Observing that animals have a right under law to be treated with compassion, respect and dignity, the Delhi High Court has asked the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) to designate areas in consultation with Resident Welfare Associations for feeding of community dogs in the national capital. Stating it was the moral responsibility of each and every citizen to protect the animals, the court also directed the AWBI to ensure that every RWA constitutes an Animal Welfare Committee.
“Community dogs (stray/street dogs) have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed community dogs but in exercising this right, care and caution should be taken to ensure that it does not impinge upon the rights of others or cause any harm, hindrance, harassment and nuisance to other individuals or members of the society,” said Justice J.R Midha in an order.
Issuing guidelines for the welfare of the community dogs, the court has constituted a committee for implementation of the order and asked it to hold a meeting within four weeks. The committee will comprise of the Director, Animal Husbandry Department or his nominee; a senior officer of the Municipal Corporations, Delhi Cantonment Board and AWBI; Delhi’s Additional Standing Nandita Rao, AWBI counsel Manisha T. Karia and advocate Pragyan Sharma.
The court said that the feeding of community dogs has to take place at areas designated by the AWBI in consultation with RWAs or Municipal Corporation in areas where the former is not available. “While determining the ‘designated area’, the AWBI and RWA/Municipal Corporations have to be conscious of the fact that every community dog is a territorial being and therefore, community dogs must be fed and tended to at places within their territory. It is the duty of the AWBI and the RWAs to ensure and keep in mind the fact that community dogs live in ‘packs’ and care should be taken by the AWBI and RWAs to see that each ‘pack’ ideally has different designated areas for feeding even if that means designating multiple areas in a locality,” it said further.
The court has also directed all law enforcement authorities to ensure that no harassment or hindrance is caused to the people feeding street dogs at the designated spots. It also said that the RWAs or Municipal Corporation have to ensure that every community dog in every area has access to food and water in the absence of caregivers or community dog feeders.
“Any person having compassion for stray dogs can feed the dogs at the private entrance/porch/driveway of their house or any other place not shared with other residents,” the order reads, adding that no person can restrict anyone from feeding dogs until and unless the same is causing harm or harassment to them.
It also said that the dogs have to be sterilized and vaccinated and then returned to the same area. Vaccinated and sterilized dogs cannot be removed by the municipality, noted the court further. The bench said that if any of the street or community dogs are injured or unwell, it will be the duty of the RWA to secure their treatment by the vets from the funds of the RWA.
In case of any grievance with regard to any act of caregivers and feeders, the court said that the residents can seek redressal of same through the Animal Welfare Committee of their areas, failing which the issue can be brought to the notice of AWBI through the RWA.
The court also said that despite the law prohibiting cruelty to animals, there was an increasing tendency of defiance among citizens and many times the government officials also take up a position contrary to the well-settled law. “Such act of defiance be noted down in the ACR file of Government employee. If any such complaint is received by AWBI, the same be sent to the concerned office for being placed in the ACR file of the Government employee for necessary action as per CCS Rules,” it ordered further.