Both the Supreme Court of Delhi and Delhi High Court upheld community dog rights, while acknowledging that they have a request for food and compassion.

According to August’s reply from the Lok Sabha ministry of fisheries, animal husbandry, there is no provision in the law that provides compensation for injuries or death caused by attacks by community dogs. 

On Tuesday, the controversy over community dogs living in residential societies was rekindled after a seven-month-old died from being mauled inside Noida Sector 100.

However, the country’s legal system is complex in its handling of such incidents.

The directive principle of state policies is reflected in Article 51A. It states that every citizen of India has the responsibility to improve and protect the natural environment, including rivers and forests, as well as “to show compassion for all living creatures”.

The guidelines of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) 2015, a statutory body established under the Prevention of Cruelty Animals Act 1960, occupy the field as far as community dogs and pets are concerned.

These guidelines state that no residential community can make a regulation prohibiting the keeping of pets dogs or their use of lifts. Pet owners must keep their pets under control in all areas. However, they can’t be forced to use muzzles. The 2015 guidelines state that RWAs are not allowed to impose any fines on pet owners because there is no state or central law that requires pet owners to clean up their pets’ excrement. 

AWBI stresses that street dogs cannot be culled or beaten. They can be sterilized under the 2001 Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules and vaccinated before being released into the same area or territory.

The feeding of community dogs is not prohibited by law. According to the AWBI, if a dog bites in self-defense to escape aggression or hostility, then “the human aggressors shall not be held responsible”.

The Supreme Court of Delhi and the Delhi High Court upheld the rights to community dogs, while acknowledging that they have the right to food and compassion.

Delhi High Court in July 2021 ordered that all community dogs must be fed in designated areas and that their caregivers/feeders have the right to do so. However, it stated that they cannot violate other rights and that proper care should be taken to ensure that the dog does not cause harm, hindrance or harassment to any other members of society. It is the responsibility and duty of the RWA, Municipal Corporation, and all Government Authorities including…Police are to provide any assistance and ensure that there are no hindrances to caregivers or feeders.

After initially restraining the landmark judgment, the Supreme Court upheld the orders on May 19, 20,22.

In terms of punishment or compensation, Section 289 in the Indian Penal Code provides for six months imprisonment if the pet owner “knowingly or negligently fails to take adequate measures to protect their pet from danger.”

According to an August reply from the Lok Sabha ministry of fisheries, animal husbandry, there is no provision in the law that provides compensation for injuries or death caused by attacks by community dogs.

Kerala is, however the only Indian state to have a committee established by the top court. It was headed by S Siri Jagan, who was a former judge at the Kerala high court. The committee will decide on compensation in cases of dog bites.

According to the livestock census, the ministry said that the number of community dogs has fallen from 17.14 million in 2012 and 15.31 million in 2019.

A number of petitions concerning the “menace” of the community dog are currently before the Supreme Court. They also concern repugnancy in guidelines that were drafted by the Centre and the states to address a variety of issues, such as the birth control measures.

The apex court in November 2015 had to restrain all states and UTs from taking any illegal activity regarding the culling of community dogs. It stressed that the local authorities have a sacred duty to provide enough dog pounds. This includes animal shelters which can be managed by animal welfare organizations. After sterilization, all community dogs must be allowed to return to the same territory.

In 2015, the order also requested that all high courts refrain from passing any charges relating to the 1961 Act or the 2001 birth control rules.

Justice Sanjiv Khanna, the head of the top court bench, issued a clarification order on October 12. This clarified that the Supreme Court is the only court that can hear individual writ petitions related to community dogs.

It stated that “We believe and perceive that there are individual cases that would raise grievances relating to the enforcement of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and The Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules 2001, as well as state laws that may require an urgent hearing. Decisions would depend on relevant prevailing facts in an affected area or location.”

Experts agree that effective animal birth control (ABC) is essential. This means that local stray dog feeders and RWAs should be sterilized and not relocated. Ambika Shukla (director of Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Center SGACC), an activist for animal welfare, stated that these dogs are not stray.

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