Laws for Pets in India & Rights of Pet Owners- Know the Guidelines by Animal Welfare Board
If You’re a Pet Owner, You need to Read this!
The love for pets among citizens of India has increased within recent times, and the practice of owning pets has become a rapidly growing trend. This is mostly due to the fact that a lot of people have come to appreciate the companionship nature of pets, especially dogs and cats.
Furthermore, the Indian Constitution has also incorporated provisions which recognizes the right to own pets. For example, in Article 51(g) of the Constitution, the law recognizes and grants every citizen of India the right to choose to live with or without a companion animal.
However, there is still some conflict of interests between persons who love or own pets, on the one hand, and persons who dislike pets and do not own them, on the other hand.
This conflict stems from the fact that those who do not love pets often feel that pets constitute a lot of nuisance, due to the loud pet sounds, e.g. loud barking from dogs, pet litters/excreta, disease from unsterilized or unvaccinated pets, and other factors.
Furthermore, streets animals, like dogs, are feared by most people due to their untamed and aggressive nature. It is not uncommon to see these street animals being killed or cruelly treated.
To strike a balance between pets/animals’ interests, and the interests of humans, NGOs and some private organizations have fought for the interests of pets, and this has led to the laying down of certain laws and guidelines protecting pets.
We will take a look at the rules contained in the circular issued by the Animal Welfare Board of India in 2015. The circular contains certain guidelines/rules on pets and street dogs.
But before we proceed to do that, it is important to point out that a pet owner can enjoy the protection under these laws and guidelines if the pet belongs to the category of animals which the law allows to be kept as pets.
So, what animals are allowed to be kept as pets?
Most animals that can be domestically found are allowed to be kept as pets, e.g.
- Some variety of birds like pigeons, parrots, Budgerigars, finches
- Fishes reared in aquariums
However, the following are strictly prohibited/forbidden from being kept as pets:
- Birds like Parakeets
We shall proceed to examine the rules contained in the circular issued by the Animal Welfare Board of India.
Guidelines by the Animal Welfare Board of India-
In view of the fact that:
- The number of people keeping dogs as household companions is increasing;
- Conflicts occasionally arise between pet owners/care-givers of street dogs, on the one hand, and Resident Welfare Associations and Apartment Owners’ Associations, on the other hand;
- And, under Article 51A(g) the Constitution imposes a duty to show compassion to all living creatures,
the Animal Welfare Board of India issued a circular containing a comprehensive guideline on pets. These guidelines apply to three categories of persons:
- Pet Owners
- Care-givers of Street Dogs
- Residents’ Welfare Associations, Apartment Owners’ Associations, etc.
Are there any Pet Rights under the Guidelines?
The guideline reveals that pets have certain rights which are highlighted as follows:
- Dogs are allowed to bark, and the society has to tolerate the barking sound of dogs.
- Pets are entitled to regular vaccinations/sterilizations and adequate health care.
- Pets have the rights to enter lifts or elevators.
- Pets have the rights to defecate and as such, the defecation habit of street dogs cannot be controlled.
- Pets have the rights to use gardens or parks. The banning of pets from gardens or parks is strongly discouraged; it can only be regulated by a consensus time table.
- Pets have the right to be free from any form of cruelty such as beating and driving away street dogs. If a human is cruel to any dog, and as a result the dog becomes aggressive, the guideline allows the dog to resort to snapping and biting in self-defense.
What are the Rights of Pet Owners Under the Guideline?
Pet owners have the following rights:
- The right to keep their pets, despite any contrary pressure or general consensus against such right.
- The right to be free from any form of intimidation to abandon their pet(s).
For pet owners who do not want to be harassed or penalized, the guideline imposes certain duties on them, as follows:
- Give Constant Attention to Pets: Pet owners must view their pets as perennial toddlers, as such, the attention given to human toddler during infancy is the same attention to be given to a pet throughout the life of such pet.
- Pets Should not be Abandoned: A pet owner should not abandon his pet animal, irrespective of the amount of pressure on him to do so. Abandoning your pet animal is a violation of the law.
- Check-mate Pets: Pet owners are to ensure that their pets do not constitute a source of nuisance to others. However, a pet owner should be able to distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable claims of nuisance.
- Try to Keep Pet Dogs Quiet: Even though a dog has the right to bark, because that is its natural form of expression, pet owners are however, advised to make every effort to keep their dogs quiet, especially during night hours.
- Health Maintenance for Pets: Pet owners are to give their pets adequate health care, regular vaccinations and sterilizations.
- Clean Pet’s Poop: Even though pets have the right to excrete, pet owners or any body they entrust their pet to, e.g. dog walker or care-giver, must clean up the pet’s poop, especially in public premises. This is in compliance with the civic duty of keeping the environment clean, and for the purpose of respecting the interest of other users of public space.
- Leash Pet: Pet owners are also advised to leash their pets in public places. This is for the safety of the pet, and also for the purpose of assuring passersby that they are safe and can walk comfortably within the vicinity.
- Use of Alternative Lifts or Elevators Where Possible: Even though pets have the rights to use lifts or elevators, and cannot be banned by Apartment Owners or Resident Welfare Associations, pet owners are however, advised not to object to use ‘alternate’ lifts or elevators in a building, if such lift or elevator is working and is conveniently accessible.
For Care-givers of Street Dogs, the law appreciates the efforts made by these persons to show kindness to stray dogs. The law also advises that these persons carry out certain civic responsibilities for the good of the dogs and the general public. These responsibilities include:
- Assists the Animal Welfare Organizations in Maintaining the Animals Health: Even though they are not given mandatory obligations to do so, the guidelines however, advises that care-givers should participate in sterilization and yearly vaccination of street dogs. Where they’re unable to do so, they are advised to call on the Animal Welfare Organization to vaccinate or sterilized the street dogs.
- Feed Street Dogs in Your Residence or Private Areas: In order to avoid any form of litter or conflict with other residential owners, care-givers are advised not to feed street dogs close to residences that are not their own. They are also advised not to feed street dogs in areas which children play, in crowded places, or public spaces where people walk.
- Do Not Try to Control the Poop Habit of a Street Dog: Street dogs have the right to defecate. So, care-givers are prohibited from controlling the defecation habits of these dogs. Rather, they should participate in finding solutions on maintaining cleanliness.
Residents’ Welfare Associations, Apartment Owners’ Associations, etc., are prohibited from doing the following:
- Banning Pets: Even if the consensus of a majority of residents and occupiers have been obtained, or byelaws of the resident are framed or amended, these associations cannot introduce any form of ban on keeping of pet dogs. They cannot insist that a particular ‘type’ or ‘size’ of dog is acceptable or not. They have to cope with the barking of dogs, and cannot cite dog barking as a reason for proposing a ban.
- Banning Pets from Using Lifts: Pets have the right to use lifts, and these associations cannot infringe of this, neither can they impose fines or charges on pet owners on this account.
- Banning Pets from Using Parks and Gardens: Pets have the right to use parks and gardens. These associations cannot ban pets from accessing these places. However, in consensus with the pet owners and residents, these associations can set suitable times that pet owners can walk their pets through parks and gardens without any inconvenience to other residents.
- Compulsory Imposition of Leash/Muzzles by Pet Owners: Even though pet owners have been advised to use leashes on their pet, these associations cannot compulsory impose or insist that pet owners must do so. They can only request that the pet owner should do so.
- Imposing Fines or Charges on Pet Owners for Pet’s Poop: Pets have the right to defecate, and their owners have been imposed with the obligation to clean up the mess. However, these associations do not have right to impose any fine or special charges on pet owners when the pets excrete within the premises.
- Intimidating Pet Owners: these associations are prohibited from intimidating their residents who are pet owners. Any association that successfully makes their resident to give up or abandon his/her pets, violates the law and commits an offence.
The Guidelines also makes other mandatory provisions such as:
- Street dogs should not be beaten or driven away.
- Where dogs are sterilized or vaccinated, they must be returned back to their original locations.
- Care-givers of street dogs should not be intimidated or harassed as this amount to an offence of criminal intimidation.
- Any human who is aggressive or hostile to a dog, and is bitten by the dog, shall be the only one to be blamed.
Punishment for Offenders
According to the guideline, animal Cruelty is an offence under section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
Anybody who is found guilty of this offence is punishable under sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code. Such an offender is liable to imprisonment or fine under these sections.