The canine conundrum: To feed or not to feed strays

Last week, a division bench of Supreme Court with Justices Vineeth Saran and Aniruddha Bose stayed HC’s direction. The bench ordered the Animal Welfare Board of India to file its counter in the meantime.
The canine conundrum: To feed or not to feed strays
Senior citizens often feed stray dogs in their neighbourhoodImage credit: Justin George

Chennai: The Supreme Court recently stayed an order passed by the Delhi High Court on feeding stray dogs. In 2020, the HC’s order held that members of the public, residents’ welfare associations (RWA) and local body administration have the right to feed stray dogs.

On June 24, 2021, Justice R Mitha observed that stray dogs have the right to their food and people can feed them. However, litigants, advocates, and office bearers of RWAs want proper legal arrangements to handle, what they call, is the stray dog menace.

Last week, a division bench of Supreme Court with Justices Vineeth Saran and Aniruddha Bose stayed HC’s direction. The bench ordered the Animal Welfare Board of India to file its counter in the meantime.

The Apex Court passed this direction on hearing plea challenging the Delhi HC order by Humane Foundation for People and Animals. Advocate Kaushik N Sharma, who had appeared in several cases related to animal welfare, said that there is no specific law to guide people on feeding strays.

“As per the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, one should not transfer a dog from one territory to another territory. Illegal capture of dogs is also banned. However, animals have some fundamental rights including the right to food. Therefore, people can feed stray dogs,” Sharma told DT Next.

Speaking about the issue is S Muralidharan of Indian Centre for Animal Rights and Education, and litigant who has been appearing party-in-person before the Madras HC against animal cruelty. “Feeding strays would increase the number of dogs and will result in a negative impact on both dogs and humans,” he said.

“Several case studies have proven that the behaviour of stray dogs is unpredictable. Hence, there should be a mechanism put in place to handle them. Randomly feeding them is not the right option.” Muralidharan also pointed out that strays do suffer a lot on the streets including accidents, territorial quarrels, injuries, etc. “Merely feeding them will not help them cope with other issues,” he added.

Thanga Vadhana, advocate, Madras HC, stressed that though there is no law, Article 51-A (g) of the Constitution says that every Indian citizen should have compassion towards other living creatures. “Therefore, one should not harm the strays by letting them starve,” she said.

Meanwhile, Rama Rao, Secretary, People Awareness Association, Nanganallur Chapter, said that RWAs have no issues feeding stray dogs but there must be a law to regulate them. “Dogs and humans have co-existed for eons and feeding them is not a problem. However, we need guidelines and a set of rules so that a system is put in place. We’ll also know all the dos and don’ts clearly,” he averred.

‘Stray dogs aggressive, attack children’

Dayanand Krishnan, president, Pradeep and Karthick Avenue RWA, Chitlapakkam, said that they feed stray dogs but cannot predict their behaviour.

“They become aggressive and bite the kids in the locality,” he pointed out.

There is a lack of monitoring system by the local body officials, even though complaints are raised.

“They pass the buck to the Blue Cross of India, and tell us that it will be handled by them,” he explained, and added that usually, dogs stay on the road but now they’re venturing into homes. “This scares children and several senior citizens as well. Also, when these animals spot a dog vehicle, they become aggressive and start attacking people,” adds Krishnan.

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