IDA India Workshop on Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Laws
As part of the celebrations during Animal Welfare Fortnight, IDA India held a Workshop to help the public better understand the laws that pertain to animal cruelty, with a view to implementing such laws when required and knowing how to do so.
Three experts in the field were invited and they all gave valuable advice and guidance to all the participants with regard to various types of difficult situations faced by the public and suggestions were made as to how best we could help the animal/s in question.
To make the proceedings more interactive, the participants were divided into groups, with each being given one problem to discuss and then present their collective ideas in the form of a Presentation made by the selected Group Leader.
Before the brainstorming started, small booklets containing helpful laws were distributed to each participant. They also received a copy of the Circular Banning captive elephants from plying Mumbai roads and an important Central Government GR, stating by law that stray dogs cannot be taken away from their location: namely a High Court Ruling that animals cannot be dislocated or relocated.
Group 1 dealt with this very topic :
Societies /Residents hostile to stray dogs on the premises, instruct dog lovers to keep all strays in their own homes. Tolerance is usually very low and the intolerant are always very loud and vocal.
IMPORTANT: If an animal in this situation is harmed, injured or forcibly ejected from premises/compound, the Police can be called. This is a Cognizable Offence. One just dials 100 - there are 350 vehicles in the day and 450 in the night, to respond to this number. The response is good at night as traffic is thin at that time.
Each '100' call to the Central Control Room is recorded and the police have a duty to respond. One should note down the date/time of call/ name of policeman/ Designation/ Buckle Number. (If the call is not attended to, one can then file an RTI for 'result of call', so details should be preserved.)
Whatever the crime, pictures/ photos and video recordings are most valuable as proof of what has happened especially if an animal has been killed or deliberately injured. The perpetrator can be prosecuted under the Main PCA Act / IPC 428 /429 Act and the Bombay Police Act.
Some time ago, flamingos were killed and the case was built on this type of evidence, which led to conviction of the guilty.
When one of the first group mentioned being mentally harassed and troubled by various residents because she was kind to the Society strays, our experts advised her to approach the police on her own behalf and register a case against these people for mental harassment. The police would be involved as she herself was undergoing unnecessary suffering from which she is protected by law.
However, participants were told to be responsible and discrete so that they do not create unnecessary threat and nuisance: whenever one feeds dogs in the premises of any Society, they should do so without
drawing attention to the dogs and at a time when the premises are not crowded with residents or children. It is better to keep a low profile otherwise needless hostility is created towards the animals we are trying to care for. Also make sure that the animals you are caring for have been suitably vaccinated and sterilized for the wellbeing of all concerned.
Group 2 dealt with problems faced by Residents who were Pet Guardians and had animal companions in their own homes.
Many Housing Societies make arbitrary rules with regard to pet animals. They don't allow pets in the building, they charge a fee for simply keeping a pet, they don't allow pets in the lift and so on. These so-called laws and regulations are completely wrong and not included in the bye-laws by which a Managing Committee functions. The pet animal is part of the household and has such has every right to live in the flat in safety and freedom as long as the Guardian is responsible for everything to do with his/her pet.
The responsible Guardian should keep the animal leashed outdoors as per law, should buy a yearly licence, available from the Municipality and be responsible for cleaning up after the dog has relieved himself. (Here it was mentioned that there is a very effective spray available in the market for getting rid of any evidence of urination.)
The Guardian should not be confrontational but should also abide by the laws that exist for taking care of one's own animal. If unfair rules and laws are made and tried to be enforced, the next recourse is the Consumer Court which extends effective protection in these type of cases. A number of people have won such cases in Court and this is inspiring to us all to help in the fight against injustice to animals and the people who befriend them.
Sadly a worst case scenario was mentioned and it exists in this city; a place where dogs are banned and animals subjected to various types of cruelty. One of our participants lives there and we were trying to think of ways and means to help better the situation. Spreading awareness is one way out and it works in the long run.
Group 3 dealt with cruelty towards captive elephants and monkeys made to perform in different ways on city streets.
In 2007 a ban was instituted against elephants plying the streets of Mumbai. It has worked to a certain extent, and now the number of these animals seen on city streets is less than before. However, they still suffer the sheer cruelty of being a wild animal kept captive in one of the most crowded cities in the world, subject to all the hazards that will confront them in such a sad situation.
IDA India has already initiated some action to try and help these elephants. A petition has been launched online, signature sheets have also been distributed and our ultimate goal is to try and get the Maharashtra Govt to create a Rescue Centre for elephants. In the meantime, we are also trying to get the Forest Officials involved in bringing them under some monthly medical health scheme so that their health in the city can be monitored and they can be rendered medical aid if required.
Performing monkeys are not as common as before. This is absolutely not allowed by law, but the rescuers have noticed that the individual animal is very attached to the owner and will even stop eating if separated. The one way of rescuing them is to have a definite plan for rehabilitation in place. We have over 20 Wildlife Officers in the city and they can prove helpful in this case. Also the madari is usually very poor, so some sort of assistance should be rendered to him/her if the animal is taken away.
Group 4 dealt with Work Animals subjected to Cruelty, such as overloading of carts.
It was pointed out that a license was needed to keep and control cattle in urban areas. If any cart seems to be overloaded, the police can be called by dialing 100. The police have to check the weight of the overloaded cart and book the owner responsible.
The bullock or horse cart also has a number on a metal plate attached to the wheel of the vehicle. The number can be noted and mentioned in the report to the Police, SPCA and so on. It has worked in an earlier case, where on the basis of this number, a horse and cart along with the owner were located. The owner had been mercilessly whipping the horse to run faster. He was arrested, fined and put in jail for some time. A report of this action was sent to the person who reported the case.
The cruelty to cows tethered outside temples was also mentioned. With no way to move and plied with grass by devotees, this is a miserable existence for the cow who is usually tied with a very short rope. The other extreme is the starving stray cattle on the road, who can only eat in rubbish dumps and feed mostly on plastic waste.
Dog feeding sites have been identified and allowed by the High Court in Delhi. It is about time citizens and the Municipality set up these type of sites for stray dogs as well as cattle who can then be fed in allocated, designated locations around in and about the city.
The plight of the animals tied up and kept in tabelas, this includes the very young animals, was also discussed. One can approach the Municipality and the SPCA to try and make the situation better for these animals.
Group 5 dealt with the problem of Illegal Slaughter Units
These shops are unlicensed and the most violent activities are carried out without a thought given to public hygiene and sanitation, let alone the cruelty meted out to the unfortunate animals being killed and waiting in line to be slaughtered. A number of laws are being flouted here. Slaughtering in front of the other animals waiting their turn, the absolute filthy conditions created in the 'shop' itself by animals being killed throughout the day, killing going on without a license for the shop. The shop is usually only 'Registered' with the BMC and on the basis of this and a 'killing' license, the butcher takes full advantage to carry out these illegal activities. The license has to be displayed by means of a number written on a piece of cardboard, suspended from the roof of the shop.
Recently, by writing to the BMC Ward Office, the SPCA and the local Police Station, a small shop without a name and no sign of any license, was closed after some days. So there is some hope that action will be taken if one contacts those Incharge of shops, licensing, prevention of cruelty and so on.
The plight of chickens is shameful from the weighing process to the transport to the killing. The vans carrying these birds flout every rule for transport. It would be worthwhile to bring this to the notice of those in authority. Also note every way in which chicken shops function and look for unlawful activity. There is plenty to choose from. One should report this to the authorities concerned.
Group 6 dealt with Cruelty to Captive Birds
In our country many Indian Bird species that fall within the CITES list, are protected by law as India is a signatory. Much trade in birds is controlled and various types of birds are rescued. But any exotic bird is easy prey to the unscrupulous person engaged in this trade.
With regards to birds, there is a loophole in the law that allows "Trapping" by various means. This in itself is ridiculous as any trapping involves cruelty and capturing of a wild creature. LAWS CAN BE CHANGED. It is the Law Commission that recommends to the Government what laws need to be changed. Appeals can be made in this way right upto the PM, Minister and also at State level. Unfortunately, Maharashtra has a major centre for selling birds found in Kanpur and this promotes this nefarious trade and perpetuates cruelty among these fragile creatures
All this information was arrived at with the able guidance of our three experts present: Advocate Ashok Shahani, Advocate Jennifer Michael and the well known Animal Activist, Mr. Ajay Marathe. They were very helpful at every level and the advice and suggestions we received were invaluable. We were really privileged to have them there with us.
Advocate Shahani also supplied all of us with a short printed note entitled Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – An Overview. In this he has supplied in simple form, all the laws that can be used and at the end given us a glimpse of the future. At the end of the Workshop, all of us felt so empowered, that the future did look good. So many of us had gathered to discuss ways and means to prevent cruelty meted out to our animal friends, that we realized, things can only get better even though it will take some time.
Still with our innocent animal friends in mind, we feasted on a delicious vegan meal which used no animal products at all. It was a fitting end to a very fruitful day's work.
As a footnote: Participants were asked to write down personal queries which were then handed over to our experts to deal with and finally answer. Unfortunately, our lively discussions took so much time, that there was not much time left and the questions were left unanswered. But we had very committed people among us as experts. Ms Michael has been answering the questions and is providing them to us so that we can convey the information to the concerned people. As it is important to all of us and the problems are always common, we will be sharing these questions and answers with all of you at a later date even while we provide the concerned individuals the relevant answers to their questions.