City Street Animals Deserve a Better Deal

Rinku Sharma

Thousands of starving and under-fed stray dogs is a ugly sight  in Guwahati. Many of these dogs are inflicted with various kinds of  diseases and are seemingly struggling between life and death. These dogs are not only a hungry lot, but are also beaten by some unscrupulous people and have no place to sleep. In the summer, they have no respite from rain while everyday a number of stray dogs get crushed to death by speeding vehicles in the city.
Being born as a stray dogs, they always have to fend for themselves. Be it for food or shelter, life is always a struggle for them during their growth from pup to a fully grown dog and thereafter too the struggle for survival continues till they breathe their last.
While they survive on the bits and pieces of food that they fetch for themselves from dustbins and other places, annually a female gives birth to about 14 pups. On an average a pair and their offsprings account for about 67,000 pups in 6 years. However, reality check on the overall stray dog population is hard to determine. Quite a good number of such dogs die after being crushed under vehicles, while for some others life is a chain of endless suffering - homeless amidst starvation. There is also the bitter truth that many of these stray dogs are caught and sent to some neighbouring States by dog traders for meat.
By nature, some people are so heartless that they are even seen to be beating up stray dogs while these poor creatures look for food in dustbins. One feels that such people need to be reminded that stray dogs too are living beings and have the right to live like all other human beings.
Animals are a part of our cosmos and earlier inhabitants than human on this planet.  It is a shame that while we call ourselves civilized, stray dogs  are subjected to all kinds of cruelty.
That being the cruel reality, the question arises if the local bodies like the GMC and others are turning a blind eye towards the presence of stray dogs in the city and the problems faced by these poor animals. If the various authorities are not able to take care of the scenario, a new mechanism needs to be worked out so that the problems faced by the stray dogs in the city can be taken care of.
Laws related to animal welfare does exist in India. Unfortunately, even though there are such laws, virtually a handful seems to be bothered about the same. Going back to the ancient laws, while one talks of nature, the images that come to one’s mind most are those of forest and wildlife. One has the tendency to ask if the law makers of the ancient past bothered a lot more about forest and wildlife than our so called civilized society.
As per various laws enacted to prevent cruelty against animals and for their welfare, “local authority” means a municipal body, district board or other authority entrusted with the task of taking care of animals. The Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 deals with the control and administration over any matter relating to dogs within a specified local area. Under the head ‘Classification of dogs and their sterilization’, all dogs shall be classified in one of the following two categories - pet dogs and street dogs.
Again, the owner of pet dogs within a specified local area shall be responsible for controlled breeding, immunization, sterilization and licensing in accordance with the rules and the law for the time being in force. Moreover, the street dogs shall be sterilized and immunized through the participation of animal welfare organizations, private individuals and the local authority and that copies of the said Gazette be made available to the public. In the exercise of the powers conferred by the sub-sections (1) (2) of section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (59 of 1960), the Central Government has made the rules.
In his Arthashashtra, Kautilya makes special mention on maintenance of wildlife and  forest. He stresses on the deployment of forest guards and other officials for proper management of forests while death penalty is advocated for killing elephants.  In the late 9th-10th century, England witnessed the enactment of a law that equated the killing of a greyhound with the killing of a human being and awarded the same punishment.
In the present-day context, the National Green Tribunal may be reminded that England had enacted very elaborate law on forest and wildlife - one of the oldest written law on the subject in the world. However, it would be pertinent to point out that as the English King tightened his hold over forests in that country and brought more and more forest land in the country under of the control of the State, a silent revolution started brewing that resulted in the signing of a charter that allowed more freedom and greater access to forest resources.
The English laws and other relevant observations find place in a special publication released on the occasion of the Eastern Regional Conference held in Guwahati on September 9 and September 10, 2017. It is hoped that improved condition for animal survival would prevail in the so called humane world and that stricter laws for protection of animals would be implemented in the days to come. On this count, the Government, the NGOs and animal welfare societies have an important role to play.