New Delhi, July 1 | The Delhi High Court held that stray or street dogs have the right to food and citizens have a right to feed them, but this shouldn’t impinge on rights of others.
It emphasised that people should show compassion towards all living creatures, adding that animals may be mute but society is there to speak on their behalf.
A single judge bench of Justice J.R. Midha, ruling on a dispute between two parties regarding feeding of stray dogs, said: “Community dogs (stray/street dogs) have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed community dogs but in exercising this right, care and caution should be taken to ensure that it does not impinge upon the rights of others or cause any harm, hinderance, harassment, and nuisance to other individuals or members of the society.”
Passing a slew of guidelines for the welfare of stray dogs, the court said that animals require food, water, shelter, normal behaviour, medical care, self-determination, and they have a right under law to be treated with compassion, respect, and dignity.
It said that feeding of community dogs have to be done at areas designated by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), in consultation with the Resident Welfare Associations or Municipal Corporation (in case RWA is not available). The court noted that every dog is a territorial being, and therefore, the street dogs have to be fed and tended to at places within their territory which are not frequented, or less frequented, and sparingly used by the general public and residents.
“It is the duty of the AWBI and the RWAs to ensure and keep in mind the fact that community dogs live in ‘packs’ and care should be taken by the AWBI and the RWAs to see that each pack ideally has different designated areas for feeding even if that means designating multiple areas in a locality,” the bench added in its 86-page judgment.
The court noted despite the law prohibiting cruelty to animals, there was an increasing tendency of defiance among citizens and also government officials have taken up a position contrary to the well-settled law.
The court pointed out that in case of any grievance with regard to any act of caregivers and feeders, the residents can seek redressal of same through the Animal Welfare Committee of their areas, and if not satisfied, the issue could be raised before the AWBI through the RWA.
The court said it will be the duty and responsibility of the RWA or Municipal Corporation and all government authorities including enforcement authorities like police to provide all assistance and ensure that no hindrance is caused to the caregivers or feeders of community dogs.
“It is the duty and obligation of every Resident Welfare Association or Municipal Corporation (in case RWA is not available), to ensure that every community dog in every area has access to food and water in the absence of caregivers or community dog feeders in the said area,” it added.
The High Court also set up a 7-member committee headed by Director, Animal Husbandry Department or his nominee, to implement court’s guidelines for the welfare of dogs.