The Bombay High Court Friday asked an animal rights activist to respond to a challenge by the Maharashtra government to the claim made by her that the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) had recommended allowing owners to take their pets out for walks during the lockdown.
While the state government, in its response, agreed to the board’s suggestion of providing shelters for strays and allowing people to feed them, it said the petitioner activist had misinterpreted these directions as permission for taking pet animals out for walk.
On May 8, the High Court, responding to a Public Interest Litigation by the animal rights activist from Pune, Vineeta Tandon, had sought a clarification on the movement of animal ambulances and private vehicles carrying animals to hospitals during the COVID-19 outbreak. The HC, however, did not allow Tandon’s demand seeking directions to allow pets, including dogs, to be taken out for walks after the state lawyer clarified that while humans are restricted from leaving homes except for accessing essential services, walking pets within housing society compounds was permitted, but exception cannot be made for animals.
The High Court had asked petitioner to produce communication, if any, by AWBI pertaining to the submission that restraining pets to be taken out for walks would amount to cruelty to animals.
On Friday, a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice S S Shinde heard through videoconference the PIL and was informed by the state government through an affidavit that various measures had been taken to allow veterinary ambulances and private vehicles to ferry animals to avail medical facilities.
The government further stated that sufficient instructions had also been issued to local bodies to ferry pets and strays in private vehicles in cases where ambulances were not available to allow persons authorised to take them to hospital.
Moreover, instructions had been issued for allowing feeders to feed stray animals by issuing required permissions and passes, state submitted.
The petitioner activist insisted that AWBI in the letters written to her had said that pet owners could take their pets out for walk. However, after perusing the letters, no such recommendation was found and the board instead had directed to arrange facilities for taking care of domesticated animals abandoned by their owners during the pandemic.
The government further said that instructions by the Board were limited to the Pune Municipal Commissioner and same was surprising since the AWBI being statutory authority.
After hearing submissions, the bench asked the petitioner activist to respond to the state’s response and sought to know under what authority the AWBI can issue directions. It posted the matter for further hearing on May 29
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