Strays in Society : Feature Story

FILE – In a May 17, 2013, file picture, a street dog sits in a cardboard box, in Bucharest, Romania. The stray dog population of the Romanian capital is around 64 thousand according to city hall sources. The Matei Bals hospital for infectious diseases says it has treated 9,760 people for dogs bites this year, of which a quarter were children. It was the death of the 4-year-old boy that sparked a new debate over killing strays. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)

On taking care of strays in societies and granting them resident status, prominent animal activist Fizzah Shah puts it down in black and white. Equip yourself with the laws and stand up for the rights of your four-legged friends.

News of stray pups/kittens dumped in polythene bags or crushed under vehicles by animal haters in societies gets our blood boiling. Best you, of basic humanity, be aware of what the law says and join the force against such criminals. Stray dogs/cats exist in most societies. A small compassionate group in the society takes care of these ‘resident’ strays by feeding and nourishing them, seeing to their vaccinations and other medical treatment when required. However many times, you may have experienced that a group of dog haters want all the resident stray dogs out of the complex, they oppose the feeding of these dogs. Security personnel have been instructed to beat them, remove them on the grounds that they are dangerous even if they are the most docile beings, and not allow the residents to feed them.

The plan of such haters would to be to label all the stray dogs in the complex as biting, ferocious dogs and find any means to send them off to shelters. Often, such claims are exaggerated and the act of shifting the dogs is illegal, more so when money is offered to the shelter for the same.For these reasons, it is necessary that all resident stray dogs be neutered and vaccinated. And that no dislocation of the dogs takes place. These are residents who have not known any other place in their lives, have formed their respective territories by residing in different parts of the society. What society members should bear in mind is that preventing a member from engaging in the noble task of feeding is inhuman and against the law. All living beings need food and water for survival and if the dogs are deprived of their basic necessities they will become sick and arrogant which is unwarranted for the society.

The legal implication of these actions are as follows:

It is illegal for the managing committee to prevent anyone from feeding the dogs in the society premises. Every CHS is required to follow the model bylaws. Any failure to do so can be questioned by the registrar or in a court of law. The managing committee cannot make any harsh and unreasonable rules which are arbitrary in nature, especially if they are binding upon members. Members of the society can challenge a resolution to this effect before the Cooperative Court and seek a stay on the resolution on the grounds that it is a discriminatory and arbitrary rule. The law allows a society to make rules and put restrictions but they have to be reasonable and cannot trample on fundamental rights of the members. They can also sue the housing society before the Consumer Court as a flat owner is a consumer, and a decision of this nature amounts to deficiency in services. Restrictions imposed by a society can also be challenged in court under the Maharashtra Co-op Society Act that governs housing societies in the state.

The recent Supreme Court order dated 18th September 2015 states that the Animal Birth Control Rules 2001 framed under the Prevention of Cruelty Act 1960 should be followed while dealing with stray dog issues. Violation of this order amounts to contempt of Supreme Court and legal action can be taken against the individual members. According to The Animal Welfare Board of India (a functional statuary body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests) release, the following are the rules laid out:

  • Preventing a member from feeding stray dogs and dislocation of a stray from its original place, and causing death by starvation, amounts to cruelty to Animals under Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. The act envisages, inter alia, that if anyone were to, through acts or omissions, endanger the life of any animal or animals, he can be punished with imprisonment and
    fine, decided by the court depending upon the level of cruelty.
  • An order by the Magistrate Court ruled that feeding stray dogs is not a crime and furthermore that stray dogs were not the same as pets and certainly not the sole responsibility of those who feed them.
  • As per Animal Birth Control Act 2001, street dogs can be picked up only for sterilisation and anti-rabies vaccination and should be released back after surgery in the same place from where they are
    taken. Stray dogs cannot be relocated. Dogs are territorial and relocation means they can end up in a dogfight which can lead to injury and even death.
  • The Indian constitution in its Article 51 A (g) specifies the importance of kindness to animals. ‘It shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen of India to have compassion for living creatures. It is our duty to take all reasonable measures to ensure their well-being and prevent them from being inflicted with unnecessary pain or suffering. We should treat the strays community members, feed
    them regularly, sterilise and vaccinate them.

Stray dogs act as very good security guards especially at night when most society watchmen are asleep. In fact in one of the interim orders of the Hon. High Court, the court had stated that every society should adopt and take complete responsibility and care of two stray dogs at least, in order to control the dog population and avoid stray attacks.

If society’s non-dog lovers act hastily and carry out an illegal act, strict action must be taken. A police complaint can be filed against the secretary/chairman or any other person involved in the conspiracy against the dog’s existence in society. It would be best if common sense prevails and a more compassionate approach is adopted by errant members. In the right scenario, one could contact any animal welfare NGO for help and assistance.

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