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This article is written by Arundhati Roy, an intern at RTI Cell, iPleaders.

Introduction

Since time immemorial, animals have been facing abuse and cruelty at the hands of humans. There is rampant animal abuse in every nook and corner of the world, whether rural or urban areas. It has been found out that dogs, horses, cats, and livestock are the animals whose abuse is reported the most. In the wake of rising animal cruelty cases, it entailed the need to set up a Society for prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). The first SPCA can be traced back to 1824, which was organized in England to prevent the abuse of carriage horses when automobiles were yet to be invented. The horses were subjected to cruelty in various forms, such as using them as carriage through chilly winters and roasting hot summers, with the least concern for their health. The carriage horses were hardly given any rest, food, or water, as the carriage drivers were only interested in making money for themselves. With the aid of the first SPCA, it became possible to pass laws for the regulation of the carriage-horse business.

Thereafter over the years, the society brought within its ambit all dogs and other animals who were treated with cruelty. It is significant to know that the first Indian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was established by Colesworthy Grant in the year 1861 in Calcutta. The motive behind the setting up of SPCA in India was to prevent the suffering of strays caused due to animal experimentation undertaken by the Britishers. To regulate the SPCAs in India, the legislators enacted the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Establishment and Regulation of Societies for prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Rules, 2001. It’s been 20 years since the Rules for the establishment of SPCAs were enacted, however, only a handful of SPCAs are working towards that direction. Therefore, it is indispensable to know the current state of affairs regarding the establishment of SPCAs in all districts of India and to comprehend the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Establishment and Regulation of Societies for prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Rules, 2001.

Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)

A Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is a non-profit organization found worldwide working for the welfare of animals. SPCAs lay down their own set of guiding principles & mode of functioning with respect to safeguarding the animals from cruelty & unnecessary infliction of pain while working independently of each other.

What is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Establishment and Regulation of Societies for prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Rules, 2001?

 By virtue of Section 38 (1) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (59 of 1960), the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Establishment and Regulation of Societies for prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Rules, 2001 was enacted. These Rules have been prescribed with the objective of mandating the establishment of such a Society in every district of India. 

The term “Society” has been defined under Rule 2 (e) of the PCA (Establishment and Regulation of Societies for prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Rules, 2001 which means Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (hereinafter referred to as SPCA) established in any district under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 (21 of 1860) or any other corresponding law applicable in a state and shall include the existing SPCA functioning in any district.

Important Definitions under the Rules

  • Rule 2(d) defines the term “local authority” which means a municipal board of municipal committee, a State Animal Welfare Board, district board or any local animal welfare organization authorized by any law for the control and administration of any matter relating to animals within specified local areas.
  • Rule 2(c), the term “Board,” means the Animal Welfare Board of India under the Act. 
  • “Animal Welfare Organization” defined under Rule 2(b) means a Welfare Organization for animals which is registered under the Societies Registration Act of 1860 (21 of 1860) or any other corresponding law for the time being in force and recognized by the Board or the Central Government.

Society for Prevention of Cruelty to animals in a district 

Under Rule 3 (1) Every State Government has been mandated to establish a society for every district in the State which is to be called as the SPCA in that district, by notification in the Official Gazette, as soon as may be and in in any event within six months from the date of commencement of these rules.

Provided that any society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals functioning in any district on the date of commencement of these rules shall continue to discharge its functions till establishment of the SPCA in that district under these rules.

Managing Committee of the Society

Rule 3(2) states that the State Government or the local authority of the district shall appoint the Managing Committee of the Society composed of a Chairperson to be appointed by the State Government or the local authority of the district, as the case may be with the concurrence of the Board. The Managing Committee shall consist of such number of other members as may be considered necessary by the State Government or the local authority of the district subject to the condition that-

(i) there shall be no less than two members who shall be representatives of the Animal Welfare Organizations which are diligently involved in the work of prevention of cruelty to animals and welfare of animals preferably from within the district; and

(ii) there shall be no less than two members who shall be the persons elected by the general body of members of the Society.

Duties and Powers of the Society

Rule 3(3) provides that Society shall provide assistance to the Government, the Board and local authority in carrying out and implementing the provisions of the Act and to make such bye-laws and guidelines as it may deem necessary for the efficient discharge of its duties.

Rule 3(4) states that the Society, or any person authorized by it in this behalf, if it or he has reasonable grounds for believing that any person has committed an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, then the Society or such authorized person may require such person to produce immediately any animal in his possession, control, custody or ownership, or any license, permit or any other document granted to such person or required to be kept by him under the provisions of the PCA Act and may stop any vehicle or enter into any premises in order to conduct a search or inquiry and may seize an animal in respect of which it or such authorized person has reason to believe that an offence under the Act is being committed, and deal with it in accordance with law.

Rule 3(5) states supplementary to the powers which are conferred by these rules, the State Government may, in consultation with the Board, bestow such other powers upon any Society for exercising the powers and discharging the functions assigned to it under these rules.

Infirmaries (Hospitals) and animal shelters

Rule 4 provides for setting up of infirmaries and animal shelters:

(1) Sufficient amount of land and other amenities shall be provided by every State Government to the Society for the purpose of constructing infirmaries and animal shelters.

(2) It is mandated for very infirmary and animal shelter –

(i) to have veterinary doctor who shall be permanent along with other staff for the efficacious running and maintenance of such infirmary or animal shelter; and

(ii) an administrator who shall be appointed by the Society.

(3) Every society shall supervise the overall functioning of the infirmaries and animal shelters under its control and jurisdiction through its administrator or otherwise.

(4) All cattle pounds and pinjra poles owned and run by a local authority shall be managed by such authority jointly with the Society or Animal Welfare Organisations.

Regulation of SPCAs

Rule 5 states the manner in which the SPCAs are to be regulated. They are are as follows:

  1. An annual report is to be submitted by every Society to the Board incorporating the activities which are undertaken by it for the welfare of animals and the steps or measures taken by it to implement various provisions of the Act and the rules made thereunder.
  2.  The SPCAs are required to have their accounts appropriately audited by a chartered accountant or any other body authorised by law within a period of one month from the date of its accounts having been worked out by its managing committee.
  3. The annual report and the annual accounts submitted by the Society shall be scrutinized by the Board who may be give any directions to the Society for improvement of its functioning including the supersession of the managing committee of the Society with a view to give effect to the provisions of the Act and the rules made thereunder.

Provided that the opportunity of personal hearing to the office bearers of the Society or any representative authorised by it, shall be given by the Board before giving direction of its supersession and holding of fresh elections for electing a new managing committee as per bye-laws of the society.

4. The Board is empowered to give any direction to any Society in the interest of smooth and efficient functioning of the Society including the procedure for holding the election of the managing committee of the Society, utilisation of financial resources and management of assets of the Society with a view to give effect to the provisions of the Act and the rules made thereunder.

Prevailing situation of the SPCAs in India

Despite the enactment of the above-stated rules for the setting up of Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in every district, it is dismaying to see the existing condition of the SPCAs in India. Pertinently, there are many State Governments who show apathy in taking initiatives to form the SPCAs. Consequently, there has been failure on part of the State Governments to implement the above said rules which is in violation of Rule 3 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Establishment & Regulation of Societies for prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Rules, 2001. As per Rule 3 of the said Rules, it is mandatory for every State Government to set up SPCA in every district within 6 months from the date of commencement of the PCA (Establishment & Regulation of Society for prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Rules, 2001.

According to a report by the Times of India, most of the government bodies such as the State Animal Welfare Boards or the Local Authorities who are responsible to ensure that the provisions of the PCA Act in consonance with the other rules enacted under it, are complied with, lack compassion for animals. Moreover, it has been observed by the animal rescuers that the animal shelters which are funded or run by the Government maintain poor hygiene. Not only this, if data is collated from every part of our country the number of SPCAs is very less compared to the number of districts we have in aggregate. And adding to the woes of animals excluding a few among many established District SPCAs, most of it are dormant. 

While filing a complaint against one of the shelter homes for animals run by the SPCA in Chandigarh, the animal lover said that, “This SPCA should be booked for mishandling poor animals and it is hell for animals, which is extremely understaffed. It is evident that the members are not compassionate enough to take care of these needy animals.” Predominantly, those shelter homes which are run by the SPCAs or the State Animal Welfare Board are ineffective in functioning. In many instances, it has been complained by the Animal rights activists that these SPCAs do not respond to calls seeking help. Often, the SPCA officials cite inadequate funding as the root cause of their inability to perform their duties. Instead of the State run SPCAs, animal lovers rely over private NGOs or foster homes for animals to take proper care of animals in need.

Supreme Court on Establishment of SPCAs & State Animal Welfare Boards

The Hon’ble Supreme Court had in the year 2008, in the matter of Geeta Sheshmani v. Union of India & Anr. directed that the “States, which have not constituted the State Animal Welfare Boards to constitute within a period of 3 months and also to see that the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCAs) be also constituted in every district as contemplated under these rules.”

Notwithstanding the above judgment by the Supreme Court of India, the State Governments have failed to comply with the above decision of the SC by failing to set up the State Animal Welfare Board as well as the SPCAs.

Conclusion

Apparently, owing to the prevailing circumstances with respect to the SPCAs, it can be said that the Government authorities should wake up to an epiphany that animals too have a right to life under Article 21 and that we humans must have compassion as envisaged by Article 51A(g) of the Constitution. Every Government body, whether at the Central or State level, should commence taking measures to set up State Animal Welfare Board and ensure that every district has its own effectively functioning SPCA. Adequate funding should be provided to the SPCAs to have all the facilities as mandated by the PCA Act, 1960. There should be a monitoring body at the Central as well as State level to keep a vigil on the operation of District SPCAs. And with the assistance of strict enforceability of the PCA Act, the sufferings of the animals can be prevented.


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