The Delhi High Court has ruled that stray dogs have the right to food, and citizens have the right to feed community canines while advising that when exercising this right, care and caution should be exercised to ensure that it does not infringe on the rights of others or cause harassment or nuisance.
It stated that anyone who has sympathy for stray dogs can feed them at their private entry, driveway, or any other location not shared with other homeowners, but that no one can prevent another from feeding dogs unless it is causing them damage or harassment.
The Delhi High Court decided that in the absence of careers or community dog feeders, it is the duty and obligation of every Resident Welfare Association (RWA) or Municipal Corporation to guarantee that stray dogs in every area have access to food and water.
According to the high court, every dog is a territorial being who must be fed and cared for in areas of their territory that are not frequented by the general public.
Committee Formed by the Court
The court-appointed a committee to implement the rules, which included the Director of the Animal Husbandry Department or his nomination, senior officers from all municipal corporations, the Delhi Cantonment Board, and a few advocates. The committee was given four weeks to convene its first meeting.
The court stated that there is a need to raise knowledge that animals and stray dogs have a right to live in dignity and respect, and requested that the AWBI conduct an awareness campaign in collaboration with the media.
The court has also ordered all law enforcement agencies to guarantee that people feeding street dogs at approved locations are not harassed or inconvenienced.
"We have to show compassion towards all living creatures. Animals may be mute but we as a society have to speak on their behalf. No pain or agony should be caused to the animals. Cruelty to animals causes psychological pain to them. Animals breathe like us and have emotions. The animals require food, water, shelter, normal behavior, medical care, self-determination," the HC said.
The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) will ensure that every RWA or MCD has an animal welfare committee responsible for ensuring compliance with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and ensuring harmony between caretakers, feeders, or animal lovers and other residents, according to the document.
What brought about this judgment about stray dogs?
The court's decision was made after a disagreement between two residents of a neighborhood about feeding a street dog. One of them requested guidance on how to stop the other from feeding street dogs at the property's entry. Later, the two came to an agreement, and a specific location for feeding the dogs was established.
Service, therapy, rescue, hunting, tracking, cadaver, detection, police, and cancer detection dogs were among the dog categories examined in the decision.
According to the court, street dogs serve as community scavengers and manage rodent populations in the neighborhood, preventing diseases such as Leptospirosis from spreading. They also provide companionship to those who feed them and act as stress relievers.
Abuse towards people feeding stray animals
In the recent past, there have been numerous cases of dog feeders being attacked. With many markets and restaurants closed as a result of the pandemic, stray dogs who relied on leftover vegetables and meals have gone hungry. Citizens who have volunteered to feed the dogs have been attacked.
In March of 2021, a video went viral showing a family of three abusing a woman named Priya Chauhan and throwing slippers at her in Nagawara, Bengaluru. According to Priya's tweet, the family had been tormenting her for three years over her feeding of stray dogs.
In September 2020, people beat and harassed James Baynes, an animal lover who had been feeding stray dogs in Jayachandran Nagar, Chennai. Baynes, who reported the incident to the local police station, also resorted to social media to share his story.
Hatred for dog feeders is on the upswing, owing to misunderstandings about the "stray dog menace." Another looming issue is overcrowding. In the absence of regular sterilization, the number of stray animals, particularly dogs, will grow tremendously. With food in short supply, the increase in numbers would result in more dogfights and feral dogs attacking humans.