The Delhi High Court has directed that every Resident Welfare Association (RWA) should form “Guard and Dog partnerships” in consultation with the Delhi Police Dog Squad, so that dogs can be trained to as guard dogs and yet be friendly to residents of a colony.
Justice J.R. Midha issued a slew of directions on the contentious issue of feeding stray dogs.
The High Court said stray or street dogs have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed them, but in exercising this right, care and caution should be taken to ensure that it did not impinge upon the rights of others.
The High Court also ruled that it should be “the duty and obligation of every RWA 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”.
Feeding of community dogs has to be done at areas designated by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) in consultation with RWA or Municipal Corporation.
While determining the “designated area”, it has to be kept in mind that, “Every dog is a territorial being, and therefore, the 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,” it said.
Animal cruelty laws
Stray dogs are protected under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and Rules enacted under Section 38 of the Act, particularly, the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 which makes it illegal for an individual, RWA or estate management to remove or relocate dogs.
A 2006 Office Memorandum of the Central government carried specific rules against government servants who indulge in acts of cruelty to animals. The rules make the government servant liable for action under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
The High Court noted that despite the clear position of law in prohibiting cruelty to animals, including stray dogs, there is an increasing tendency among citizens to defy it.
“Many times, even the government employees take up a position in complete violation of well settled law which has been dealt with in the Office Memorandum,” it said.
“Such acts of defiance be noted down in the ACR (annual confidential report) file of Government employees. 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,” the High Court ordered.
Street dogs are sometimes subjected to abusive treatment by some residents of the community because of “widespread wrong or misplaced beliefs that all street dogs carry the rabies virus”, the court said, adding, “It is the responsibility of the community residents to get their dogs vaccinated against rabies every year to prevent the spread of rabies.”
Designate feeding area
Justice Midha further said that it is the duty of the AWBI and the RWAs to keep in mind that community dogs live in “packs” and care should be taken by them to see that each “pack” ideally had different designated areas for feeding, even if that meant designating multiple areas in a locality.
Redressal of residents’ grievances should first be attempted through a process of dialogue with the Animal Welfare Committee, the court said. If resolution could not be achieved, the issue is to be brought to the notice of the AWBI through the RWA for expeditious resolution, the court said.
The High Court also directed law enforcement authorities to ensure no harassment or hindrance was caused to the person feeding street dogs at the designated feeding spots.
“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,” the High Court said.
A committee headed by the Director of the Animal Husbandry Department will implement these guidelines.