STRAY DOG MANAGEMENT IN INDIA – A SCANTILY  ADDRESSED AREA OF CONCERN 

Chindhu Joseph

Central University of Kerala

‘We are paying taxes and we die on the road’

 INTRODUCTION

India is the nation that has the highest number of stray dogs and likewise, the nation with the highest rate of human rabies in the world1. The commonly seen stray dogs in India are the ‘Indian Pariah Dogs’ which are noted for their capacity to survive as they are highly immune to a plethora of diseases owing to their evolution. They are mostly people friendly and can make for excellent guard dogs. Still, their basic hunting dispositions pose a considerable threat to humans. Several instances can be coined to address the threat posed by stray dogs to the peaceful living of people in  India. In fact, thousands of citizens are being attacked by them in a single day, which results in caustic casualties. Many people lose their life due to rabis infection inflicted through stray dog bites. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the ‘Right to life’ to its citizens and makes it mandatory for state and local governments to provide a safe and ailment-free atmosphere. It is the duty of the government to direct the municipal authorities to keep the public places, especially free of stray animals and avert public inconvenience through its sophisticated municipal law. Still, the menace of stray dogs is not a novel issue in India and also not a matter which seems to await a speedy remedy. This study tries to analyse the extent and diversity of threats posed by stray dogs in India and also tries to formulate a plausible pattern of mitigation mechanism which helps curb the menace which doesn’t conflict with the established legal standards. 

IS IT TRULY A SCANTILY NOTICED AREA OF CONCERN?

Imagine, while a terrorist attack, one of the citizens losing his/her life in India. How much will be the mediatization done to address the issue. Then, consider about thousands those who lose their lives due to the attack and interference of stray dogs every year in India. The amount of attention given by `media as well as by the governmental mechanisms is obviously meagre. The objective of this idea conveyed is to get an understanding of the worth of a life, irrespective of the mode which takes it. Whatever costs the life of citizens should be addressed and all possible methods of mitigation shall be employed in its eradication. Same is the case with stray dog menace. Apart from rabies majority of stray dogs are infected with parvo infection, mange and distemper which are contagious.2 Even a small scratch or bite from a stray dog results in the injection of four shots of rabies vaccination on differently scheduled days. Apart from this, several deaths and serious casualties have reported when the stray dog causes a collision when it runs into the road. Citizens pay road taxes to the government which is primarily responsible to safeguard the life of its subjects. But, in the case of stray dog’s free-access to public roads, the governments are silent as it is a ‘Pandora’s Box’ which has multifarious levels of issues when it comes to the extermination.

In march 2016, the municipal authorities reported to Supreme Court that from 1994 to 2015, 434 deaths happened in Mumbai, due to dog bites. As per reports, 1.3 million people were bitten by stray dogs amid this timespan. Kolkata had a stray dog population of more than 80000 in 2018 and its rising.3 The number of stray dogs in the major cities of India as per 20th livestock census 2016 is as under

These figures are from 2016 census. The current figures of stray dog population in India will never going to disclose an inferior number. World Health Organization (WHO) has identified that 36% of world deaths due to rabies is happening in India. ‘WHO’ has also recognised that dog bites are the root cause for the transmission of rabies to humans contributing up to 99% and added that every year 18000-20000 citizens lose their lives in India due to rabies.7 This is way much higher than the number of people killed in terrorist attacks in India.8 It still doesn’t seem alarming and an under-noticed issue?

CONVERGENCE OF ANIMAL RIGHTS AND HUMAN RIGHTS JURISPRUDENTIAL PERSPECTIVE

Humans fix the standards related with human rights as well animal rights. The friction is obvious as question related to priority in preservation of these rights arose. Whether the animal rights should be compromised for the protection of human rights or vice versa is an evergreen debatable issue as it varies in the perspectives. Animal rights activists do strongly condemn any action against the elimination of stray dogs from the public as they consider stray dogs as the part of the environment who have the right to exist along with humans and other animals. They advocate that it is the duty of the humans to preserve the rights of animals at first. Humans should avoid exploiting or exterminating animals as the interests of animals are as same as humans. But, never contemplate animals can have rights akin to humans. For example, humans can’t confer right to vote to animals. Still, they can be conferred basic rights such as right to physical, psychological and emotional health, right to adequate food and shelter, right not to be harmed and exploited, right to share the environment with other animals including humans, right to be valued and ultimately the right to live.

While analysing the jurisprudential recognition of animal rights it is just to coin Charles Darwin, who was a scientist and a naturalist. His renowned theory of ‘Natural selection’ has managed to radically alter the perspectives of humans from considering themselves as specially made by God, to being yet another animal evolved from an animal.9 Although he wasn’t an animal rights advocate, his theories have strong implications as to the importance of animal rights and standards to be maintained while dealing with animals. Darwin identified shared attributes in animals and humans like anger, terror, deceit, courage and timidity. All these vary among animals just like humans. Also, they possess multiple emotions like desire to be loved, admiral of appreciation, jealousy etc.10

While the celebrated jurist ‘Emmanual Kant’, considered rationality as the supreme factor in conferring rights to animals. For him, rationality is not alike intelligence. It is the normative capacity of humans to judge an action as good or bad. It is that incomparable capacity to find reasons for their beliefs and actions is what makes humans distinctive of animals11. Although, in an apparent sense it may feel like Kant was against the conferring of rights to animal, but it’s not legit to understand it so. At his period, his views were far progressive. Kant was of the view that animals should not be used as the subject of conducting painful experiments nor they should not be used for any sports. If they must be killed, it should be done quick and with less pain. He adds that humans have duty towards animals which they don’t owe to animals, but to themselves.12

Jeremy Bentham is yet another illustrious jurist who is still memorized for his ‘Principle of utilitarianism’. Bentham’s statement ‘The question is not can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But can they suffer?’13 was wide popular in animal welfare circles of that time. He considered the capacity for suffering as the sole criterion for conferring rights to animals. While, Henry Stephen Salt was of the view that humans shouldn’t kill their fellow-beings which lower the standard of a civilized society. He added that ‘it is ourselves, our own vital instincts, that we wrong, when we trample on the rights of the fellow-beings or animals, over whom we chance to hold jurisdiction’.14

Meanwhile human rights are those universally accepted principles which are common to all humans around the globe. Its characteristic are universality, inalienability, indivisibility, participation, non-discrimination, transparency and accountability.15 The convergence of Human rights with animal rights stems from the basic fact that humans are yet another animal species. There is no qualitative distinction between human rights and animal rights, but only quantitative. Some animals have properties like consciousness, self-awareness, sentience, sense of time and ability to plan just like great apes. Thus, human rights can also be understood as a species oh animals rights in general view. Thus, the recognition of animal rights and conferring certain rights to animals is a basic facet of human morality and values.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK AND JUDICIAL RESPONSES IN INDIA  PERTAINING TO THE AREA OF STRAY DOG MANAGEMENT 

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960

As per section 11(1) of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, which is the basic law which prohibits the ill-treatment of animals, ‘mutilation of any animal or killing any animal (including stray dogs) by using the method of strychnine injections in the heart or in any other unnecessarily cruel manner is a cognizable offence. According to section 11, beating, kicking, over-riding, overloading, over-driving, torturing or otherwise treating any animals so as to subject it to unnecessary pain amounts to cruelty on animals.16

Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 (Amended in 2010)

As per Indian law, stray dogs cannot be killed, beaten, driven away, displaced or dislocated. Only allowed manner is the sterilization procedure envisaged in Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001. It classifies dogs as pet dogs and street dogs. It also directs the procedure for controlled breeding, immunization, sterilization and licensing and also divided duty of street dog management among local authorities and residential associations. It also structures the function of a core committee which is meant to control and care street dogs by sheltering, sterilization, catching, vaccination, etc. The rehabilitation of captured street dogs is also the responsibility of local authorities as per the ABC Rules.17

AWBI Guidelines for Feeding Stray Dogs in Residential and other Localities

There are certain guidelines issued by the ‘Animal Welfare board of India’ for the feeding of stray dogs in residential and other localities. It states that the dogs must be fed at places which are rarely used by the residents, causeways, public footpath, streets, pedestrian path etc. Anyone interested in feeding stray dogs in their private space/flat can do as such. It also directs the spectrum of feeding interval and manner to be followed while serving food and water. The Animal Welfare Board is of the view that adherence to the guidelines can positively impact the management of stray dogs, and can prevent them from attacking humans.

Other Legislations and Rules 

The municipality/Corporation is the authority which is responsible for the stray dog management in India. Municipalities are meant to have adequate dog pounds for sheltering stray dogs. Previously, municipalities used to cull these animals brutishly by electrocution, starvation and even by burying alive. After 1992 is became illegal to kill stray dogs. The High Courts of Delhi, Mumbai, Rajasthan, Gujarat and many other states have directed various municipalities to formulate a sophisticated method instead of culling stray dogs mercilessly. The AWBI has established a code of conduct for the municipalities to deal with stray dogs. Failure in its following invites contempt of court proceedings.

Section 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code make it illegal to maim or cause injury to any animal with a monetary value higher than Rs 10.

  • It is illegal to throw acid on cows (normally done by vegetable sellers.
  • It is illegal to intentionally kill/injure dogs, cats, cows which roam on  the street.
  • Anyone who engage in such activities which injure animals including  stary dogs shall be punished by fine of Rs 2000 and/or a jail term of  up to five years.18

Judicial response 

Indian Judicial system always stood supportive in the protection of animal rights. In Muhammed Habib v. Uttar Pradesh19, the court was of the view that ‘the constitution of India doesn’t permit any citizen to claim that it is his fundamental right to take life and kill animals’ and also chapter IV A, Article 51(g) ordains ‘compassion for living creatures’. Even though the court didn’t mention stray dogs as such, the ruling generalized the protection of life of animals, making it applicable to stray dogs also. In Animal Welfare Board v. A. Nagaraja and ors,20 the apex court reiterated five internationally recognized freedoms for animals. They are freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition, freedom from fear and distress, freedom from physical and thermal discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease, freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour. The supreme court considered these rights as the fundamental principles of animal rights and it stated that these rights are to be ensured for every animal in the nation.

In Animal Welfare Board of India v. People for elimination of Stray Troubles  & Ors21 it was held that it is the duty of the corporations to manage the stray dogs  which creates nuisance. The Supreme court urged Animal Welfare Board to supervise  State Municipal Corporations, Municipal committees, district boards and local bodies  and analyse whether they follow existing laws and rules pertaining to the protection  of such Animals. 

On march, 2016, the Supreme court directed all states to conduct sterilization and vaccination programme on stray dogs adhering to the provisions of ‘Prevention  of Cruelty to Animals Act’ under the guidance of ‘Animal Welfare Board to control’ its population and also to curb the menace of rabies infection. The apex court was  considering more than ten writ petitions related with stray dog menace like the  welfare and protection of animals& Anr v. state and Ors22 and Rekha Gare v. State of  Govt. of N.C.T of Delhi & Ors.23 The bench headed by ‘Justice Deepak Mishra’ considered the submission of ‘amicus curiae’ and senior lawyer ‘Dushyant Dave’,  and recognised that proper sterilization as per law and rules are not carried out by  corporations either because of lack of money or due to apathy. The court also directed  state governments to report, matters which indicating compliance of provisions of the  Act regarding stray dogs, with the AWBI within six-week time. Thus, it can be  identified that Indian Judiciary from time to time has recognised the seriousness of  the issue and has directed governments to follow ABC Rules and provision of  Protection of Animals Act.

WHY INDIA CRAWL DESPITE OF HAVING AN EFFECTIVE STRAY DOG  MANAGEMENT BLUEPRINT

It is a wide acknowledged fact through various statistics and reports, India is  home to millions of Stray dogs. Despite of adequate legal mechanism, the actual  management of stray dogs in the country is not appreciable. It can be attributed to the  improper implementation of the statutes which are framed embodying advanced  principles of international legislations. India does have a valid mechanism for  managing stray dogs in the form of ABC Rules as mentioned before. The rules follow  the pattern of European countries which effectively manage stray dog population in  their territory. The rules do recognize the vital role of local authorities and animal  welfare association in the management of stray dogs. It mandates such authorities to  capture and shelter such stray dogs and also to sterilize and vaccine them. After that  the authority should release them to the same locality from which they are captured.  This proven pragmatic procedure is the most effective way in controlling the  population of stray dogs 

It is exactly where the nation strain in the management of stray dog  population and menace. It is the utter failure of implementation mechanism which is  responsible for the mismanagement. ABC programme implementation is in dormant  condition in the majority of states. Owing to multifarious reasons, local bodies fail to implement ABC Rules. Lack of infrastructural facilities is the prime cause as the societies primary concerns are much different. India being a developing nation, the management of stray dogs can’t be found in the top priority list of the local administration as well as for the citizens. A very few numbers of stray dogs are being sterilized by the authorities under the ABC programme, where, it is being the only resort to attain a visible reduction in the number of stray dog population as upheld by the Supreme Court and various High Courts. The ABC Rules made by the Government of India is quite effective as it follows the pattern of proved management system around the world.

Still, it can’t be attributed to AWBI as its sole fault. Primarily it is the failure  from the part of Municipalities/Corporations in the periodic monitoring of stray dogs  and in the conduction of ABC programme which lead to their overpopulation. Along  with that, improper waste management mechanism adds to the menace as it helps stay  dogs to survive. An effective system of garbage-disposal can help reduce the  population in the near future. It acts as a prime reason for the failure in the  implementation of ABC Rules too. The streets in India filled with garbage is the  perfect breeding ground for those strays which are not neutered or spayed.24 

CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS FOR REFORMS 

A proper and sophisticated system of management has to be employed for the  identification of stray dogs an area. The Municipalities/Corporations should maintain  at least an approximate number of the stray dog population and periodic  implementation of ABC Rules which includes vaccination, birth control and  sterilization techniques. Along with this, adhering to the provisions of various  European statutes like ‘The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 of the  United Kingdom25, the states must initiate the establishment of dog shelters/pounds  dedicated to a defined area. This can be used to shelter the captured dogs temporarily  for the time needed to sterilize and vaccinate them. Later, they can be released to the  same place from which they are captured. Dog Lovers and Animal Welfare  Associations should play the pivotal role in the management of stray dog and in the  reduction of their population. Likewise proper garbage disposal mechanism should be  devised in every nook and corner of the nation. Littering of garbage waste helps stray  dogs flourish in numbers as they get adequate food and apt environment to survive.  While trying to mitigate its menace, inhumane treatments against the stray dogs  should also be avoided. 

The natural instinct of humans to cull stray dogs which interfere in their  tranquillity and normal life was witnessed in many parts of India. In 2016 at least 120  stray dogs were killed by the people of Kerala in Ernakulam and Palakkad. The  incident even received the condemnation from International Animal lovers. The  Supreme court also took note on the issue and urged to stop such barbaric move against the extermination of stray dogs.26 Same happened in the Kerala’s Manjeri  where people killed 15 stray dogs which were vaccinated and sterilized.27 All such  barbaric acts should be eradicated from a civilized society. The public must be made  aware about the legal consequences of such brutish acts and also should be taught the  humane value of preserving animal rights. Then only the re-occurrence of such  incidents can be avoided. The knowledge on the system of management of stray dogs  can help people deal with them in accordance with law. The  corporation/Municipalities should impart such awareness to the citizens along with  the execution of their responsibilities as per the provisions enumerated in the ABC Rules. Following all such pragmatic practises can ultimately help reduce the  population of stray dogs in India and its interaction with humans, which leads to the  death of thousand every year. Every citizen should be aware of the rights of other  animals in the globe to co-exist and in case of their menace they should only adhere  to the rules and principles established by law. Together, the nation can gradually  reduce the stray dog population by applying such established way of mitigation,  which doesn’t harm their rights and feelings. 

CITATIONS

1.Why stray dogs divide India like nothing else, TIMES OF INDIA, (July 23, 2021 10:44 A.M) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/why-stray-dogs-divide-india-like-nothing else/articleshow/81431925.cms#:~:text=India%2C%20with%20its%20estimated%20populati on,below%2015%20years%20of%20age.
2.Stray dog menace on the rise in Kozhikode city, THE HINDU, (July 23,2021 10:19 A.M) https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/stray-dog-menace-on-the-rise-in-kozhikode city/article34298247.ece.
3.Are stray dogs a major problem in India? MEDIA INDIA, (July 23, 2021 10:53 A.M), https://mediaindia.eu/society/stray-dogs-a-major-problem-in-india/.
4.20th Livestock census-2016, ANIMAL HUSBANDRY, DAIRYING AND FISHERIES, http://dahd.nic.in/division/launching-20th-livestock-census (July 23,2021, 4:30 P.M).
5.As per the survey report by ‘Humane Society International (HIS) for the corporation of Trivandrum in 2015.
6.Supra note 4.
7.Rabies, Health topics, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, (July 23,2021, 5:00 P.M) https://www.who.int/india/health-topics/rabies
8.Soutik Biswas, Do India’s stray dogs kill more people than terror attacks, , BBC NEWS, (July 23, 5:05 P.M) https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-36035456 .
9.CHARLES DARWIN, ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES BY MEANS OF NATURAL SELECTION, 76-77(1895).
10.FRIEDRICH NIETZCHE: ANIMAL RIGHTS: A HISTORY-CHARLES DARWIN, NOTEBOOK (1893).
11.Christine M. korsgaard, A Kantian Case for Animal Rights, 33 (4) OXFORD JOURNAL OF LEGAL STUDIES 629-648 (2013).
12.Id.
13.See generally JEREMY BENTHAM, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE PRINCIPLES OF MORALS AND LEGISLATION (1789).
14.SALT HENRY STEPHENS, ANIMAL RIGHTS: CONSIDERED IN RELATION TO SOCIAL PROGRESS 52-63 (1892)
15.United Nations Population Fund, Human rights Principles, (July.24, 2021 10:09 A.M) http://www.unfpa.org/resources/human-rights-principles .
16.Section 11 in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, INDIAN KANOON, (July 24, 2021 !0:57 A.M), https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1763700/ .
17.Id.
18.18 See generally, Section 428 and 429 of IPC
19.SLP(C) 691/09 (2016); (July 24, 2021 9:50 P.M) http: awbi.org/awbi
20.pdf/sc_order_18112015.pdf.
21.CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5387 OF 2014, @Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.11686 of 20087)
22.CIVIL APPEAL NO. 223 OF 2017, @ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.11686 of 2007 22 W.P(CRL) 467/2009
23.W. P(CRL) 1101/2009, See also M. R Ajayan v. State of Kerala, WP(C). No 28255 of 2011, Kuljit Singh Bedi v. State of Punjab and Ors Civil Writ Petition No.9902 of 2012 (O&M), Satish Kumar Verma v. O.P Shrivastava C.P. No 1339 of 2009 (2013)
24.Jasmine Monrouxe, Why are there so many stray dogs in India? THE DODO, (July 25, 2021 10:50) https://www.thedodo.com/why-are-there-so-many-street-dogs-in-india 1508123458.html .
25.Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, legistlation.gov.uk, (July 25, 2021 11:10 A.M) https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2005/16/contents .
26.At least 120 stray dogs killed in Kerala’s Ernakulam and Palakkad districts in the last week.SCROLL.IN, (July 25, 2021 11:24 A.M), https://scroll.in/latest/819045/at-least-120-stray-dogs-killed-in-keralas-ernakulam andpalakkad-districts-in-the-last-week .
27.Kerala: Police begin probe into mass killing of Stray Dogs in Manjeri, TIMES OF INDIA, (July 26, 11:30 A.M) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kozhikode/kerala-police-begin-probe-into-mass killing-of-stray-dogs-in-manjeri/articleshow/70556525.cms .

Note: This work is published as a part of the Article Writing Competition organized by The Legal Boffin in 2021.

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