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The issue of stray dogs in residential areas, often evokes mixed reactions from people. While pet lovers tend to show affection towards these animals by providing them food and sometimes shelter, others are wary about health issues such as rabies and the possibility of dog bites. Sudipto Chatterjee, a business director at Mediacom, says “In our society in Dwarka Sector 6 in New Delhi, stray dogs are a common sight. While it does not bother me, there are many people in our society who do not like the animals’ presence, especially since children play inside the premises. Moreover, these dogs also create noise during the wee hours. Some people have also raised this matter during the residents’ welfare association’s (RWA’s) meetings. On the other hand, we also have residents who love feeding the dogs and taking care of them.” Dr Piyush Patel, program manager, dog population management, Humane Society International (HSI) India, says that a typical housing colony in India has three types of residents – dog lovers, dog haters and people who do not care. “There will always be conflicts between the first two types of people. The actual problem lies in one’s ability to understand the canine’s behaviour. If people do not understand dog’s behaviour and their herd dynamics, then, no matter how friendly the dogs are, they will always find fault with the animals. In contrast, a person who understands and can differentiate between playful behaviour and aggressive behaviour, will be easy to convince,” he explains.
The law regarding pets in housing colonies
So, the moot question is whether there can be a lasting solution to the conflict between dog lovers and dog haters in a residential complex.
Vasudha Mehta, co-founder and trustee at JAAGRUTI, urges residents to read the February 2015 circular regarding pet and street dogs issued by the AWBI (Animal Welfare Board of India), Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India. “According to it, RWAs cannot ask for the removal or dislocation of street dogs and neither can they levy fines on the owners of pet dogs. They can only request for their sterilisation and vaccination, so that their population growth is curbed, as per the Animal Birth Control Rules 2001, drafted under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of India. Societies can also distribute awareness literature to promote compassion towards animals and to sensitise people and promote harmonious coexistence of man and animals. We need a kind and compassionate society. There is already enough cruelty and hatred around. Kindness towards animals, will make a better world for all,” maintains Mehta.
See also: How to make your home pet-friendly
Ways to deal with dog menace in societies
Patel explains the standard HSI procedures to deal with human-dog conflicts: “1. Dog population survey (Quantitative) – A scientific method is used, to estimate the total dog population of a particular campus. The data collected will include number of male and female dogs, pups, lactating females, skin condition, body condition, etc. 2. KAP (Knowledge, aptitude and practice survey) – A certain number of residents will be interviewed at their doorsteps. The questions will pertain to understanding about dogs’ behaviour, population of pets, occurrence of dog bites, pet ownership, perceptions/ mind-set about street dogs, etc. 3. Other surveys – This will include checking the outer boundary of the residential colony to gauge entry points for the dogs and estimating the numbers of dogs trespassing from outside. 4. Planning – After collecting this data, the priorities will be set, by focusing on the following:
- What are the actual concerns?
- Is sterilisation a solution? Even if all dogs are sterilised, nuisance complaints may persist, as a dogs’ life is around 7-8 years.
- Trespass of dogs – If the campus does not have closed boundaries, the sterilised dogs inside will be replaced by unsterilised dogs from outside, over time.
- Will creating a feeding area work? – A proper feeding zone should be created and residents should only be allowed to feed the dogs at this particular area at the designated time. This will restrict the dogs’ movements and prevent the dogs from entering the houses in search of food.
- Education – If the community can be easily convinced, then, a proper education program should be implemented.”
With the law clearly stating that there is no way of getting rid of the dogs, as it would fundamentally amount to a crime, hence, the need of the hour is to build effective awareness. Patel adds that even the sterilisation of all the dogs in an area, cannot completely solve stray dog menace. “We can reduce the density or birth rate but it can only be sustained, with regular interventions and efforts by residents,” Patel elaborates. A majority of dog bites, are caused by the pet dog population in a complex, he points out. “So, all residential colonies must have basic rules for pet keeping, including keeping the pets on a leash, compulsory vaccination and sterilisation of pet dogs, proper garbage disposal, etc.,” he concludes.
Tips for pet parents
It is your responsibility to keep your pets in check so that it doesn’t disturb the peace of other residents in the neighbourhood. Having said that, it is also important to know that you have the right to own a pet and there are ways to ensure that your freedom is not affected.
- Do feel free to approach the Animal Welfare Board of India in case the pet or any other animal is under threat.
- The Registrar of Societies (RoS) can take action against or even dissolve an RWA for its unwarranted approach towards a pet-owning family.
- You can also file a complaint with the nearest local police station under Section 428, 429 IPC (Indian Penal Code) if the RWA is not cooperative.
- The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum is another platform where you can raise your concern. Action can be initiated against RWA members under Section 2 (1)(g) of the Consumers Protection Act.
The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 considers it a duty of the citizens of this country to safeguard the animals and environment alike. RWA resolutions that may harm animals violate Section 11 (3) of Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 1960 as also against Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution which provides for protection and improvement of the natural environment.
Can RWAs insist pet parents to use the leash?
RWAs cannot force pet parents to keep their pets on leash but it is advisable that in public places, pets must be kept under check to ensure safety.
Can an RWA ask me to give up my pet?
It is an offence under law if an RWA asks you to disown your pet. However, it is your responsibility to ensure that your pet is not a nuisance for others in the housing society.
What rules can RWA frame for pet parents?
RWA can place reasonable requests. These may include allotting pet corners, framing rules about defecation, asking for regular vaccinations and keeping the pet neat and clean.