The Kerala High Court on Wednesday has held that it was the mandatory responsibility of the state government and the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWB) to protect the citizens from the troublesome stray dogs criticizing the authorities for not taking appropriate steps to curb the menace.
The bench headed by Chief Justice Ashok Bhushan and A M Shaffique was considering the 12 PILs submitted in the last five years related to stray dogs and put forward seven suggestions to tackle the matter. The local self governing bodies could only tackle the stray dog menace according to the Animal Birth Control Rules (Dogs) 2001 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The court stated that the authorities should ensure strict compliance of Rules 7, 9 and 10 of Animal Birth Control Rules Act insisting on the formation of a seven member supervisory committee in local self governing bodies. The committee would be handling the capture of stray dogs based upon the specific complaints received. Suggestions could be given for sterilization or taking vaccinations after diagnosis by a qualified veterinarian. A special cell would be set up for receiving the complaints about stray dog nuisance and information about rabid dogs. The court has stressed on the aspect of culling the stray dogs only in accordance with the legal provisions. In short, it is clinging onto the laws and rules compelling people to think that the actual gravity of the matter hasn’t been comprehended by the court despite several incidents of stray dogs attacking the pedestrians, children and pet dogs even inside homes being reported.
The court has directed the self governing bodies to form shelter homes for rehabilitating the stray dogs and suggested arranging dog capturers, vans, drivers and ambulances for the purpose. It has also directed the state government to provide infrastructure and financial assistance to the local authorities. The stray dog menace that has escalated due to the profuse laws and neglect of the authorities is least likely to be resolved soon with the High Court verdict. The menace has increased drastically posing a threat to the lives of the people. The stray dogs attack and kill lakhs of humans every year. About 80, 000 people were bitten by the stray dogs in Mumbai last year. The scene in Kerala is no different from Mumbai. The menace poses a threat to the lives of the people not just in small towns and villages but also in big cities like Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode. If the court’s observation that the nuisance would be tackled only by initiating legal moves is interpreted as ‘legal fundamentalism’, it couldn’t be blamed. The court should have suggested ways to eliminate the troublesome stray dogs as soon as possible taking into account the dangers posed by them rather than expressing anxiety over the normal violation of rules that might happen while giving priority to the peaceful lives of the people.
The stance that the local self governing bodies have no control of their own and could only move forward with the help of AWB and the state governments is similar to allowing more people getting bitten by the stray dogs and losing their lives. How the Corporations and Municipalities who are unable to even provide shelter and care to the numerous people on the streets who survive on the leftovers in the trashcans, set up dog kennels for rehabilitating stray dogs is yet to be seen. While admitting that the rights of animals are a significant aspect of the present day environmental protection outlook, viewing these ‘beastial interventions’ that interrupt the human habitation, through the narrow-minded eye of law, be it the court or the state government, isn’t logical or practical. Whether the suggestions are practically successful and capable of resolving the issue would be known only with time. The state government, as per the court verdict, should be directing the local self governments soon coming to power with appropriate suggestions and effective steps to curb the menace.