Rejects the idea that local governments and the High Courts have no jurisdiction over dog control, rejects the claim of an unfettered right to feed street dogs, and orders the Animal Welfare Board to produce data showing that programs strive to reduce dog bites
NEW DELHI— Advocates for no-kill animal control, feeding street dogs where and when, and advocates for dangerous dogs October 12, 2022 lost a head-on collision with public safety advocates before a panel of two justices representing the Supreme Court of India.
Further clarifications on the decision of the full Supreme Court are expected in February 2023.
More nuanced approach to dog control coming soon
Prior to that, the two-judge panel ordered, the Animal Welfare Board of India must file an affidavit comprising statistics of dog bites over the past seven years in various states and major cities, and explaining what has been done to reduce dog bites. frequency and severity.
India’s Supreme Court panel has rejected claims by the Animal Welfare Board of India that the 20-year-old National Animal Birth Control Program is the only method of controlling street dogs allowed by law, and that previous court decisions have established the feeding of street dogs as a right.
Instead, the court opened the door to more regionally nuanced and situation-specific interpretations of what is and is not legal under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. .
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 is India’s supreme law governing the treatment of animals, applicable in all cities and states.
“The Supreme Court did not want the status quo”
The Animal Birth Control program, subsidizing the neutering and vaccination of street dogs, exists through a series of edicts and regulations subordinate to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960.
India’s Supreme Court has not allowed cities and states to resume indiscriminate population control, dog slaughter, or ban feeding street dogs, but as Live right In other words, “clarified that there is no impediment to the High Courts”, i.e. the equivalent of US state courts, “from hearing cases relating to the stray dog issue.
Explain LiveLaw, “A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and JK Maheshwari clarified that an earlier Supreme Court order of November 18, 2015, widely heralded by animal advocates as establishing as sacrosanct the right to feed street dogs,” was not intended to all proceedings before the High Courts must stop in cases concerning stray dogs.
Cows, buffaloes and breed-specific precedent
The Supreme Court of India, however, reiterated that future decisions of the High Court must take into account previous orders and precedents regarding dogs.
So while a High Court may not authorize the random culling of street dogs, it may authorize a city government to cull a pack of dogs with demonstrated dangerous behavior. A High Court may not ratify a local ban on feeding street dogs, but could ratify rules on where street dog feeding could be done safely.
The High Courts have yet to rule on the breed-specific legislation, but there is no national precedent to rule against it, and it is a strong precedent to allow it, as long as the Indian law has recognized for millennia a racial distinction between “cows” and “buffaloes”. which are both cattle gender bos and are fully capable of reproducing.
The Animal Welfare Board of India had been appealing various verdicts on canine matters recently handed down by various high courts in different states.
In particular, a condominium complex in Mumbai complained that residents were suffering from 10 to 15 cases of dog bites resulting from other residents feeding street dogs on the grounds. Condo management sought to restrict dog feeding to designated areas and issue fines to violators.
People for Animal Welfare and Ahima Trust argued that the High Court in Mumbai lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, based on the November 18, 2015 ruling of the Supreme Court of India.
In agreement with the residents of the condominium, one of the two judges on the panel of the Supreme Court of India told them: “You can have real concern. If I were you, if my children went out to play, I would be scared. I wouldn’t like to go to a resort like this where dog bites are reported. We will allow you to go to the High Court. If an unfavorable order is placed, you can come here.
Kerala problem ‘seems to be quite peculiar’
The Supreme Court of India panel then looked at the recent public unrest in the state of Kerala following dog attacks, rumors of dog attacks and human deaths from rabies.
“In Kerala,” said one of the judges, “the problem seems to be quite particular. We’re all dog lovers, but if there’s a problem, it has to be fixed.
Human rabies deaths in India since the launch of the nationwide Animal Birth Control program have fallen to the vanishing point: from 235 in 2003 to just 55 in 2020, according to Central Bureau of Health Intelligence data. .
Success from Chennai
The National Animal Birth Control Program was modeled after a program introduced experimentally by the Blue Cross of India in Chennai in 1966, extended to the whole city and became municipal policy in 1996 after 30 years of demonstration projects.
Chennai currently has around 57,000 street dogs, according to city surveys, sterilizes over 7,000 dogs a year and is in the process of expanding from three community-serving animal birth control clinics to five.
Chennai has had no human deaths from rabies since 2017.
The National Livestock Census reported in August 2022 that India’s street dog population increased from 17.1 million in 2012 to 15.3 million in 2019, indicating that the national animal birth control program may now result in population decline of about 3% per year.
Sharp rise in rabies deaths
Of the 15.3 million street dogs, around 290,000 reside in Kerala, the only Indian state in which local governments pay compensation to dog bite victims.
That dog bite victims can get compensation for their injuries may have something to do with why Kerala reported nearly 100,000 injurious bites in the first seven months of 2022, twice as many only in 2021.
On the other hand, Kerala has recorded at least 21 human deaths from rabies so far in 2022 compared to just 28 in the previous eight years.
Among the 2022 rabies victims was a 12-year-old girl who received a three-shot post-exposure vaccination sequence that doctors said should have saved her.
Post-exposure rabies vaccination is provided free of charge to victims across India, but problems with vaccine quality have plagued the program since its inception in 1911.
Besides the politically motivated agitation to kill dogs, from factions that have historically hired goondas to do “animal control” between intimidating opponents, the Kerala Pravasi Association, a political party appealing to the educated middle class, has demanded in September 2022 to the Supreme Court of India to order that a committee of independent experts be appointed to investigate “the number of deaths that have occurred despite the timely administration of vaccines”.
Can dog feeders be sued for the cost of bites?
Street dog feeders meanwhile howled in response to rumors that the Supreme Court of India will require anyone who feeds street dogs to bear the costs if the dogs harm people, including the cost of administration of post-exposure vaccination.
The reality is that during a hearing of the Supreme Court of India on September 9, 2022, considering a case brought by animal advocates in opposition to a 2015 Kerala High Court verdict that allowed the killing of dogs street in specific circumstances, one of the judges wondered aloud if dog feeders could be held responsible for the consequences of bites.
This comment was not part of any decision or proposed decision at any time.
Kanpur bans pit bulls and rottweilers
While rabies remains the number one concern of the Indian public over dog bites, pit bull attacks appear to have become more common than human deaths from rabies in much of the country.
On September 28, 2022, the city of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh apparently became the first in India to ban pit bulls and Rottweilers within the city limits.
The ban came after an 11-year-old boy in Ghaziabad received 150 stitches after a pit bull attacked him in a city park, and three months after Sushila Tripathi, 82, of Lucknow, was killed by her son’s pit bull.
(See pit bull attack death streak reaches nine in nine days.)