'How Can We Abandon Them?': Blanket Ban on Pets in Shillong Hostel Sparks Uproar

The warden said the directive was issued after multiple complaints about the pets being locked up in rooms all day.

5 min read
Hindi Female

"We are in a state of anguish. How can you just ask us to abandon our pets when they are completely dependent on us for their needs? This is illogical," exclaimed Dr Ajit Maity (name changed), a resident doctor at the North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS) in Meghalaya's Shillong.

His anguish – shared by other resident doctors at the institute, who are also pet parents – was triggered by a recent notice issued by the warden of the Resident Medical Officer (RMO) hostel at NEIGRIHMS, banning pets on its premises.

The warden said the directive was issued after multiple complaints about the pets being locked up in rooms all day.

The notice that was issued. 

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

The notice issued on 6 September, which cites an instruction from the institute's director, said no resident doctor would be allowed to keep pets at the said hostel.

"A maximum of three days' time will be given in this regard to relocate their pets if anyone is having one and if anyone found violating the above order stern actions will be taken against them by the authority concerned and they will be subjected to penalty of Rs 10,000 and if found the same being repeated then they will be debark from the hostel (sic)," the notice read.

The new rule has emerged as a flashpoint between the resident doctors, who are also pet guardians, and the institute's authorities, who claim the notice was issued after "multiple complaints."


'Sword of Eviction Hangs Over Our Heads'

Though it is well past the stipulated three days, the order has naturally caused some amount of anxiety and heartache. While no one has been asked to relocate their pets or been penalised yet, there is a palpable fear of eviction looming over their heads.

"It is like a sword of eviction is hanging over our heads, since many will not be willing to be relocate their pets. The authorities have put up a register wherein they are taking signatures from all residents doctors, stating that the latter should abide by the 'no pets' rule," Dr Ajit told The Quint.

"For those of who don't have any pets, it is not a big deal. But pet parents are not signing the register. They have noted down the names of our pets and have asked us to furnish photographs and vaccination certificates of the pet. They could either register these pets and say that only these pets are allowed on the campus or ask us to vacate the premises," he added.

But pet guardians argue that a blanket ban of this nature is irrational.

Speaking to The Quint, Dr Mithilesh Poddar (name changed) said "it is understandable for institutions not to cater to everyone's need."

"But purely from a subjective point of view, I have been living with my cats for six years now, and I need them as much as they need me. They are indoor Persian cats, docile, have never scratched or bitten anyone in their lifetime. It's a no-brainer that they are not of trouble to anyone. As a mental health professional myself, the usefulness of pet therapy is not lost on me."
Dr Mithilesh Poddar

"A blanket ban on pets is irrational at its face value and all the way through," he contended.

"With such a ban, there is no room for any rational conversation. There should definitely be a regulatory body, enforcing regulation at even institution level, so that there is no harm to pets and other individuals who live in this community."

On his part, Dr Arup Jyoti Baruah, warden of RMO Hostel, insisted that the directive was issued not because of a single complaint but because of multiple complaints.

"We received multiple complaints about these pets being locked up in the rooms all day and soiling the room. It is not right to keep these pets confined to such small spaces. That is cruelty. We, therefore, were forced to issue the directive," Baruah told The Quint.


'Notice Illegal and Unjust'

Demanding the notice to be withdrawn, several resident doctors at the hostel have banded together to petition the institute's director, Dr Nalin Mehta, urging a reevaluation of the order.

In a letter (a copy of which is with The Quint), they called the decision "unjust and unfavourable on multiple fronts," and that following the notice, they had to reach out to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), India, to seek guidance.

"As doctors, we owe it to our patients to be available 24×7 in case of emergencies, especially during the days we are on duty. So, it is of absolute importance that we have to reside on the campus. The notice saying that we have to relocate our pets or get debarked from our quarters is basically forcing us to abandon these innocent animals if we have to stay here."
The letter to the NEIGRIHMS' director

The institute's director is yet to respond to The Quint's queries. The article will be updated as and when they respond. He is also is yet to respond to the said letter.

The pet guardians also pointed out that there have been no rules or bylaws preventing the staff or faculty members of the hospital from having pets in their quarters.

"Forcing us to leave our pets would be a violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960," the doctors said, also referring to an advisory issued by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and judgments of courts across the country on animal companions.

The doctors also reminded the director of Article 51A(g) of the Constitution of India, which makes it a fundamental duty of all citizens to have compassion for living creatures. This, they said, is extendable to companion animals kept by the residents of any housing society.

Citing the top court's judgment in the AWBI vs A Nagaraja case, they stressed that all animals have a fundamental right to live with honour and dignity, free from cruelty. They argued that any restriction on keeping pets or restricting their use of common areas within the institute would contradict the principles established by the Supreme Court.

PETA India, meanwhile, has taken note of the notice and will send a formal letter to the NEIGRIHMS' director, requesting the withdrawal of the ban.

"If our pets are properly vaccinated, not littering the premises, and not creating any chaos and we abide by the civic rules, their stay in this place will not effect anyone," Dr Ajit argued.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Pets   Meghalaya   Resident Doctors 

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