ANIMAL-CRUELTY

This article is authored by Ashome Shandilya, from Symbiosis Law School, Noida. This article discusses the rights of street animals and the recent case of Andhra Village Panchayat in which 300 dogs were poisoned to death.

Introduction

Kristan Higgins has rightly said that “It’s difficult to be sad when an 85-pound mammal licks your tears away and then tries to sit on your lap.” Dogs are commonly known as humans’ best friends. Since at least the Neolithic period, people and dogs have certainly had a special bond of friendship and mutual support. Dogs are considered to be obedient, cherished companions renowned for their devotion and almost inexhaustible desire to bring a smile to their owners’ faces. But it’s rather unfortunate that the Messiah of Non-violence became the victim of violence, recently in a village in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district where more than 300 stray dogs were poisoned to death and their bodies were buried in a pit. Humans are social beings, even animals, like humans, are social beings. They, too, need to be treated with respect and kindness. Stray dogs dwell on the streets or in slums, where they feed on unsanitary waste made by the local population. They frequently do not have enough food to eat, and as a result, the majority of them are malnourished. Local behaviour is also a source of concern, since only a few individuals treat them with kindness, while the rest regard them as a nuisance. In addition, they are subjected to harsh treatments such as poisoning and beating. Our constitution covers not just citizens’ rights and responsibilities to the state, but also the rights and responsibilities of innocent animals who are a part of our society. Under Section 11(1)(i) of the Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals Act 1960, it is a punishable offence to treat animals inappropriately. Under Indian Law, street dogs cannot be harmed or forced away.

Indian Street Dogs and their ‘rights’

There are many laws made for the welfare of street dogs in India. Animal cruelty is a crime in India, punishable by imprisonment and a fine under Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code. According to Section 429 of the IPC, whoever causes mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless any elephant, camel, horse, mule, buffalo, bull, cow, or ox, or any other animal worth fifty rupees or more, shall be punished with imprisonment of either sort for a time up to five years, or with a fine, or both.

Rules governing the sterilisation of street dogs

According to the Indian law, street dogs cannot be beaten, killed, driven away, or displaced or dislocated; instead, they must be sterilised, vaccinated, and returned to their original locations as outlined in the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, enacted under the Indian Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960.

The Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, declared in Rule 6 and Rule 7:

  • Even if the Municipal Corporation believes it is necessary to regulate street dog numbers, Rule 6 explicitly states that it cannot rely on killing or dislocating. It can only sterilise and immunise the dogs before returning them to the sites where they were picked up.
  • The procedure to be followed after receiving a complaint is outlined in Rule 7.  The Municipality cannot simply pick up dogs because some people/administrators don’t like them. Even the dogs that have been reported can only be sterilized and inoculated before being returned to the places where they were picked up.

Street dogs are supposed to get vaccinated and sterilized under the Animal Birth Control Programme (ABC). Under this program, stray dogs are captured, neutered, and vaccinated against rabies before being released in the areas where they were captured, in accordance with the Animal Birth Control Rules 2001 enacted under Section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and the orders of the Honourable Supreme Court of India. ABC programs, in combination with rabies vaccination, have been supported throughout Asia since the 1960s as a way to manage urban street male and female dog populations, and ultimately human rabies. The goal is to reduce dog population turnover and the number of dogs susceptible to rabies, as well as to limit features of male canine behaviour (such as dispersal and fighting) that aid in rabies propagation.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 prevents one from inflicting, causing, or allowing needless pain or suffering to be imposed on any animal unless they are the owner. Beating, kicking, torturing, mutilating, administering an injurious drug, or cruelly killing an animal are all prohibited under the Act.

Poisoning and injuring stray animals is against the law

In India, incidents like the one in Kerala, when thousands of stray dogs were poisoned, are unforgettable. According to Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code and the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, it is against the law to injure stray animals. It is illegal to do any kind of injury to any street animal. On a daily basis, stray animals are purposely hurt by people. Under Section 11 of the 1960 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, poisoning stray animals are against the law.

The tragic incident of stray dogs being thrashed and transported from their territory in sacks was disclosed recently in Gurugram. It is against the law to remove stray animals from their natural habitat. The PCA Act of 1960, Sections 11(1) I and (j), make it illegal to remove stray animals. It’s often noticed that many individuals try to erect barriers in the way of people who feed dogs in order to prevent them from doing so. Under Section 11(1) (h) of the PCA Act, 1960, it is against the law to starve street dogs or deny them shelter. It is prohibited to intentionally starve street dogs and remove their shelter.

It is illegal to capture the street animals against their will

Section 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 prohibits anybody from capturing, inciting, or baiting street animals with the intent of injuring them. It is illegal to even attempt to do so.

Circular to Central Government Employees on Street Dogs from the Ministry of Public Grievances

On 26.5.2006 the Ministry of Public Grievances Circular on Street Dogs to Central Government Employees issued a  few guidelines for the welfare of street dogs:

Treatment of street dogs by Government employees

Any government employee who commits an act of cruelty to animals will be subject to legal action under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. He would be subject to action under the CCS (Conduct) Rules for conduct unbecoming of a Government servant, in addition to the Act’s penalties.

Citizens, residents’ welfare associations, and others

Stray animals will be dealt with by government agencies, local self-governing organisations, non-governmental organisations, and other organisations. Government colonies’ recognised associations may seek such institutions for a redress of their grievances.

However, there is no rule prohibiting people from feeding street animals. The Delhi High Court has also directed the Delhi Police to safeguard people who feed and care for street dogs, who are frequently targeted by ill-informed, ill-advised residents/administrators of certain areas, in orders issued in 2009 and 2010.

In one of its recent judgments, the Delhi High Court stated that stray or street dogs have the right to food, and citizens have the right to feed them, but that care and caution should be exercised in exercising this right.

The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), a statutory organisation within the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change of the Indian government, drafted comprehensive guidelines on stray dog feeding. The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi issued decisions on the 18th of December, 2009, and the 4th of February, 2010, mandating not only that those street dogs be fed, but that they are fed in order to confine them to the areas to which they belong. Animal reproduction control and yearly/annual immunisation are made easier by confining them to the areas to which they belong.

Analysis of the incident in Andhra Pradesh

Recently, in a horrific incident of animal cruelty, almost 300 stray dogs were poisoned to death and buried in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. Lalitha, a fight for animals activist, filed a complaint with the Dharmajigudem police station after learning about the occurrences. She went to the community and saw the pit where over 300 dogs’ carcasses were allegedly buried. The Panchayat of Lingapalem in West Godavari district had vowed to rid the community of stray dogs. Instead of sterilising the canines, the Panchayat hired dog killers who poisoned them. It all started with a report that dog meat was being sold in the village during Bakrid (July 21). A team of four activists was made right away and they began their inquiry. The villagers warned them after a few days that a terrible odour was coming from the lakebed on the edges of the settlement. The activists dug out at least 300 dog carcasses and discovered them.

They began gathering evidence and discovered that poison had been purchased from local retailers. It was spread on darts, and paid catchers fired at the dogs. It got clear that the panchayat in question is participating. According to the activists, the panchayat body gets paid for vaccinating stray dogs, and they pay a dog catcher roughly $100 per animal to kill them. “On July 29, local pig catchers notified them that stray dog carcasses had been discovered buried in a pit near Perantam tank”.

Police filed a case against the Secretary and Sarpanch of the village panchayat under Sections 429 r/w 34 of the IPC (mischief by murdering or poisoning animals) and relevant provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, based on Lalitha’s complaint. An investigation is now underway. M Sugunraj, the secretary of the Lingapalem panchayat, and the sarpanch have been charged under Sections 429 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 11(l) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. M Sugunraj, the secretary of the Lingapalem panchayat, denied that the Panchayat was involved in the heinous act.

Conclusion

Under Article 21, The Indian Constitution protects all kinds of life, including animal life. Therefore every Indian citizen should follow the law and refrain from uncivilised, criminal behaviours such as attempting to intimidate anyone who wants to compassionately deal with street animals. Another incident sparked public outcry when nearly 38 monkeys were poisoned to death, put in gunny bags, and thrown away within the confines of Sakleshpur Police in Karnataka’s Hassan district.

The recent case of Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari where 300 dogs were killed clearly shows the death of humanity. On the orders of the panchayat of a village in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district, more than 300 stray dogs were poisoned and buried. Those speechless dogs were supposedly killed and buried at the village in the district’s Lingapalem area. Despite the existence of such stringent laws, many go unpunished since bringing them to justice is difficult. Unlike house pets, street animals don’t have the luxury of a cushy life. So a little empathy and respect for the street animals can make the world a better place. These incidents make one question humanity in today’s world. Therefore it’s very important to treat every living creature with utmost humility and respect and lets each one of us take an oath to become the voices of the innocent creatures with no voice. 

References


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