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This article has been written by Arundhati Roy, an intern at iPleaders.

Introduction

Dogs are the most familiar animals with whom humans come across every day. India has an approximate population of 35 million stray dogs, i.e., homeless dogs and roam hither and thither around human dwellings and settlements. While dogs are categorized as either pets or stray dogs, the stray ones account for 70% of the dog population globally. Despite dogs being the most domesticated animals, stray dogs possess three types of threats to humans: transmitting rabies, overpopulation, and then dog bites and their aggression. As per the data collated, India witnesses 20 million cases of dog bites and 20,000 deaths by rabies every year. 

Therefore, to protect the humans from the menace caused by these stray dogs as well as to protect their own lives, the World Health Organization (WHO) has formulated the “Animal Birth Control (ABC) Programme,” which is regarded as the pragmatic approach to not only control the overpopulation of street dogs but to exterminate rabies as well. 

The Government of India has adopted WHO’s ABC program by enacting the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, and carried out amendments in the same in 2010. With this Enactment, the Government has made it mandatory for the local bodies to implement the Animal Birth Control (ABC) Programme to control the street/stray dog population and prevent rabies. The Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, has been legislated to provide sterilization and vaccination of stray dogs, control the population of stray dogs, and prevent rabies. The present article is a comprehensive interpretation of the ABC (Dogs) Rules, 2001, as well as a check on its implementation.

What is the “ABC program”?

The Animal Birth Control Programme involves a process of sterilization to control the population of stray dogs combined with an anti-rabies (ABC-ARV) vaccination to prevent rabies. According to WHO, the success rate of the ABC program relies on sterilization of 70% of the dog population in a particular given area within one reproductive cycle, which is normally 6 months.

Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001

The Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, has been enacted under sub-section (1) of Section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (59 of 1960). Under Section 38(1), the Central Government is empowered to make rules to carry out the purposes of the prevention of cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, by notifying the same in the Official Gazette and subject to the condition of previous publication. The ABC rules came to force on 25th December 2001. Amendments were made in the ABC (Dogs) Rules in the year 2010, which consisted of 5 amendments in Clauses and Rules of ABC (Dogs) Rules, 2001.

Salient features of the ABC (Dogs) Rules, 2001

  1. The local authorities such as the municipal corporations, municipalities, gram panchayats are responsible for implementing the rules.
  2. The local authority shall be responsible for sterilization and immunization of the street dogs with the aid of animal welfare organizations and private individuals.
  3. A monitoring committee composed of an eight-member team who are concerned with animal welfare in all aspects shall be part of such a team constituted by the local authority under Rule 4 of the ABC Rules.
  4. Under Rule 4 a Committee is constituted who shall be responsible for planning and management of dog control programs under these rules.
  5. Rule 7 mandates that all the dogs caught will be tagged for identification purposes, and it will be ensured that the dogs are released in the same area after sterilization and vaccination.
  6. The activities which the Committee undertakes shall be brought to public notice by announcements and advertisements.
  7. The dogs shall be captured by using humane methods such as lassoing or soft-loop animal catchers such as those prescribed under the provisions of Prevention of Cruelty (Capture of Animals) Rules, 1979.
  8. Under Rule 9, dogs who are diagnosed as incurably ill or lethally wounded dogs by a skilled veterinarian appointed by the committee shall be euthanized humanely during the specified hours.
  9. The process of euthanizing incurably ill and mortally wounded dogs will be done by administering sodium pentathol for adult dogs and Thiopental Intraperitoneal for puppies by a qualified veterinarian or euthanized in any other humane manner approved by the Animal Welfare Board of India.
  10. It has to be ensured that no dog shall be euthanized in the presence of another dog. The person responsible for euthanizing shall make sure that the animal is dead before disposal.
  11. Under Rule (4), if a dog is discovered who has a higher likelihood of being infected with rabies, it has to be kept in isolation until it dies a natural death. The reason behind isolation is that normally death occurs within ten days of contracting rabies. Therefore, the premature killing of suspected rabid dogs has not been advised as it prevents the true incidents of rabies from being known and stops authorities from taking the appropriate action.

“Local Authority” under ABC Rules

 Rule 2 (e) of the ABC (Dogs) Rules provides the definition for  the term “Local Authority.” It states that “Local Authority” means a municipal committee, district board or other authority for the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 time being invested by law with the control and administration of any matters within a specified local area.

Animal Welfare Organization under ABC Rules

Rule 2 (b) defines the term “Animal Welfare Organisation” which means and includes the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and any other 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 which is recognized by the Animal Welfare Board of India.

Who shall be the members of the Monitoring Committee formed under Rule 4 by the Local Authority?

The Monitoring Committee shall be an 8-member team, who are as follows:

  1. Commissioner/Chief of the local authority, who shall be the ex-officio Chairman of the Committee. 
  2. There should be a representative from the Public Health Department of the local authority. 
  3. There should be a representative from the Animal Welfare Department if any of the local authorities.
  4. The monitoring committee must essentially have a veterinary doctor. 
  5. There should be a representative of the district Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). 
  6. The monitoring committee shall include at least two representatives from the Animal Welfare Organizations operating within the said local authority. 
  7. Then, there must be a representative of the people who is a humanitarian or a well-known individual who has experience in animal welfare in the locality.

What are the functions of the Committee?

Rule 5 specifies the functions of the Committee, which are stated below:

  1. To provide directives for catching, transportation, sheltering, sterilization, vaccination, treatment, and release of sterilized vaccinated or treated dogs.
  2. To authorize veterinary doctors to decide whether to euthanize critically ill dogs or fatally injured or rabid dogs after proper diagnosis in a painless manner only.
  3. To spread public awareness, solicit cooperation and funding.
  4. To specify the guidelines for pet dog owners & commercial breeders from time to time.
  5. To conduct a survey of the number of street dogs by appointing an independent agency.
  6. To monitor dog bites, whether from pets or stray dogs, then determine the cause of the dog bite and identify the area where the incident occurred.
  7. Take into consideration national and international development in the field of research about street dogs’ control and management development of vaccines and cost-effective methods of sterilization, vaccination, etc.

What are the obligations of the local authority as per the ABC (Dogs) Rules, 2001?

Rule 6 states the obligations/duties of the Local Authority. The local authority is responsible for providing the following:

  1. Establishing a sufficient number of Dog shelters which Animal Welfare Organizations may manage.
  2. Provide dog vans for capturing and transportation of street dogs.
  3. Each dog van should have one driver & 2 trained dog catchers.
  4. An ambulance cum clinical van as a mobile centre for sterilization and immunization.
  5. Installation of Incinerators to dispose of carcasses.
  6. Periodic repair of shelter or pound.
  7. Conduct such sterilization and immunization of street dog population if the local authority thinks it appropriate.
  8. It is the duty of the local authority to recompense the Animal welfare organizations the expenses of sterilization/immunization at a rate which is to be fixed by the Committee on a fortnightly basis based on the number of sterilization/immunizations done.

Capturing of dogs for sterilization/immunization

Rule 7 (1) provides that dogs shall be captured on the basis of:

  1. Specific complaints (about dog nuisance, dog bites, or rabid dogs) received by a Dog Control Cell, which is to be set up by the local authority in consultation with the monitoring committee.
  2. For general purpose will be on such dates and time to be specified by the Committee.

Under Rule 7(2) of the ABC (Dogs) Rules, the dog capturing squad must be accompanied by a representative of an Animal Welfare Organisation nominated for the purpose.

Some important stipulations prescribed under Rule 7 of the ABC (Dogs) Rules, 2001

  1. According to the Animal Birth Control Program target, only a stipulated number of dogs shall be caught by the van.
  2. It is the duty of the local authority to maintain a record of the dogs captured wherein it has to be mentioned the name of the area/locality, capture date and time, names of persons in the dog squad on that particular day, and particulars about dogs captured such as the number of male dogs, number of female dogs, number of puppies, etc.
  3. Rule 7(6) further mandates that all the dogs who are captured shall be brought to the dog kennels/dog pounds managed by the Animal Welfare Organisations (AWOs).
  4. The veterinarians shall examine captured dogs once they reach dog pounds. Thereafter, healthy and sick dogs should be set apart from each other. Appropriate treatment should be given to ailing dogs in the hospitals which are run by the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)/other institutions.
  5.  It is further provided that the dogs be sterilized and vaccinated only after they receive the proper treatment.
  6. The veterinarians of the hospital run by the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Animal Welfare Organization, or other dog shelters shall supervise the sterilization/vaccination of the dogs.
  7. Rule 7 (7) states that not more than one lot of dogs at a time shall be brought for sterilization, immunization at one dog kennel, or dog pound, and these dogs shall be from one locality. It is to be made sure by the authority that no two lots which are from different localities or areas shall be mixed at the same dog pound or dog kennel.
  8. Rule 7 (8) mandates that it is indispensable for every dog kennel to have space that suffices for proper housing and enables free movement of dogs. Further, such dog kennels must have decent ventilation and natural lighting and hygiene should be maintained. There should be proper arrangements for drinking water and food shall be made for dogs while in confinement.
  9. Rule 7 (9) imposes a duty to ensure that no Female dogs found to be pregnant shall have to go through abortion (irrespective of pregnancy) and sterilization and they should be released until they safely deliver the litter. 

Implementation of the ABC rules

The rules prescribed under the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, conform with WHO’s ABC program. These rules must be implemented right after their enactment; only then the ABC program can achieve its purpose in its entirety. However, it is pertinent to note that, although the Municipal Corporations of various cities carry out the ABC programs, it is not incongruous with the ABC (Dogs) Rules, 2001. 

In practical terms, the method in which the ABC programs are effectuated abjures most of the provisions of the Rules, which can be explicitly called as outright contravention of such Rules. In most of the cases, the local authority has not constituted any monitoring committee under Rule 4 of the said Rules. In the absence of such a committee, the functions stipulated for it are performed by none, which is again an alarming situation as it can be inferred that the Animal Birth Control program for dogs is conducted without any adherence to the rules. Moreover, there is no infrastructure or mobile ambulance available for performing the sterilization of the dogs. And even if a mobile ambulance is available, it is not being used for the purpose. The Rules mandate that every dog capturing squad should consist of a representative of an animal welfare organization. However, whenever a dog catching van arrives in the streets, it only has dog catchers who are not even well-trained and a driver. The place which the local authority calls animal birth control or ABC centres are in a pathetic condition. 

Nor are there animal shelters or kennels established for keeping and examining the dog captured before the performance of their surgeries. As a result, these dogs who are brought up for surgery either die during or after the surgery and sometimes due to overdosage of anesthesia. It is doubtful whether the local authority appoints a skilled veterinary doctor. Also, since no proper record is maintained while capturing a dog, they are not released back to where they were captured. Consequently, these ABC programs become mass killing programs.

In the matter of Animal Welfare Board of India vs. People to eliminate strays, the Supreme had directed all the State Municipal Corporations, Municipal Committees, District board, and local bodies to follow the PCA Act, 1960 and the ABC (Dogs) Rules, 2001. The SC had held that “It is the duty and obligation of the Animal Welfare Board of India to see that these rules are followed with all seriousness. It is also the duty of all the municipal corporations to provide infrastructure as mandated in the statutes and rules.

Conclusion

Before the ABC program was developed, there used to be mass culling of dogs. In order to avert the mass culling of dogs, the ABC program was developed by WHO and adopted by the Government of India in the form of ABC (Dogs) Rules. The only intention is to prevent the overpopulation of dogs by capturing them to neuter or sterilize them, vaccinate them against rabies, and release them back to the areas where they were captured. 

To conclude, it can be said that, in view of the circumstance presently prevailing, it is the need of the hour that these rules be implemented strictly while adhering to the rules. The Central Government, the State Governments, Local Authorities, and the Animal Welfare Board should act in cohesion to see that these rules are implemented. There should be proper funding or budget allocated for this purpose, the establishment of Animal shelters, better infrastructure as directed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. With the correct approach, the ABC program will be able to achieve its objective, thereby a balance can be obtained between compassion for dogs and the lives of human beings, and both of us can co-exist harmoniously.


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