The Laws of Pet Parenting
Hello human beings,
Hope you all are good, and all your pets are wagging their tails with joy.
As an advocate fighting for the legal rights of animals, I come across many people having misconceptions and misled views about pet ownership legality and the legal rights of care givers of stray dogs. Today I’d like to share a legal opinion to shed some light on these topics and hopefully clear such misconceptions.
As the number of people keeping dogs as household companions is increasing and as animal lovers are increasingly showing compassion for street dogs by feeding them and providing veterinary and other support, conflicts may sometimes occur between the care givers of dogs and Resident Welfare Association.
Our country endorses the virtues of ahimsa and non-violence. These doctrines have always enabled people to peacefully co-exist with animals. Moreover, the duty to show compassion to all living creatures is a Fundamental Duty cast by Article 51A of the constitution upon all citizens of this country; and the law of land protects the rights of non-humans.
All points of view deserve consideration, and everybody is equal in the eyes of law. The solution therefore lies in recognizing that, and teaching differing points of view, and differing lifestyles with respect. The guidelines issued by Animal Welfare Board of India aims at achieving the same.
As per the guidelines, pet owners rightly consider their pets as family members. A pet is akin to a perennial toddler and therefore deserves the same attention throughout its life as that reserved for a human toddler during infancy. However, pet owners are advised to ensure that their pets are not a source of nuisance to others. In doing so, they may, however, distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable, lawful and unlawful claims as to their pets being a source of nuisance; and no amount of pressure should lead to abandonment of a pet animal. Doing so, is a violation of law. Imagine the plight of a pet who has always lived inside a house and was dependent on its owner for food and shelter. And now, roaming on busy roads, alone, and in fear of being bitten or mauled by other stray dogs.
In our society most of the people (non-dog lovers) consider barking as a nuisance. However, barking is a natural form of expression for a dog and must and has to be tolerated in a society. However, continuous barking can disturb neighbours. Hence, in the AWBI guidelines, pet owners are advised to make every effort to keep their dogs quiet, particularly during night hours. But that doesn’t mean neighbours can force or pressure dog owners in any way to abandon the pets.
As per the guidelines, pet owners are also advised to ensure that their pets are healthy, vaccinated, and clean. Adequate healthcare and regular vaccinations need to be ensured. Sterilization is advised as our country has excessive dog population.
Leashing of pets in public places is also advisable. Leashing of dogs assures passer-by that they are safe and makes them more comfortable when walking in the vicinity of an owner with his pet dog on a leash. Leashing also ensures the safety of the pet from being run over by vehicles on streets, or worse shall, being the cause of accidents. Nowadays, people get their dogs trained for walking on leash and the dogs do so on the streets, but other passer-by may not feel comfortable and don’t know about the fact that the dog is trained to do so. Hence, conflicts arise. Even the canines used and trained by police and bomb squad never walk unleashed. However, RWA and other associations cannot insist on the use of muzzle. Please do remember, the law already provides for penalties for negligent pet owners, which the aggrieved party can avail of.
I come across multiple complaints against RWAs or other associations that dogs and their owners get debarred from using elevators etc. whereas as per the guidelines you cannot be debarred by these associations from the use of lifts or elevators for your dogs, pet owners are also advised to use alternate lifts or elevators if there is more than one working lifts in a building. Please bear in mind that even by obtaining consensus, or even if most of the residences and occupiers want it, RWA and other association cannot legally introduce any sort of ban on the keeping of pet dogs. They cannot insist that small sized dogs are acceptable and large sized dogs are not. They cannot cite dog barking as a valid and compelling reason for any proposed ban or restriction.
Further, in the guidelines it is also advised that pet owners either clean up when the pet defecates in public premises or participate in other solution for maintaining cleanliness. Such civic sense is the need of the hour in our country, and it is also courtesy to other users of public spaces. Pet owners are also advised to take the initiative to discuss with their RWA’s ways and means to dispose of pet excreta. For example, pet corners can be designated, in which pets can be trained or encouraged to relieve themselves; and a corner of the complex/park can be designated as area where pet excreta can be collected and deposited and composted, using sawdust, etc. Such behaviour may generate positivity and greater acceptability of pet dogs and even street dogs. However, it is clarified that it is for each residential community and complex to decide which method works best for them, and solutions cannot be imposed on anybody. I get multiple cases in which RWA imposed fines on pet owners and care givers for pet defecation in public premises, I want to make it very clear that it is illegal. There should be co-operation between RWA and pet owners.
If the residence or occupiers that have pets are not violating any municipal or other laws, it is not permissible for RWA or other association to object to their having pets as companions. The general body cannot frame bye laws or amend them in a manner that is at variance with the laws of the country. Even by complete majority, a general majority cannot adopt an illegality.