“We knew that something like this was bound to happen. Ahead of every big event such as Independence Day, officials round up dogs,” Ayesha Christina, CEO of Neighborhood Woof, told The Quint.
Christina, along with other animal rights activists, however, allege that not only did the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) – the municipal body responsible for the same – fail to follow the procedure when rounding up the dogs, but also kept them in "inhumane conditions" after they were captured, followed by releasing them "dubiously".
"They did everything wrong – and hundreds of dogs paid the price,” animal rights activist Divya Puri from Karan Puri Foundation told The Quint.
The MCD, in turn, has denied all allegations, saying "the corporation is bound with and conscious of dogs’ welfare.”
A Timeline of How Delhi Was Made Stray Dog-Free
On 3 August, the MCD issued a notification outlining their “action plan for the removal of stray dogs from the vicinity of prominent locations in view of the G20 Summit”. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-run municipal body listed 42 locations across Delhi where such drives would take place.
However, following a backlash from animal rights activists, the MCD withdrew the order on 5 August.
Talking to The Quint, Puri said that she "personally met" with Dr Kuldeep Singh, director of the MCD’s veterinary services, on 7 August and proposed to assist them with the help of more than 100 volunteers, who included regular feeders and helpers familiar with the dogs.
“I told the director that we're happy to help in picking up these dogs and also offered to shift them to our temporary boarding for a few days. But he said that none of this would be required since the MCD took back its notification. I still offered my help in case they needed it.”Divya Puri, Animal Rights Activist from Karan Puri Foundation
The following assurances were made during the meeting if the drive was to happen:
No sterilised dog would be picked up
Net catchers would be used
Videos of Stray Dog Pick-Up Drives Go Viral
However, almost a month later, starting 1 September, the MCD purportedly began picking up the dogs.
Viral videos of the stray dog pick-up drive were circulated on the social media. Puri said the whole process, which involved three shifts a day, took place "without any intimation to other stakeholders and without an official intimation in writing".
Moreover, Puri alleged that Dr Singh denied that dogs were being rounded up – and claimed that the activists were “hallucinating.”
When The Quint reached out to Dr Singh via phone, he refused to comment, saying, "I am not allowed to talk to the press on this matter without permission from higher authorities."
Puri further alleged, “If the event was for three days, what was the need for the MCD to pick up dogs 10-12 days in advance?"
Meanwhile, talking to Hindustan Times ahead of the G20 Summit, Delhi Mayor Shelly Oberoi had said,
"The last G20-related community dog removal order (in August) was cancelled by the veterinary department after my direction. No such official order has been issued. If this (removal of community dogs) is happening, I will order an enquiry."
The Violation of the ABC Rules, 2023?
What was worse, the activists alleged, was the MCD's violation of the Animal Birth Control (ABC) Rules, 2023, which states that the capturing of street dogs has to be done strictly in accordance with the following:
The dogs can only be captured by using net-catchers
Only non-sterilised adult dogs are to be captured
Puppies are not be captured (6-8 month old)
Pregnant and lactating dogs are not be captured
When the MCD began its efforts to round up dogs from areas across Delhi during the first few days of September, both Puri and Christina claimed that no efforts were made to check whether animals were sterilised or not – a key component of the ABC Rules 2023.
“The MCD van drove around the listed areas and caught any stray dog they saw, regardless of sterilisation. They just picked up whoever they saw on the road and stuffed them into their vehicle,” Ayesha Christina told The Quint.
In a letter to Mayor Oberoi, various directors of the MCD’s veterinary department, the LG’s office, and the Animal Welfare Board of India, which The Quint has copies of, some of these violations were highlighted by the activists.
The letter claimed that MCD officials were non-compliant with 14 of the 20 provisions of Rule 11 of the law, which looks at capturing, sterilisation, immunisation and release, and two provisions of the Rule 12 of the ABC Rules 2023, which is regarding records to be maintained.
Another procedural lapses on the part of the MCD was the use of loop catchers – a metal rod with a loop of wire at one end, to drag the dog from its neck, in violation of Rule 11(5) of the ABC 2023.
“They are supposed to use nets, and are not allowed to use metal wires. You're putting that horrible noose which nearly strangles the dog to death and using that to pull them out as they howl in pain, that is not allowed. It causes them extreme agony and physical pain, also leading to bleeding.”Divya Puri
The activists told The Quint that there has not been any response on their letter to the Mayor.
The MCD in a statement quoted by Hindustan Times on 12 September, however, claimed that the “entire exercise of lifting and releasing the dogs is being done in compliance with the ABC Rules, 2023". Calling itself a “responsible organisation” which is “sensitive to the cause and doing all the acts as per law,” the statement said:
“The dogs which were picked up for sterilisation/immunisation/observation are being released in their respective locations from where they were picked. The MCD would like to emphasise that the entire process is being carried out in consonance of the ABC Rules, 2023 which the corporation is bound with and conscious of of dogs’ welfare.”
The Quint has sent a questionnaire to the MCD, seeking their response on the allegations. The article will be updated as and when they respond.
Moreover, the animal birth centers were overcrowded – and did not have enough food for the dogs, the activists alleged. "Volunteers and feeders went and fed these dogs on their own expense,” Puri told The Quint.
At present, Delhi NCR has 14 functional birth centers. “They stuffed over 100 to 120 dogs in each of these centres, which is meant for not more than 25 dogs,” Puri claimed.
'Why Did MCD Release Dogs at 4 am?'
Christina also claimed that the MCD "clandestinely" released the dogs in the wee hours of the morning of 12 September – and did not always release them in the same area from where they were picked up.
“I had put the word out and people reached various centres across Delhi to find out that the MCD had quietly begun releasing dogs around 4:15 am,” Christina alleged, adding that her volunteers found dogs which were dropped off at the wrong locations.
“We had to relocate them at our own expense," she added.
Before picking up any dog, the MCD needed to use the Smartcity-311 app to capture an image of the dog, and hence the location from where the dog has been picked. The app then requires shelters to input the dog’s colour and other identifiers upon receiving them. During their release, they need to scan the dog and ensure they are dropped to the correct location.
The Quint reached out to MCD veterinary officers Dr SK Ranga (SP Zone) and Dr Sneha Arya (South Zone), both of whom refused to comment and referred this reporter to the department's director. The article will be updated as and when they respond.