2 Booked for Dislocating Stray Dogs: Did You Know It Is Illegal?
Ghaziabad police has booked Deepak Kumar, Resident Welfare Association (RWA) president, and Swaroop Bhattacharya, a resident of Amrapali Village in Indirapuram, under Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, for the alleged killing of a stray dog and dislocation of other strays in the society area on Sunday, 24 February.
However, this was not an easy feat to achieve for animal rights activists who had been trying to halt the dislocation from happening altogether. They claim to have had calls ignored by the police and received threats from residents.
The Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, mandate that the population of strays and spread of rabies may be controlled by sterilisation and immunisation, and do not provide for dislocation and killing.
The government had notified these Rules, and the Supreme Court has ordered their nationwide implementation. Where there is a conflict between the Rules and any local laws, the Rules will prevail, unless the local law is less stringent.
But how do we define the territory of a stray? “The dog is born there. It is its home. If it steps out of its territory, it will be attacked by other dogs. So, the area that the dog roams around in, is its territory,” said Amritika Phool, an ex member of the Animal Welfare Board of India.
Local authorities are supposed to ensure stray dogs which are sterilised are identified in a way which allows them to be returned to their territory.
Akriti Niti Guha, an animal welfare worker posted about the dislocation while it was happening.
Intentional Disregard for Laws
Sumit Sinha is a resident who regularly feeds the dogs in Amrapali Village. On 18 February, a week before, he found workers walking around with nylon nets and bamboo sticks, and a dog was running between them.
He asked, “Are you from the municipal corporation? Have you been trained to capture animals?” They said, “No, we’re from maintenance.” So, he took their photos, said it was illegal activity and promised to send the photos to the police if even a single dog went missing. That stopped the relocation that day.
Then it happened again on Sunday. He stood in front of the van to stop it from passing and even managed to free a dog – as can be seen in the video below. But he said he was gradually surrounded by a mob of residents and the van sped off to another area of the society.
The video was shot by a resident who wishes to remain anonymous.
It was in the process that one of the dogs died.
An anonymous resident says that he shared laws against dislocation in the WhatsApp group of the housing society. But no one cared, allegedly saying that “a lot of things are illegal.”
Although RWA President Deepak Kumar told The Times of India, “Residents and the AOA (Apartment Owner Association) never relocated or killed any dogs” – Iyer says that she had talked to him on the phone during the dislocation.
“I said, release all the dogs and we’ll forget about everything. He refused. He asked me to go and talk to him in person. But what would be the point without him stopping the van? It would have left by then. In these housing societies, the maintenance workers, the security guards, etc act only in accordance with the president’s directions,” she said.
Why the Strays Were Dislocated
Sinha agrees that the dogs in the society have gotten aggressive. “They are aggressive because there is no food. These poor animals are being starved. Earlier there were a lot more feeders, and they would eat from the garbage bins. Now the bins have been relocated outside the gates.”
Dog feeders in the complex are allegedly harassed by other residents. “You feed the dogs and you yourself look like a dog. You should be thrown out along with the dogs. The dogs should be released into your home” – are some of the things Sinha says residents have told him.
Under Section 506 of the IPC, it’s a crime to threaten, abuse or harass anyone – this would also apply to neighbours who feed animals. The Ministry of Public Grievances notification and a similar notification by the Animal Welfare Board of India dated March 2008, provide immunity to animal feeders and restrict government employees or bodies such as Resident Welfare Associations from harassing people who try to feed or help animals.
Dealing With the Police
Activist Guha is glad that people were able to reach the police in person as she had been trying to do that over the phone all day.
“I called 100. They gave me a personal mobile number which shows up on Truecaller as ‘Police Control Room’. But that’s so smart because calls on a personal number will not be recorded, whereas calls on 100 are. That number was busy for one and a half hour. Finally this policeman picks up and gives me yet another number to call! I protested and asked him to take my complaint. He hung up. The number he gave turned out to be invalid.”Akriti Niti Guha, Animal Welfare Worker.
Registering a First Information Report (FIR) was fairly easy for Iyer as she had video and photo evidence. “The animal lovers of the residence could not stop the others but they gathered evidence of the crimes,” she said.
But usually, it is a lot more difficult to register a case against animal abuse.
Additionally, there are no penalties or sentences specifically for the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001. But they fall under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, which has a fine of Rs 50. That can further be connected to Sections 428 and 429 of the IPC which criminalise the killing and maiming of an animal, and have a jail term of 3-5 years.
“It depends on how you can convince the police. Dislocation means you’re taking away their home, their food source – they won’t know where to hunt – and you’re taking away their protection as they’ll get into fights with the dogs of the new area. So, you’re basically condemning them to death. And that is how you can connect it to IPC 428,429,” said Amritika Phool.
Hoping for Awareness
Now, there are still seven dogs missing. Sinha just wants this to have a beneficial outcome for the dogs. “Where is the driver? Where did the van go? We have pictures of the people and the van’s number. The investigating officer does not need to be bottle-fed. This is what I want them to find, more than anything else.”
Guha hopes that the police case makes people more aware.
“People think dogs are their property that they can get rid of. Like they throw paper in the bin or damage public property on the roads, they treat animals the same way. They don’t understand what animals are. They don’t understand that this is illegal, or rather, they don’t want to understand,” said Aaron Patrick D’Silva, a canine behaviourist.
(With inputs from The Times of India.)