour in real time. In fact, a lot of pet owners face the same problem in Mumbai; this order can be an important reference point to help them use their society lifts.
Marathe added that the 35-kg Shimu suffered from pain in the joints and couldn’t use the stairway. The society this May passed a resolution, saying pets like cats and dogs could not be allowed in the lift as their body odour could be injurious to health and life, which I found to be ridiculous, he said.
Marathe first went to the cops, but failing to get a sympathetic response from them, he lodged a case in the Thane consumer court. The consumer court has given this judgement in less than three months. The Rs 5,000 compensation for my pet is also welcome as I had to temporarily shift Shimu to my in laws house in Pen, which caused some discomfort to him, he said.
To read the full judgement given by the Consumer Court on this case in favour of Shimu the dog, please click here
Since Shimu passed away soon after this judgement was announced, Mr. Marathe donated the Rs.5000/- compensation he received to the animal welfare charity named PAWS which used this contribution to publish brochures on the ‘Tree Protection Act’, which carried Shimu’s name on it as a mark of honour to his spirit.
Now, coming back to Pixie’s case in Fraidabad, here is what happened-
Deriving inspiration from Mr. Marathe’s stance on getting justice for Shimu, Ms. Usha Gulati’s familytook the press clipping of Shimu’s news (which had come out in TOI in December 2008) and approached the Local Police with the copy of the same and lodged a complaint against the RWA…the cops then called and came over to meet the RWA representatives and following all of this, an amicable solution was reached upon in which it was agreed that the Gulati family would be allowed to bring their pet dog Pixie down the stairs for his walk and after he has relieved himself and there is apparently nothing in his stomach to ‘dirty’ the lift with, he can take the lift upstairs to his fifth floor house along with his owner.
So, next time you face such an issue, consider using all of this information above and stand up to seek justice for your animal friends. Trust us, its all worth the effort and a way to (try to) pay back for all the love that your pet animal has showered upon you unconditionally.
However, we would like to also suggest to you that as always prevention is better than cure so please be mindful of a few other things a ‘responsible’ pet owner can follow while using the lift with their pet, to avoid inconvenience to the fellow lift users:
1. Make sure that your pet dog/cat is vaccinated to avoid any health related arguments from fellow building residents.
2. Keep your pet animal on a leash.
3. If your pet is aggressive and has a tendency to bite strangers, then it would be better to put a muzzle around the pet’s mouth while you move your pet in the lift. You can remove the muzzle once your pet is out of the lift.
4. Try using the lift when no one is in there, alternatively avoid using the lift when someone (you know) having a canine/feline-phobia (i.e someone who is well-known to be scared of dogs/cats) is already travelling in the lift.
5. Make sure that your pet doesn’t pee or defecate in there, so avoid taking young untrained pups in the lift as else you would most likely end up creating a lot more disgruntled neighbours or should we say enemies!
6. Take care of the health and hygiene of your pet dog/animal, give it a nice bath regularly so that it doesn’t emanate any sort of stinking odour in a public place like a lift, which may else be a cause of inconvenience for the fellow residents of your building.
* Credits: We thank AWBI’s lawyer Anjali Sharma, PAWS founder trustee Nilesh Bhanage and Vishruti Aggarwal for sharing their experiences, the video link and the consumer court judgement with us.