Protecting Community Dogs and Caregivers in India: The Three Pillars

Learn about the constitutional rights, laws, and agencies in place to protect community dogs and the people who care for them in India. Gain insight on how to respond to harassment and violence and ensure the well-being of animals.

Image of a long-limbed pariah dog named Mangu rolling in the dust on a road, with dust particles in the air around him.
Image of a long-limbed pariah dog named Mangu rolling in the dust on a road, with dust particles in the air around him.
Image of a long-limbed pariah dog named Mangu rolling in the dust on a road, with dust particles in the air around him.

You’ve just made the decision to feed and care for the street dogs in your area. It's certainly a noble decision for obvious reasons. But you must know that it comes with its share of challenges. You might find yourselves on the receiving end of hate and harassment, confronted by neighbours, unashamed and abusive of your adoration of community dogs. You might even be pressured into quitting, maybe with false narratives of feeding dogs being illegal in India. Just know that you're not alone. And there's no need to be discouraged.

We're here to help you become better prepared to face harassment with law and logic. Not just passion and emotion. In this article, we're going to explore the three pillars protecting you, the caregivers, and animal welfare in India.

Pillar 1: The Constitution of India

The Indian Constitution is meant to educate and protect everyone in India. And that includes its animals – yes, even the free-roaming pariah dogs of India. As a caregiver, there are two articles from the Constitution that you must commit to memory.

  1. Article 51A(g) emphasises that it's the fundamental duty of every citizen “to have compassion for living creatures”, meaning a concern for suffering, sympathy, and kindliness. By taking care of the community animals in your area, you are in fact following a fundamental duty as defined by your constitution. Remember that the next time someone tells you that it’s illegal to feed street dogs in this country!

  2. Article 51A(h) addresses the need for every citizen in our country to develop a scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform. During the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) v. A. Nagaraja and Ors. (a famous attempt by the AWBI to ban Jallikattu), the Supreme Court of India defined humanism as the fundamental duty to look after the welfare and well-being of animals. In another case more specific to community dogs, Dr. Maya D. Chablani v. Smt Radha Mittal & Ors., the Delhi High Court also reinforces the ideal of humanism as a fundamental duty for the Indian citizens.

It’s always a good thing when even the constitution is on our side; speaking of which, this might be a good time to segue into a fun fact! Did you know that Chapter 3 of the Indian Constitution, the fundamental rights of the people of India, is magna carta? It means that even the parliament cannot amend this chapter of the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court of India had famously said this during Golaknath v. State of Punjab, adding that any amendment to the constitution or law violating a fundamental right may be declared void. You have to love our Supreme Court for standing up for its people!

Coming back to the topic at hand though, what does this mean for free-roaming animals?

Pillar 2: The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960

In 2014, the Supreme Court of India recognised five fundamental freedoms for animals in a case titled, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) v. A. Nagaraja and Ors., namely:

  1. Freedom from hunger, thirst, and malnutrition

  2. Freedom from fear and distress

  3. Freedom from physical and thermal discomfort

  4. Freedom from pain, injury, disease, and

  5. Freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour (such as barking, howling etc.)

Have you guessed where we’re going with this yet? These fundamental freedoms were read into sections 3 and 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, turning them into the magna carta of animal rights, the same as our fundamental rights!

But let’s explore the PCA Act as a whole. It’s meant to protect animals from unnecessary forms of cruelty such as being beaten, kicked, or tortured, from injurious substances such as poison or drugs, and even from mutilation and death in an unnecessary and cruel manner.

We’ve experienced many people throwing stones or beating dogs in anticipation of bad behaviour, or simply for the fun of it. We prefer to diffuse these acts of aggression by helping people understand the sentience of animals. Misinformed but well-meaning people, even those with a reasonable fear of dogs, are generally open to learning about the safest methods of engaging with street dogs. As caregivers, we’re best placed to navigate the gaps between humans and dogs. It’s important for us to remember that. Then again, we would only ever recommend starting such conversations with well-meaning people.

For those rejoicing in their acts of violence and cruelty against animals, a calm but firm reminder of the consequences (such as police action through IPCs 428 and 429, and the PCA Act) is a good way to deter future misdeeds. If possible, choose to record the act of cruelty, and your conversation with such people.

You might think that this is a lot of responsibility to shoulder as individuals. But we do have another pillar in our corner to support this agenda.

Pillar 3: The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI)

The AWBI is a statutory advisory body on Animal Welfare Laws in India. Some of their most important functions include keeping the PCA Act under study, and to recommend amendments based on new information and updates on global laws regarding animal rights and welfare. The 2014 Supreme Court Case, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) v. A. Nagaraja and Ors. is a good example of how they support and defend animal welfare in India.

We always keep a digital copy of the ‘AWBI Guidelines on Community Dogs Care’ with us. Nothing deters potential harassers and haters more than a signed, sealed, official document from a government body!

But coming back to the AWBI, they play a vital role in informing the general public about animal welfare. This right here is a crucial step to helping people understand the sentience of animals. Think about this for a moment, as humans, we’ve sought to learn and become better with each passing generation. We’ve overcome racism. We’ve overcome casteism and sexism through constitutional and statutory amendments. And we’ve achieved this by tirelessly educating and informing the general public about such matters. It’s now time to look at speciesism with the same lens, the discrimination practised by man against other species.

Animals aren’t meant to be dominated or exploited. They need us to speak for them. Fight for them, yes, but responsibly – with law and logic. When you think about it, the AWBI fights this battle at a national level; as caregivers, we have an opportunity to be the driving force of this change at a local level.

This can only mean one thing.

We support the pillars as much as they support us!

Our role should be to help leave a lasting impact that betters animal welfare in India. Face harassment with only passion and emotion, and you risk alienating the people who might one day become your allies. Choose instead to raise awareness among your neighbours with as much patience as you can muster. Share with them the guidelines from the Animal Welfare Board of India. Educate them about the laws protecting free-roaming dogs, even other animals.

And yes, be a responsible caregiver! Make annual vaccinations a mandatory ritual, with anti-rabies vaccinations being an absolute must. Consider DHPPi (6-in-1 or 9-in-1) vaccinations if possible as well; this serves as protection against canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus type 2, canine parvovirus type 2b and canine parainfluenza virus type 2. We’ve observed many stories of parvovirus and distemper virus ending the lives of young pups, and sometimes even adult dogs.

More importantly, remember to be considerate of the people around you.

  1. Choose a safe area within the territory of the pack to feed your community dogs, away from any place that might be frequented by people (such as the gates of a society or housing complex).

  2. Choose a safe time to feed your community dogs, preferably when there aren’t a lot of people around the feeding area.

  3. Choose to feed in bowls or newspapers, anything to keep your feeding area clean, and choose to clean up after your dogs in case of any food-related spillages.

If we expect people to be understanding of our care and adoration of community animals, isn’t it fair of them to expect our understanding of their concerns and worries?

At apawfive, we’re all about building a community of harmony between humans and animals. This is our way of trying to steer the future in that direction. You should join us.

Join our community!

Join our community!

More from our collection

More from our collection

Copyright 2021 | apawfive | All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2021 | apawfive | All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2021 | apawfive | All Rights Reserved