Why Dogs are being Murdered?
A bench presided over by Justice Dipak Misra has already issued notice on a petition challenging Kerala government's decision to kill stray dogs. The decision by the top court is expected to settle the debate which keeps resurfacing on account of apparent anomalies and conflicting provisions in law.
While the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, read with the rules, seems to bar indiscriminate killing of stray dogs, controversy over culling of homeless dogs keeps surfacing time and again as municipal laws in some states permit authorities to resort to killing to deal with the menace of stay dogs. Though an interpretation by the court would resolve the conflict, the government also needs to revisit the 1960 law which seems to be unkind to dogs.
Dogs seem to have been discriminated against under Section 11(3) of the PCA Act Section 11(3) lists exceptions to Sections 11(1) and 11(2) which protect animals against injuries and cruel treatment by making such acts penal offences punishable with fine or imprisonment.
Section 11(3)(b) states that penal action would not be attracted in case of "destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers or by such other methods as may be prescribed". The lawmakers could have avoided the provision in view of the exception under Section 11(3)(c) which covers "extermination or destruction of any animal under the authority of any law for the time being in force". Apart from singling out dogs as against other animals, Section 11(3)(b) of the 1960 PCA Act virtually permits killing of dogs merely for being homeless.
Though Section 11(3)(b) now needs to be interpreted harmoniously with the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules 2001 which permits killing of only "incurably ill" and "mortally wounded" street dogs, the Act can do without the provision which, when read in isolation, justifies municipal laws permitting indiscriminate culling of street dogs.
Rule 9 of the Rules framed under the PCA Act permits euthanasia in a humane manner for incurably ill and mortally wounded dogs and Rule 10 provides for isolation of a rabid dog till death which normally takes place within ten days of contracting the fatal disease.
While it is necessary to protect stray dogs from indiscriminate killing, the concern over violent street dogs attacking people and endangering human lives cannot altogether be ignored.
On August 4, a child died after being attacked by dogs in Jamia Nagar in Delhi. Taking cognisance of the matter, the National Human Rights Commission observed that dropping back stray dogs after sterilisation does not shield people from attacks. The panel rightly called for a "human rights" versus "animal rights" debate but its observations show it may have committed a mistake by talking about stray dogs in general rather than singling out dogs with violent behaviour.
To strike a balance between human and animal rights, it is imperative not to target all stray dogs. Similar mistakes have been committed by municipal authorities in the past. There have been controversies in the past over municipal authorities in Bombay, Goa, Bangalore and some other cities deciding to kill stray dogs. There have also been instances of debates being initiated following refusal by municipal authorities to kill stray dogs.
The solution should be found within the framework of law, the 2001 Rules and constitutional principles. True, the rules do not directly talk of killing violent dogs but it talks of dog pounds where they could be kept. more