Governance

A matter of debate: Should stray dogs be fed in public places?

A recent blogpost on DTE drew a lot of interest. Here is a look

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Monday 06 July 2020
A DTE blogpost on stray dogs elicited a firestorm of protests. Photo: https://www.wallpaperflare.com/
A DTE blogpost on stray dogs elicited a firestorm of protests. Photo: https://www.wallpaperflare.com/ A DTE blogpost on stray dogs elicited a firestorm of protests. Photo: https://www.wallpaperflare.com/

On July 2, 2020, Down To Earth (DTE) published ‘Killing with compassion: Why feeding dogs in public places must stop!’, a writeup published in our ‘Blogs’ section. The authors, Shireen Bhalla and Abi T Vanak, expressed the view that stray dogs should not be fed by people in public places.

The response to the write-up triggered a maelstrom of rage at Down To Earth and the authors.

Here are some of the replies that we received, followed by a response from the authors:

(I)

This is with regard to the article ‘Killing with Compassion’ by Shireen Bhalla and Abi T Vanak in DTE, dated 02 July 2020.

It is incredible that DTE has published this under ‘Wildlife and Biodiversity’. And I am dismayed despite your runner at the end that proclaims the views expressed are the authors’ own and don’t reflect DTE’s. Why publish such a half- a**ed self-proclaimed research article that promotes more cruelty to animals, is blatantly anthropocentric and irresponsible!! 

A mere smattering of ecological terms does not a eco-friendly informed article make!

“There is an ecological concept called the ‘carrying capacity of the environment’. It is the population of a species that can be supported by a particular environment given the resources and habitat.”

 This in the time of ecological disasters and environmental holocaust and a worldwide pandemic brought on by human actions on the ecosystem?!  I understand the authors misunderstanding and misrepresentation of human beings as the sole “natural part of our urban environment” but for humanity’s sake, please remove this article and desist from encouraging apathy and active promotion of cruelty under the guise of giving space to scientific pseudo research.

Do not promote anthropocentricism. We’re already paying the price for it. And a magazine that calls itself Down to Earth needs to definitely get down to earth on this. ASAP.

Jeyakirthana

Urban Dweller

(II)

I joined because of one ridiculous article regarding stray dogs…not a single dog will bite you until unless you provoke them.

Seriously feeding a stray dog in a public place is wrong? So where is the place to feed them?

Both writers are useless if they don’t know about their rights and nature. Dogs are territorial by their nature and feeding them is the right of each and every citizen.

Don’t create any nuisance.

Try to spend one day on the road without food and water and you will get your answer.

In this article, are you talking about shelters? So please tell us how many shelters are there for dogs in India?

There is no proper govt hospital and you are talking about shelters?

Kindly go and visit nearby animal shelters and you will see the reality.

Seriously, shame on you guys.

For your information, please read this:

Under Stray Dog Management Rules 2001, IT IS ILLEGAL FOR AN INDIVIDUAL, RWA or estate management to remove or relocate dogs. The dogs have to be sterilised and vaccinated and returned to the same area.

Mamta Negi

(III)

This is regarding an article posted on DTE by Shireen Bhalla and Abi T Vanak named “Killing with compassion: Why feeding dogs in public places must stop!”.

This article is a direct attack on dogs living in societies and the feeders. It is spreading hatred against dogs and the feeders. It seems to be driven by some personal grudge with dogs or their feeder and shared in your magazine.

Your magazine is not a blog website, where anyone can post their opinion as a blog. Your magazine has some standards and liability for the articles published in it.

First of all, from an ethical standpoint, let me tell you that dogs are community animals who have been living with humans for ages. So, it is our ethical duty to take care of them like we take care of our own children.

Feeding and rescuing them are a part of it. Sending them in a shelter is a useless suggestion in the article because shelters are built for taking care of injured and ill dogs.

Also, we don’t have enough shelters to inhabit all dogs of the country. So where should we send them? Dogs are the territorial animals by nature. If you relocate one dog from an area, another dog will come there to live in.

Those people who have problems with dogs in their area should be thankful to the feeders because they take care of vaccination, sterilisation and feeding because of that, dogs keep calm and don’t get irritated because their stomachs are full.

Their population is in control or if any dog by chance bites anyone, there is no harm to that person because the dogs are vaccinated.

Now coming to the legal standpoint, many Indian laws and regulations are there which are designed specifically for the safety of dogs and their feeders.

In many ways, the writers of this article and magazine itself can face legal action, if you go through the laws. Please read them carefully:

1.Article 51-A(g) states – “It shall be duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.”

So, anyone obstructing any citizen of India from tending to, helping, feeding, caring, protecting any animal would be violating the fundamental rights of the person which is a punishable offence.

2. Article 48-A – “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.”

This means that all government servants, officers of bureaucracy, legislators, judiciary are bound by the law to protect the animals and their up keepers.

3. Article 19 deals with the fundamental rights of the citizen. So “Right to Protect the Environment” comes within Article 19.

4. Article 25, 26, 27, 28 provide religious freedom to all citizens and preserves the principle of secularism in India. According to the constitution, all religions are equal before the State.

Citizens are free to preach, practice and propagate any religion of their choice in their own way. Feeding animals like dogs, cows, cats, etc is a part of the same in many religions and anyone violating the same would be punishable under the law.

5. Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act makes all animal cruelty a criminal offence. Fines and imprisonment are both provided for. The Indian Penal Code has similar provisions.

6. The Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules, 2001, enacted under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, provide for sterilisation and vaccination as a means of stabilising / reducing stray dog populations and eliminating the risk of rabies ; and prohibits relocation of stray dogs, ie throwing, or driving them out of one area, into another.

Enclosed copies of an articles referring to an order passed by the Supreme Court of India in this regard, which prohibits removal, dislocation or killing of even nuisance dogs.

7. Under Stray Dog Management Rules 2001, it is illegal for an individual, RWA or estate management to remove or relocate dogs. The dogs have to be sterilised and vaccinated and returned to the same area. Vaccinated and sterilised dogs cannot be removed by the municipality too.

8. Under Section 506 of the IPC, it is a crime to threaten abuse or harass neighbours who feed animals.

9. IPC Section 428 and 429 provides severe punishment (up to five years imprisonment) to people resorting to dislocation, abduction and acts of cruelty towards community animals or pets.

10. Delhi Police Act 1968, Sections 73 to 79, and 99 gives special powers to police to take action when an animal offence has been committed. The police can arrest any offender without a warrant.

11. The Environment (Protection) Act – 1986 and Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 at various places protect stray dogs from any kind of cruelty.

12. Registrar of Societies has been advised by the Commissioner of Gurugram and Animal Welfare Board of India to dissolve any RWA or Managing Committee which violate the above laws and there have been instances when they have been prosecuted under the law. Hence, no RWA has the right to curb the freedom of any resident to keep pets or to tend to animals in any way.

13. Circular by Animal Welfare Board of India regarding protection and rights of pets and street dogs and animal lovers.

14. Order by Special Commissioner of Police, Law & Order, Delhi giving directions to all JtCP / Ranges, All Heads of Distt. giving all responsibility of crime against animals and animal lovers to all SHO, ACP / SDPO.

15. Ministry of Public Grievances notification and a similar notification by Animal Welfare Board of India dated March 2008, provide immunity to animal feeders and restrict government employees or bodies such as Resident Welfare Associations from harassing people who try to feed or help animals.

16. Directive of the Central Mumbai Consumer Disputes Redress Forum, given on 22/11/10 came down strongly against the housing societies who were charging a resident for use of lift since October 2008 for pets.

17. High Court of Delhi in 2011 passed an order asking the police to provide protection to dogs and dog feeders and has made it a punishable offence in case anyone restricts, prohibits or causes inconvenience to any person feeding a street dog or resorts to removal dislocation or killing of a dog.

18. The Supreme Court of India in 2009 gave a similar stay order against removal culling or dislocation of a dog anywhere in India.

Now, since you have gone through all the ethical and legal reasons mentioned above, I request you to put down the article as it is spreading hatred against dogs and their feeder.

Yogesh Kumar

TO THIS MAIL, THE AUTHORS RESPOND:

Far from being an attack on dogs, the article makes a case of better management and welfare of homeless dogs. Apart from being a dog lover who himself has rescued dogs, Dr Vanak is also a recognised expert in the field of dog ecology and wildlife conservation. These claims are therefore completely bizarre, unfounded and baseless.

There is no such thing as “community animals”. Dogs are domestic, companion animals protected under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and have a right to food, water and shelter. Dr Vanak has also co-authored a dog population management document that has been submitted to the Supreme Court of India in the ongoing stray dog case. The policy document is also evidence that the author is promoting the welfare of homeless dogs, both legally and ethically

(https://drive.google.com/file/d/1wOFMR61vb0FgPqwuWhtsgRTXU9g8m_hm/view?usp=sharing)

If the complainants believe sheltering is “useless”, that is entirely their problem. The authors will continue to promote it as the only viable solution for the protection of people as well as homeless dogs. It is also one of the primary responsibilities of the AWBI and is funded extensively by it  (http://www.awbi.in/roles_functions.html)

“To encourage by the grant of financial assistance or otherwise, the formation or establishment of Pinjarapoles, rescue homes, animals shelters, sanctuaries and the like, where animals and birds may find a shelter when they have become old and useless or when they need protection.”

From 1993-2005 the AWBI gave NGOs 9.59 crores for and from 2007-2017 it gave them 6.5 crores of tax payer funds for sheltering.

Primary causes of dog attacks are territoriality and fear; sterilisation and being fed do not check aggression in dogs. Studies have shown that neutering may in fact increase aggression in dogs (https://dogzine.nl/en/newsarticle/more-fear-and-agression-after-neutering)

Compassion for living creatures by, can by no stretch of imagination, mean feeding animals in public places and on the streets. This is not mentioned anywhere in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act either. Indeed, the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi said this, “The Mahajan may not allow the dogs to stray… It is a sin; it should be a sin to feed stray dogs and we should save numerous dogs if we had legislation making every stray dog liable to be shot. Even if those who feed stray dogs consented to pay a penalty for their misdirected compassion we should be free from the curse of stray dogs.”

Feeding and caring for animals can only be done in shelters. These activities in public places are not protected under the law. They are, in fact punishable under public nuisance. It is also irrelevant how useful or advantageous these activities may be. They cannot be carried out in public places.

Section 268 of the IPC – Public Nuisance – states, “A person is guilty of a public nuisance who does any act or is guilty of an illegal omission which causes any common injury, danger or annoyance to the public or to the people in general who dwell or occupy property in the vicinity, or which must necessarily cause injury, obstruction, danger or annoyance to persons who may have occasion to use any public right. A common nuisance is not excused on the ground that it causes some convenience or advantage.”

The most important right under Article 19 is freedom of speech and expression. Which is what the authors have done in the article. Their right to express their views, based on extensive studies, are protected under the Constitution, regardless of whether the complainants like it or not.

“Right to Protect the Environment” is not mentioned anywhere under Article 19. Protecting the environment is the duty of every citizen, which the authors are well aware of.

The SC has stated that religious freedoms can and must be curbed if they go against Article 21. No religion promotes feeding animals on the streets and causing public nuisance.

The PCAA protects dogs by providing them the legal right to food, water and shelter. Any attempt to keep them homeless and on the streets is in fact illegal and cruel.

Section 506 of the IPC deals with criminal intimidation. It has nothing to do with dog feeders, nor does it provide them any legal protection.

IPC Sections 428 and 429 deal with killing and maiming animals. Irrelevant to anything written in the article.

Both, the Environment Protection Act and the Wildlife Protection Act make no mention of “protection of stray dogs”. Indeed, under the WLPA, the Chief Wildlife Warden is authorised to take necessary steps to protect wildlife. Several studies, including those done by the senior author have shown that dogs are the third worst invasive species in the world.

The Circular by Animal Welfare Board of India regarding protection and rights of pets and street dogs and animal lovers places stringent rules for dog feeding, all of which are being violated, as mentioned in the article. All dog feeders are in fact in violation of these guidelines and are carrying out illegal activities.

The AWBI has itself submitted to the Supreme Court that the only way to control the stray dog population is to remove food sources. It states, “The overall, ultimate answer to street dog population control is to control the availability of edible wastes.”

The Delhi High Court order of 2011 lays down very strict guidelines for feeders, all of which have been violated by feeders as mentioned in the article. Feeding is only allowed if these guideline s are followed:

 http://www.awbi.org/awbi-pdf/April%20NL.pdf -

  1. Dogs must not be fed at places frequented by people.
  2. Dogs should not be herded at a particular spot for the purpose of feeding.
  3. Public causeways, public streets, pedestrian paths and footpaths are to be avoided.
  4. Common/public areas immediately abutting the entrance to flats/houses must be avoided.
  5. Feeding should be undertaken at a time when the density of human population is minimal.
  6. Feeding should be undertaken in a hygienic manner.

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