Mumbai: About a week ago, a housing company’s WhatsApp group in Malad was abuzz with messages urging a landlord to evict his tenants for “illegal” activities. Society members put so much pressure on the man that he was willing to obey until another society member pointed out that feeding stray animals inside or outside the building compound was not illegal.
The incident came shortly after the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court issued an order on October 21 banning the feeding of stray animals in public. The order, passed by a divisional bench of Judge Sunil B Shukre and Judge Anil Pansare, said no residents of Nagpur and surrounding areas could feed stray dogs in public places – if they wanted to, they first had to adopt the dog or put it in a dog shelter, then continue with the feeding. The court ordered the Nagpur City Commissioner to see that the order is carried out.
Several citizens of Mumbai are set to record a silent protest against the court order on Sunday at Shivaji Park in Dadar. Indeed, a group of lawyers are already planning to approach an upper bench of the Bombay High Court.
Animal activists told HT the ordinance has fueled housing societies in their crusade against stray animal eaters. Fizzah Shah, president of the NGO ‘In Defense of Animals’ claimed that this conflicts with the Indian Constitution. “Article 51 urges citizens ‘to protect and improve the natural environment and to have compassion for living beings,'” she said. “Never since British rule, when the slaughter of animals was commonplace, has any Indian court rendered a judgment that upholds such cruelty to animals.”
Meet Ashar, head of cruelty response projects at PETA India, said the law is on the feeder side. “Any attempt to interfere with or harass people who choose to feed the community dogs amounts to criminal intimidation, which is an offense under Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code,” he said. . Ashar is also against the court’s dictate to relocate stray animals. “Dogs are territorial in nature and therefore cannot simply be moved to the feeder’s residence or elsewhere for food,” he said.
Residential companies, on the other hand, have a problem with the unsanitary state in which company premises are left after supply. “Cleanliness should be maintained, and owners and feeders should pick up the poop of the animals in their care,” said Madhu Poplai, secretary of the Pali Hill Residents Association. Poplai added that even in cases where companies had created dedicated feeding areas, feeders were irresponsible. “They don’t restrict the animals to those areas, nor do they clean up afterwards,” she said. “Society then has to foot the bill for that.”
The antagonists also cite the personal inconveniences they experience due to the threat of dogs, as many Mumbai residents call it. “As a hard worker who travels over an hour each way for work, I don’t want to be kept awake by dogs barking on company grounds every night,” said Social Worker Deepak Singh. based in Navi Mumbai. Singh said he supports the creation of shelters where all stray animals can be rehabilitated.
Mitesh Jain, an animal welfare officer appointed by the Animal Welfare Board of India, believes that civic bodies shying away from their responsibilities is to blame for this problem. “They are supposed to run animal sterilization programs to control the animal population in a humane manner according to a 2001 Supreme Court judgment,” he said. “Because this doesn’t happen, more strays are on the streets, often leading to territorial aggression.” Jain added that with no government support or facilities, animal lovers were often forced to shell out money from their own pockets for sterilization and other tasks.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), however, denied Jain’s claim and said its sterilization program had been effective. From its inception in 1994 through September 2022, the civic body has performed 3,86,347 sterilizations. According to the civic body’s 2014 dog census report, there were a total of 95,172 dogs in Mumbai, out of which 69,239 dogs had been neutered.