Street dogs and their rights

Millions of street dogs roam the streets in virtually every country barring a few. Homeless, hungry and invariably sick, these mute animals need our help to live a better life rather than a dog’s life.

In India itself, one sees so many stray dogs being victims of hit and run vehicles, lying injured or maimed on the roads with nobody coming forward to help or treat them. Of course, there are many NGOs and animal lovers who take in injured dogs and nurse them back to health but such persons have their own limitations in resources and space to really make a meaningful difference. Therefore, it is important that the government takes positive steps in this direction to protect these poor stray animals from abuse and ill-treatment.

It is common to see people throwing stones at street dogs because they think they will bite them. This is not so. Dogs will not attack someone unless they feel threatened. In fact, dogs who are regularly abused and ill-treated can become aggressive and can bite anyone.

These stray dogs have no owner or master and therefore they live on the streets looking for whatever food they can get from garbage dumps or rubbish that is lying around on the roads. Many a times, such dogs are fed by persons who are animal lovers. Mostly, these dogs are peaceful but sometimes children throw stones at them and the dogs retaliate by running after them. This scares the children even more and creates fear in the mind.

In big cities and metros like Delhi and Mumbai the municipal authorities are always trying to catch these stray dogs but their methods are unscientific and the animal gets hurt or injured in the process but nobody cares. More humane methods must be adopted to round up stray dogs and they should then be sterilized to ensure they do not reproduce further. This is a long drawn process and most municipal authorities do not consider this as a priority hence stray dog population increases day by day.

Recently there was controversy about deliberate killing of stray dogs that caused an uproar as animal rights activists protested the move forcing some panchayats in Andhara Pradesh to withdraw an order on killing of these hapless creatures. These stray dogs also have a right to live as much as we humans have and authorities should adopt guidelines issued by the United Nations WHO on control of canine populations. The order to kill the stray dogs was a knee-jerk reaction by the authorities after a six year old girl child was bitten badly by a street dog. As per the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act 1960, killing of stray animals deliberately is illegal and punishable by law.

Facts –

1. The Animal Birth Control Rules (ABC) formulated under PCA, 1960 has mandated that only rabies-afflicted, incurably-ill or mortally wounded animals must be put to sleep by humane methods.

2. In 2001, the Government of India mandated that dogs should not be killed deliberately and ABC rules should be adopted.

3. The Hon’ble Supreme Court also issued a stay on killing of stray dogs and animals in an order of Feb, 2015.

The central government has promulgated and notified under ABC (Dogs) Rules, 1960 that it is basic right of the stray dog not to be killed, driven away, displaced or dislocated. They should only be sterilized by mandated methods without causing injury, vaccinated and then returned back to their original locations. Animals, like humans, adapt themselves to places that become home for them and can suffer trauma when forcibly displaced leading to eventual death.

What can we do as citizens to help street animals?

1. When you see an animal being hit or abused, talk to the perpetrator to stop as it is against the law. If required, file an FIR with the police. Persist if they do not register as they might not be aware of animal laws; be polite but firm.

2. If the municipal authorities are still killing stray animals, register a protest with the Municipal Commissioner to order a stop. Involve the Animal Welfare Board of India to intervene and have them take up with the municipal authorities to implement the ABC programme.

3. Contact the Committee for Purpose of Control and Suspension of Experiments on Animals, if you feel any research organization is sourcing the animals from the streets and not from legally permitted areas and that the animals are being abused or mistreated.

In conclusion, let us all be aware of the rights of stray and other animals and treat them with the same respect and love that we would have for our own. They too deserve to live peacefully and healthily.

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