Friday, March 30, 2012

Of barks and blood: Analysis of Indian Animal Protection Laws

                                                                                 This article is written by Anagha Lokhande.

The menace of cruelty to stray animals is on the rise
DOGs the most faithful and loyal friends of man have been a part of our lives since about 35,000 years when the concept of domesticating animals actually began. It is since then, the partnership ensues!
It is not new to you when you find a police officer with a dog sniffing around places; just to make sure that we are safe.
It is not new to find these canines at special schools, just to make specially gifted kids feel the joy of being loved.
It is not new to hear about incidents
at war, where dogs rescued many soldiers. Of course it is not new; it is the inbuilt nature of these canines. (Image taken from here.)

Hence, Dogs are very well known as “Man’s Best Friend” but perhaps dogs don’t know that humans are also known as “Most Selfish Creatures”

The present situation:
Today’s Indian stray dog once used to live proudly under the shelter of his owner who has suddenly left it abandoned, and made completely dependent on the leftovers thrown away on road side. What else could be a better way to show gratitude for whatever these “once pets” had done for human societies.
But now it’s too much. We certainly cannot take more of their howling and barking, their littering and shitting anywhere, spoiling the beauty of our cities, they can even attack us and they already did it many a times before. They are totally intolerable and annoying. So, the best way of getting rid of them is just stop feeding them till they disappear one day. After all what is the use of uncivilized animals between civilized human society?
Clueless of what I am talking about? Let me confess, Most of us believe what I wrote in the paragraph above but wait till one day you see three bulky men with iron rods tied with iron wires catching stray dogs on road, hunting these animals and quickly they succeeded in trapping one poor dog. That animal was unusually screaming and bleeding from his mouth, fighting with those lifeless wires and rods, finally he gave up himself to those proud he-mans. It’s a common sight in the city these days to which we are numb spectators.
It is common to throw a stone at a stray to incite fun within us or to shut up his barks. Often people mix up poison with food and give it away to the strays so as to they die by eating it. Unaware, these tongue tied creatures too find place in our law system.

Laws to protect animals:

As per Indian law, street dogs cannot be beaten or driven away. They can merely be sterilized in the manner envisaged in the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 (Rules under Indian Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960), vaccinated, and then returned back to their original locations. Additionally, Section 428 of the Indian Penal Code also provides for imprisonment and fine in cases involving animal cruelty. Every citizen of India is thus hereby advised to abide by the law, and refrain from uncivilized, criminal actions such as seeking to intimidate those who choose to deal with street animals compassionately. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 does lays down guidelines as to acts that could be liable for penalty. There is no law that prohibits feeding of street animals, and that citizens who choose to do so are in fact performing a duty cast upon them by the Constitution of India.
Persons, who are trying to interfere with their effort, or display aggression, can be held liable for having committed the offence described in the Indian Penal Code and criminal intimidation..
 Even though such laws exist, there have been atrocities committed against the strays citing the reasons of nuisance they create for example: bite attacks, dirtying, etc which indeed are often as result of lack of awareness or invoking behavior on our part. Laws to deal with animal rights and cruelty have been a part of our constitution since decades; it’s the lack of knowledge amongst the citizens because of which the poor strays suffer and we retort to violence.

 “Where these street dogs are born is where they belong

Do Dogs have the 'Right to Life'
Image taken from here

“These animals have as much a right to inhabit the areas they were born in as we do!”

BMC’s cruel appeal:
Also in one of the most talked about case in the Supreme Court, several NGO’s challenged the HC judgment which allowed the BMC to carry out the termination of nuisance creating strays, one of the top lawyers in the Fali Nariman argued “A dog cannot be exterminated because it barks,” To the bench’s query that a stray dog could bite people, Nariman said such animals could always be sterilized! (Excerpts from The Hindustan Times. Dated 24 January, 2009 )

The precedents :
I also reproduce below some of the contents from the book "Mumbai Nagari" written by Shri N.R.Phatak and published by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai on 9th March 1981. This book covers many important events of the civic matter. 
Chapter 7, page no. 92 amply describes the issue of killing of dogs in the year 1832 earlier than existence of BMC. There was immense nuisance from the stray dogs in the city and which has attracted the complaints from the European Community and other elite class.  It was difficult to differentiate and identify the normal dogs and mad dogs.  However, biting of dogs was considered as most horrible and there was psycho fear. To eliminate stray dogs, the East India Co., the Governing Body, had taken the steps to kill the dog and engaged the police force to catch and kill.  They have also engaged killing of dogs by the citizens who were rewarded suitably if the dead body of dog is brought to the police station.  However, this move of East India Co. provoked the citizens, particularly Parsee, Gujarathi and Jain communities who determined to fight against this move. 
The police engaged in the catching of dogs were chased by the member of the society and were beaten and stones were pelted on them.  This turned out to be riot. 
The matter did not end there.  The irate citizens obstructed the water and food supply of European community who were staying inside the fort.  Even the Officers of EIC were followed, stoned and harassed. Finally, the company has ordered firing and there were casualties of human lives.  The arrested people were imprisoned. 
Similar incident again occurred in the early 19th century when the award for killing of dog was declared and as token cutting ear of the dog was required to be produced for which they were paid 8 annas (0.50 paise).   

What should be done?   

Therefore, it is necessary to understand the social aspects relevant to the existence of the dogs in the human society and their important is a vital element of the eco-system apart from being most trusted friend of the human being. Several animal welfare groups (WSD India ,STRAW) work hard to provide relief and shelter to these abandoned strays. Thus the government needs to focus more on providing aid to the NGO’s which take up the herculean task of sterilizing the strays and rehabilitating them rather than terminating them and we as responsible citizens should be aware of laws and report any incidence of nuisance by the strays to the authorities as taking action is their duty. Rather than hitting the strays it is greatly advisable that we report any case of dog nuisance to the municipal authorities as they do (really!) act on it. Usually problem creating strays are first checked for sterilization and then treated and are left back again to their place of habit or kept in shelters. This ensures you stay within the law and not hurt any animal out of anger. (Image taken from here)

 The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
-Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

The above quote says it all!


The above article is written by Anagha Lokhande.

"Anagha is pursuing her B.L.S./LL.B. from Government Law College, Mumbai. Her wish to become a lawyer specializing in International Law. She loves learning new languages, reading books and volunteering at animal shelters. Her goal is to use her legal knowledge to curb cruelty against animals ! "


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