Delhi High Court: J.R. Midha, J., in a very significant ruling issued guidelines with regard to the feeding of stray dogs and directions for their welfare.
In the present matter, plaintiff approached the Court to restrain defendant 1 from feeding the stray dogs near the entrance/exit of the suit property.
The above dispute was amicably settled between the parties.
Pragyan Sharma, Amicus Curiae, Manisha T. Karia, Counsel for Animal Welfare Board of India, Nandita Rao, Additional Standing Counsel for GNCTD and Counsels for both the parties urged before this Court to lay down the guidelines with respect to feeding of stray dogs.
Guidelines with respect to feeding of stray dogs
- Animals have a right under law to be treated with compassion, respect and dignity. Animals are sentient creatures with an intrinsic value. Therefore, protection of such beings is the moral responsibility of each and every citizen including the governmental and non-governmental organisations.
- Animals may be mute but we as a society have to speak on their behalf. No pain or agony should be caused to the animals. Cruelty to animals causes psychological pain to them. Animals breathe like us and have emotions. The animals require food, water, shelter, normal behaviour, medical care, self-determination.
- Community dogs (stray/street dogs) have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed community dogs but in exercising this right, care and caution should be taken to ensure that it does not impinge upon the rights of others or cause any harm, hinderance, harassment and nuisance to other individuals or members of the society.
- Feeding of the community dogs have to be done at areas designated by the AWBI in consultation with Resident Welfare Associations or Municipal Corporation. It is the duty of the AWBI and the RWAs to ensure and keep in mind the fact that community dogs live in „packs‘ and care should be taken by the AWBI and RWAs to see that each „pack‟ ideally has different designated areas for feeding even if that means designating multiple areas in a locality.
- All Law enforcement authorities shall ensure that no harassment or hindrance is caused to the person feeding street dog at the designated feeding spot and to properly implement the AWBI Revised Guidelines on Pet dogs and street dogs dated 26th February, 2015.
- It shall be the duty and obligation of every Resident Welfare Associations or Municipal Corporation (in case RWA is not available) to ensure that every community dog in every area has access to food and water in the absence of caregivers or community dog feeders in the said area.
- Street dogs have to be fed and tended to at places within their territory which are not frequented, or less frequented, and sparingly used by the general public and residents.
- Any person having compassion for stray dogs can feed the dogs at their private entrance/porch/driveway of their house or any other place not shared with other residents.
- No person can restrict the other from feeding of dogs, until and unless it is causing harm or harassment to that other person.
- Residents and the members of the RWA as well as the dog feeders have to act in harmony with each other and not in a manner which shall lead to unpleasant circumstances in the colony.
- AWBI shall ensure that every Resident Welfare Association or Municipal Corporation (in case RWA is not available), shall have an Animal Welfare Committee, which shall be responsible for ensuring compliance of the provisions of the PCA Act and ensure harmony and ease of communication between caregivers, feeders or animal lovers and other residents.
- Municipal Corporations at the request of the RWA and/or local authority or persons volunteering to take such responsibility shall be responsible for having the stray dogs registered/vaccinated/sterilised.
- Vaccinated and sterilized dogs cannot be removed by the Municipality.
- It shall be the duty of the SHO concerned to ensure peace and harmony is maintained amongst the residents of the area.
- If any of the street/community dogs is injured or unwell, it shall be the duty of the RWA to secure treatment for such dog by the vets made available by the Municipal Corporation and / or privately from the funds of the RWA.
- Street dogs perform the role of community scavengers and also control rodent population in the area thus preventing spread of diseases like Leptospirosis.
- Street dogs provide companionship to those residents who feed them an act as their stress relievers
- It is the responsibility of the community residents to get their dogs vaccinated against rabies every year to prevent the spread of rabies.
- Every RWA should form Guard and Dog partnerships and in consultation with the Delhi Police Dog Squad, the dogs can be trained to make them effective as guard dogs and yet friendly to those who live in the colony.
- The importance of street dogs‟ in our community is of great significance. Being territorial animals, they live in certain areas and play the role of guards by protecting the community from the entry of outsiders or unknown people. If these are removed from a certain area, the new stray dogs will take their place
- If any of the street/community dog is injured or unwell, it shall be the duty of the RWA to secure treatment for such dog by the vets made available by the Municipal Corporation and/or privately from the funds of the RWA.
- In order to check the overpopulation of street dogs in the community, it is also the responsibility of community to get their street dog population sterilized through an NGO engaged in Dog sterilization programme.
Duty and Responsibility
- RWA or Municipal Corporation and all Government authorities including enforcement authorities to provide all assistance and ensure that no hindrance is caused to the caregivers or feeders of community dogs. Jurisdictional SHO to ensure that peace and harmony is maintained amongst the residents, care-givers and community dog feeders and there is no harassment to any care-giver or community dog feeder from feeding community dogs in the manner specified.
- RWA to ensure that every community dog in every area has access to food and water in the absence of caregivers or community dog feeders.
- AWBI shall ensure that every RWA or Municipal Corporation, shall have an Animal Welfare Committee, which shall be responsible for ensuring compliance of the provisions of the PCA Act and ensure harmony and ease of communication between caregivers, feeders or animal lovers and other residents.
- In case, any resident(s) or the RWA has any grievance with regard to any act of caregivers and feeders, in relation to feeding of community dogs, the said resident(s), shall, at the first instance seek redressal of their grievance through a process of dialogue and discussion through the Animal Welfare Committee failing which the said issue may be brought to the notice of the AWBI through the RWA.
- Government of India (Ministry of Personal, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Personal and Training) by Office Memorandum dated 26th May, 2006 had notified that the Government servant who indulges in act of cruelty to animals will be making himself liable for action under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Besides, punishment under the Act, he would also make himself liable for action under CCS(Conduct) Rules for conduct unbecoming of a Government servant. The said Office Memorandum also added that while residents and Associations are free to address institutional agencies for redressal of their grievances, no resident/association will interfere with the freedom of other residents in tending animals etc.
- Despite the clear position of law prohibiting cruelty to the animal including stray dogs, there is increasing tendency of the citizens to defy the same. Many times, the Government employees take up a position in complete violation of well settled law which has been dealt with in the Office Memorandum dated 26th May, 2006. Such act of defiance be noted down in the ACR file of Government employee. If any such complaint is received by AWBI, the same be sent to the concerned office for being placed in the ACR file of the Government employee for necessary action as per CCS Rules.
- Need to spread awareness that even animals have a right to live with respect and dignity.
- It would be appropriate to constitute a Committee to implement these Guidelines. Committee shall comprise of the following:
(i) The Director, Animal Husbandry Department or his nominee.
(ii) One Senior Officer to be nominated by all the Municipal Corporations.
(iii) One Senior Officer to be nominated by Delhi Cantonment Board.
(iv) One Senior Officer to be nominated by Animal Welfare Board of India.
(v) Ms. Nandita Rao, Additional Standing Counsel, Govt. of NCT of Delhi as Convenor.
(vi) Ms. Manisha T. Karia, Advocate for Animal Welfare Board of India.
(vii) Mr. Pragyan Sharma, Advocate
The committee shall hold its first meeting within 4 weeks.
High Court directed that the above decision be sent to Delhi Judicial Academy to sensitize the judges about the directions laid down by this Court.[Dr Maya D. Chablani v. Radha Mittal, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 3599, decided on 24-06-2021]
Advocates before the Court:
For the Plaintiff: Abhishek Gusain and Sam C. Mathew, Advocates
For the Defendants: D.K. Pandey and Deepak Kumar, Advocates for defendants 1 and 3
Pragyan Sharma, Advocate as Amicus Curiae
Nandita Rao, ASC for GNCTD
Manisha T. Karia, Sukhda Kalra, Adarsh Kumar and Nidhi Nagpal, Advocates for Animal Welfare Board of India