Supreme Court stands up for man’s oldest friend

The apex court questioned the authority ofmunicipal bodies to pick dogs off the streets andkill them merely because they are a “nuisance” tothe public. File photo: Sushil Kumar Verma  

Noting that “a faithful dog is a faithful friend,” the Supreme Court on Monday decided to stand up for man’s oldest companion by questioning the authority of municipal bodies to pick dogs off the streets and kill them merely because they are a “nuisance” to the public.

A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C. Pant was hearing a petition filed by People for Elimination of Stray Animals, which had sought killing of stray dogs. The Bench agreed that at the crux of the problem was the contradiction in animal welfare laws on what constitutes “nuisance.”

Under the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, if the civic bodies receive a complaint that a dog has become a source of nuisance to the public, they can “seize” the so-called offending canine, drag it to the local pound and put it to sleep.

On the contrary, the Animal Birth Control Rules formulated under the Central law — Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 — does not allow this. The law only permits extermination of rabid, terminally ill or mortally wounded dogs, not “nuisance-causing dogs.”

Appearing for the Animal Welfare Board, senior lawyer Anand Grover submitted that “nuisance” was a subjective term. “The municipality cannot just seize these dogs and put them to sleep. They can be sterilised,” Mr. Grover said.

He pointed out that the Supreme Court, in its 2014 decision banning jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, had observed that animals, even stray dogs, are entitled to dignity.

Senior lawyer T.R. Andhyarujina said the court should decide on whether there was “any discretion given to municipal authorities to put a dog to sleep.”

“We feel there is no such discretion given. You cannot put a dog to sleep unless it has rabies or is terminally ill,” Mr. Andhyarujina submitted.

Posting the case for a detailed hearing on March 25, Justice Misra remarked how some people were naturally inclined to dislike dogs — a condition which he termed “dog phobia” — and could easily brand it as a nuisance.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2021 9:58:26 PM |

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