This article is written by Vanya Verma from Alliance University, Bengaluru. This article talks about guidelines for feeding a stray dog, the order of the Delhi Court on feeding stray dogs and what is the best food to be given to dogs, and what should be avoided.
Feeding stray dogs is legal both within and outside any society, and what is prohibited is threatening dog feeders from carrying out their essential obligation under Article 51A(g) of the Constitution of India. The Animal Welfare Board of India has issued extensive guidelines on feeding stray dogs, and there have been numerous judicial decisions protecting dog feeders and caretakers who face the wrath of ill-informed neighbours. Interfering with or harassing anyone who chooses to care for and feed community dogs is criminal intimidation, as defined by Section 503 read with Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code.
Further, Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, make cruelty to animals a criminal offense. Under the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, injuring, poisoning, relocating, or removing the shelter of animals are all serious offenses.
Guidelines for an individual for feeding stray dogs
Many people now care for ownerless, stray dogs selflessly, feeding them leftovers or preparing food for them, offering them warm dog garments in the winter, and quietly caring for them.
Even the Indian Constitution encourages peaceful coexistence among all animals and compassion for all living species as one of our Fundamental Duties [Article 51(g)], things are not as straightforward as they appear.
Stray dogs are protected under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and rules established under Section 38 of the Act, including the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001; the Indian Penal Code, Sections 428 and 429; and Article 51A (g) of the Constitution. The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has issued clear guidelines for pet owners and stray dog feeders.
According to the guidelines:
- No amount of pressure from a Residents Welfare Association (RWA) or society is adequate to induce someone to abandon a pet animal, and doing so is a punishable offense. RWAs, also known as Apartment Owners Associations (AOAs), do not have the authority to restrict pet owners’ access to elevators or other public amenities like parks. RWAs and AOAs also have no authority to enact bylaws prohibiting or restricting residents from getting pet dogs or to discriminate based on the size or breed of the dog.
- In the case of street animals, the AWBI rules state that feeding stray dogs is a legally protected activity and that caregivers and feeders should get these dogs vaccinated and sterilized to support animal welfare organizations in maintaining their health. It’s also worth noting that no sterilized dogs can be removed from their area as per the Government of India’s Animal Birth Control Rules, 2001.
- It is also against the law for vehicles to purposefully injure dogs, cats, or cows on the streets. A person who breaks these regulations can be reported to the local animal protection organization as well as the police. The above-mentioned sections can also be used to file a case. All of the foregoing actions are punishable by a fine and/or a five-year prison sentence.
- The Board also issues instructions for stray dog caregivers, instructing them to use hygienic feeding procedures when feeding strays in public and to avoid feeding strays near children’s playgrounds.
- It advises caregivers to feed their pets late at night or early in the morning when there is little traffic, both vehicular and human.
- Feeding should be done away from densely populated places and caretakers are recommended not to feed street dogs near their own homes or places immediately adjacent to locations where children play and areas where people walk.
- They should also maintain track of dog sterilization and communicate that information with residents. Imparting education to the neighbours should be a continuous effort.
The biggest problem for pet owners and feeders, however, is that the restrictions, while clearly stated, are not adequately implemented. Despite the existence of such stringent laws, many go unpunished as bringing them to justice is difficult. NGOs and people are mostly responsible for enforcing these rules. It is now necessary for an animal lover to be aware of these regulations.
They should guarantee that the rules are followed. They must, on the other hand, exercise prudence and accountability. It is important for pet owners who are encountering hostility, to stand firm in their rights when dwelling in apartments and residences. The law is on their side, and it is up to them whether or not they choose to go the extra mile for their animal companions. However, it is also their responsibility to obey certain restrictions, such as cleaning up after their pets poop in public locations or not letting their dogs run loose in public spaces while keeping in mind the general population.
At awbi.org, you may find the accepted guidelines stated clearly and without ambiguity.
Furthermore, there is no rule prohibiting people from feeding street animals. Citizens/animal welfare volunteers who want to do so are fulfilling a constitutional duty imposed on them by the Indian Constitution: to demonstrate compassion for all living animals. The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), a statutory organization within the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the Indian government, recently issued comprehensive guidelines on stray dog feeding on 3rd March 2021. These guidelines were presented to the Delhi High Court, which upheld them in the case of Citizen for the welfare and protection of Animals and Anr. v. State and Anr.
Guidelines approved by the High Court of Delhi for feeding stray dogs
On the 18th of December, 2009, and the 4th of February, 2010, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi issued decisions, mandating not only that those street dogs be fed, but also that they are fed to confine them to the areas to which they belong. Animal reproduction control and yearly/annual immunization are made easier by confining them to the areas to which they belong.
The Delhi High Court further said that dogs are excellent guardians and are friendly, intelligent, and faithful companions. The Animal Welfare Board of India’s revised guidelines for feeding stray dogs in the capital has been approved by the Delhi High Court. According to the rules, stray dogs should be fed in areas that are not visited or utilized infrequently by the general public.
Other features of the guidelines include: dogs should not be herded at a specific location for feeding; public causeways, public streets, pedestrian paths, and footpaths should be avoided; common/public areas immediately adjacent to flats/houses should be avoided; feeding should be done at a time when the human population density is at a minimum, and feeding should be done undertaken hygienically and twice a day.
In 2010, the court ordered the Animal Welfare Board to designate locations in various parts of the city where animal lovers may feed the dogs without being harassed by locals. Justice Jain had also asked the Delhi Police to provide security to animal lovers who wished to feed stray dogs, stating that feeding stray dogs is both legal and beneficial. “Feeding dogs makes them pleasant and easier to handle, and residents are free to feed dogs in places determined by the Animal Welfare Board,” stated Justice Jain.
The order was made in response to several petitions filed by Delhi-based animal lovers seeking protection from being threatened to feed stray dogs. Neighbours of the petitioners’ colonies had harassed and intimidated them for feeding stray dogs, so the petitioners approached the court.
The petitioners’ main contention was that it was their legal right to feed stray dogs under the Central norms and guidelines for animal care. They also claimed that caring for stray dogs would make vaccination and sterilization easier, keeping them healthy and reducing their numbers. According to the petitioners’ attorney, it was also their constitutional duty to show compassion to animals.
The Delhi High Court in its rulings issued in 2009 and 2010 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.
Order of the Hon’ble High Court
On December 18, 2010, the Honourable High Court of New Delhi granted an order for the feeding of stray dogs. “The Animal Welfare Board of India should select, in collaboration with the Residents Welfare Association, Region SHO, and Animal Welfare Organization working in that area, the spots/sites that, in its judgment, would be most ideal for feeding dogs,” according to the opinion. “The Animal Welfare Board of India shall find suitable areas in the colonies, the subject of these petitions, within four weeks from today”, according to the statement. During that time, it will likewise aim to cover as many colonies as possible.”
“The Delhi Police will ensure that no harm is caused to volunteers of Animal Welfare Organizations feeding dogs in these localities provided that they feed them only during hours specified by the Animal Welfare Board and provided further that as soon as suitable sites for feeding the dogs are identified, these organizations will feed dogs only on those identified sites,” the Hon’ble Court ordered.
It is necessary to bring into the record that these individuals and families who adopt stray animals are doing a great service to humanity as they are acting in the aid and assistance of Municipal Authorities by providing these animals with food and shelter, as well as by getting them vaccinated and sterilized. No local municipal authority can successfully carry out its ABC program without the cooperation of such individuals.
The Court went on to say that “the local police and municipal authorities are under an obligation not only to encourage such adoption but also to ensure that such persons who come forward to take care of these animals, particularly community or neighbourhood dogs, are not subjected to any kind of cruelty,” and that “every individual has the right to adopt stray dogs.”
Foods you should and shouldn’t feed to stray dogs
When stray dogs are hungry, they will eat anything, but this puts them at a higher risk of poor hygiene. Here are some foods to consider feeding stray dogs if you want to offer them a healthier supper.
- Roti, rice, boiling potatoes, vegetable oil/ghee: A common human diet is also a good source of nourishment for dogs. The easiest and most substantial meal you can give stray dogs is a mixture of soft-cooked rice, small chunks of boiled potatoes, and a small amount of vegetable oil or ghee in water. Before serving, mince the cooked Rotis well to aid digestion.
- Throwaway meat parts: Cuts not ordinarily consumed by humans, such as chicken feet, goat lungs, and other fish parts, are thrown away like garbage by your local butcher. Consider purchasing a little amount of such meat the next time you’re at the butcher to feed the stray dogs in your neighborhood (they’re inexpensive). As the puppies will still be teething, make sure to cook it correctly and only offer it to older dogs. The cuts can be combined with rice and served as a high-protein meal. In addition, the dog gets the bone.
- Add a pinch of Haldi (turmeric): By adding pinches of Haldi (turmeric) to the rice, you may provide stray dogs with a mouthwatering meal.
- Store-bought dog food: This is another option for stray dogs along with canned dog food and packed meals. This can be served either soaked in water or with boiled rice.
- Water: For all living beings, water is the source of life. If you’re going on a stray dog feeding drive in the summer, make sure you have plenty of water bottles and bowls with you. Keep a water bowl outside your society or house gates so that any wandering stray dog, cat, or other stray animals can drink clean water at least once a day. Ensure that the water bowl is cleaned and maintained daily to avoid the growth of moss or the threat of mosquitoes due to stagnant water.
Foods that you should completely avoid feeding stray dogs
- Chocolate: As chocolate contains the chemical theobromine that is beneficial to humans, but is extremely detrimental to dogs. Theobromine can cause a significant increase in blood pressure in dogs, which could lead to the failure of many essential organs including the nervous system.
- Caffeine: As caffeine has qualities comparable to those found in chocolate, it’s recommended to keep it out of reach of dogs.
- Dairy items: The digestive systems of most dogs are not suited to break down the fat found in dairy products. As a result, they are lactose intolerant, therefore don’t offer them milk or cheesy foods because it could cause difficulties like vomiting and diarrhea.
- Sweetened snacks: As they contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener commonly found in cookies, candies, and chewing gums. Avoid giving such treats to stray dogs since the xylitol in them might cause life-threatening consequences like acute liver disease and blood clotting issues.
- Onions and garlic: As they are so simple to come by, fast meals may appear to be an excellent alternative for feeding stray dogs. However, avoid doing so because such foods may contain onion and garlic mixtures, which when taken by dogs can cause stomach irritation and, in severe situations, red blood cell destruction.
- Alcohol: This is self-evident. Do not feed even the tiniest amount of alcohol to stray dogs.
- Berries: Grapes, cherries, and raisins are examples of berries that contain the artificial sweetener xylitol. As a result, do not feed berries to stray dogs.
Responsible feeding practices
Participating in dog feeding campaigns is a fantastic method to help feed stray dogs in India. If you’re working on any single project follow these guidelines to learn how to feed stray dogs safely and responsibly.
- Use biodegradable/disposable cutlery: As people mostly serve a lot of food, disposable plates to serve the stray dogs are an excellent option. When the meal is finished, make sure to dispose of the cutlery in the nearby trash can. If you don’t have any, use newspaper pieces and make sure to collect them in a garbage bag once the dogs have finished eating and dispersing.
- Choose a feeding location: Stray dogs’ survival instincts help them in developing a fine knowledge of where and when to go to access food. You may assure a safer and undisturbed feeding habit by choosing a safe location that is somewhat away from your residential location.
- Set a feeding schedule and stick to it: When you start feeding stray dogs in your neighborhood, you take on the enormous duty of ensuring that these creatures are kept in the greatest possible health. Make sure the stray dog does not become reliant on you for food. So don’t overfeed or feed too frequently during the day. Stick to a schedule and feed on that time. The goal of feeding stray dogs is to make them friendly so that they are easier to catch for spay/neuter operations, easy to handle when they are sick or injured, and also for the yearly anti-rabies vaccination.
Set a feeding time, preferably before 7:00 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m., and make sure you are there every day. Breaking the habit could be disastrous since the stray dogs would continue to wait for you despite your absence. Make sure you team up with a family member or friend to feed the dog so that if you are unable to do so due to work or illness, someone else can take over.
- Do not pet stray dogs: When feeding stray dogs, keep in mind that they are not pets. To begin with, you won’t be able to take them all home, and they may not all be adopted. As a result, their lives will be spent on the streets, and they must learn to keep a safe distance from people, as not everyone enjoys dogs. If you make a dog extremely friendly with yourself, the dog may leap on an unsuspecting person looking for attention, and if that person does not like dogs, the dog may scare that person!
As a result, the dog may be kicked, abused, and so on. To avoid such problems, it is preferable not to pet stray dogs or treat them as if they were pets. Keep a safe space between you and them. Feed them and then go. When bringing food, don’t whistle for the dogs to come! many people who feed stray dogs have this awful habit. When the dogs hear the whistle, they know it’s time for food and rush across the road. As a result, there are more accidents and deaths. Leave the food for the dogs in a specified place in a quiet manner. If they aren’t already there, the smell of the meal will entice them to arrive. Treat stray dogs in a way that gives them the confidence and intelligence they need to survive on the streets. Make sure they are not reliant on you in any manner.
- Avoid feeding two stray dog packs at the same time: Dogs are territorial by nature, and this is especially true with stray dogs who tend to congregate in a location they deem ideal for resting. If you’re going on a feeding drive, make sure you choose a location that is confined to one particular stray dog pack. Feeding one pack too near to another could result in unwelcome hostile encounters between the two.
To date, only the Delhi High Court has passed an order to feed stray dogs along with the guidelines, and now it’s time that even other states implement the same. As an individual not just on the court order but we should do the needful on our part itself. During the lockdown period, it was the stray animals who had suffered a lot though many individuals and NGOs came forward to help still, the help couldn’t reach all the animals, we as a human being have a duty on part of humanity to feed the stray animals. The people who have the misconception that stray dogs are dangerous is not true in all cases, a lot of stray animals can be benefitted if proper measures are taken while feeding them.
On June 8, 2019, the Punjab and Haryana High Court stated that It is important to remember that animals and birds have legal rights, just as humans in an exceptional judgment on Animal Welfare Act. It further declared citizens as “guardians of the animal kingdom” with a duty to ensure their welfare and protection.
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