The controversy surrounding raising pet dogs in residential societies has been reignited with the Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation banning residents from keeping Pitbulls, Rottweilers and Dogo Argentino breeds as pets.
This comes after a series of incidents of dogs biting citizens in cities like Ghaziabad and Noida.
Recently, a video of a young boy being bitten by a pet dog in Raj Nagar Extension, Ghaziabad, went viral on social media. In another incident, the owner of a Labrador was arrested by Noida Police after a 10-year-old boy was bitten by a dog in Sector 56.
These incidents have led many Apartment Owners' Associations (AOAs) and Residents' Welfare Associations (RWAs) all over the national capital region (NCR) to slap their own rules and fines on dog owners.
But are these restrictions and fines legal? Additionally, what are some of the things we should consider while buying a dog? To get clarity on these issues, The Quint spoke to Aishani Das, a fourth-year legal associate at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co., and Dr M Areshkumar, a veterinary practitioner.
Is it illegal for Resident Welfare Associations to impose restrictions or fines on pet dogs and their owners?
"According to the 2015 guidelines of the Animal Welfare Board of India, pet owners can't be mandated to muzzle their dogs. They can't be denied certain amenities like the elevator," says Aisani Das.
Guidelines number 1 read, "... they (pet owners) may, however, distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable, and lawful and unlawful claims as to their pets being a source of nuisance and no amount of pressure should lead to the abandonment of a pet animal."
In a 2012 verdict (a case in which the AWIB was one of the respondents) given by the Kerala High Court, it had struck down bye-laws of a resident welfare association that "prohibited the residents from keeping pets of their choice in their individual apartments," and the owner was issued a notice to remove his pet from the premises.
The judgment stated that the "clauses in any bye-law or agreement, that have the effect of absolutely prohibiting a person from keeping a pet of his/her choice in a residential unit occupied by that person, should be treated as void and unenforceable in law."
"Consequently, resident welfare associations shall desist from putting up notice boards and signposts prohibiting the keeping or entry of pets in their respective premises."
Das, however, points out Section 289 of the Indian Penal Code, which prescribes imprisonment up to six months, or a fine that may extend to one thousand rupees, or both, if a pet owner fails to take sufficient measures against probable danger that their pet poses.
"Nevertheless, the guidelines of the AWIB clearly state that there is a need to distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable restrictions."
What about licensing and registration when someone buys a new dog?
"Every state has its own license and registration and only purebred dogs are registered with the Kennel Club of India. The city corporation usually registers all pet dogs."
For instance, in the case of Delhi, continues Das, "section 399 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act makes it necessary for every dog owner to register their pet."
"Everybody is not an animal lover, and gated communities often don't appreciate the presence of stray animals. So, taking into public issues like safety and health, reasonable restrictions for collective benefits are permitted by law. For example, clauses four and five of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act stipulate measures like if the dog is likely to be aggressive, then the owner must ensure that it is muzzled."
When we buy a new dog, what are some of the main things that we need to take care of?
"A dog requires more than water and food," explains Dr Areshkumar. "It requires constant attention. So, when we buy a dog, we should keep in mind the purpose of the dog as well. Do we want just for our company, or for sports, or for guarding the house?"
"We also have to consider the family members in the house. How many children are there? How many old people? Children can't handle large-sized dogs. Old people can't handle some breeds either like a German Shepherd which has high energy levels. Vaccination and deworming are of the many things we should ensure in our dog before settling it in our homes."
What is the immediate treatment that we should receive right after a dog has bitten us?
"Whether it is a home dog or a stray dog, a bite requires immediate medical attention. We need to quickly wash the bitten area, rinse it with fast-running tap water, use any antiseptic soap, and then apply a cloth around the bite gently to hold the blood in. After all of this, the victim must go to the doctor immediately."
"If a vaccinated pet dog has bitten you, there won’t be many vaccinations for the one who has been bitten, although it is best to discuss that with the doctor. If the bite is severe, however, then immunoglobulins, a protein that identifies and neutralises bacteria and viruses, will come into play."
"Vaccinations will take place on day 0, day 3, day 7, day 14, and day 28. If the wound is big then antibiotics are needed, and in some cases, painkillers might also be required," Dr Areshkumar concludes.