HC raps local bodies for posters seeking restraint on pets

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Kochi, July 14 (PTI): Shocked by local authorities publishing notices instructing owners of pets to keep them restrained all the time and deprive community dogs of sources of food and water, the Kerala High Court on Wednesday directed the State government to immediately remove all the posters and not put them up again.

A Bench of Justices A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and P Gopinath said the notices and posters appear to be approved by the Animal Welfare Department of the State and militate against the objectives of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1916 and the rules framed under it.

'It has also come to our notice that many local authorities have published notices, inter alia, instructing pet owners to keep their pets restrained at all times, either in kennels or in chains,' the Bench said.

'There is also a direction to the pet owners to ensure that community dogs are deprived of sources of food and water over which the former have control. We are shocked by the said instructions,' it said.

'We, therefore, direct the State government to ensure that all such posters, put up in public locations, including the various government institutions, veterinary hospitals, and panchayat/municipality offices, are immediately taken down and to further ensure that no such notices are put up in future which are not in compliance with the objectives of the statutory provisions,' it added.

The court then directed the government to immediately order the local authorities to issue public notices requiring owners of animals such as cattle, pets and others to register them with the local authority concerned and obtain a licence as mandated under the Municipality/Panchayat Act/Rules.

'The government may, if found necessary, also prescribe the forms of licences and fix the fee that can be collected for the registration/licencing procedure, and ensure that as a first step, the registration/licencing of all such animals presently kept by owners is completed within six months from today. The instructions issued by the government shall also require the future owners of animals to register their animals with the local authority concerned within three months of acquiring the animal,' the Bench said.

The court was hearing a PIL initiated by it on its own in the wake of the recent gruesome killing of a dog named Bruno which was tied up and beaten to death by some people on the Adimalathura beach on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram.

It had directed that the case be renamed as 'In Re: Bruno as a fitting tribute to the hapless dog that succumbed to acts of human cruelty.' On Wednesday, the police informed the court that the investigation into the killing of the dog was more or less complete and the final report was likely to be submitted before the Magisterial Court shortly.

The amicus curiae appointed by the court informed it that certain proceedings have been initiated against the owners of the deceased Bruno possibly with a view to pressurising the owners into compounding the offence and withdrawing the complaint.

The Bench said if that was true it was a serious matter and required to be looked into.

'We, therefore, direct the Director General of Prosecution to enquire into this development pointed out by the amicus curiae and inform this court as to whether any proceedings have in fact been initiated against the owners of the deceased dog and the nature of those proceedings,' it said and listed the matter for hearing on July 19.

An animal welfare organisation, meanwhile, told the court that animal birth control measures across the State are currently being implemented through bodies such as the Kudumbasree.

On this aspect, the Bench asked the government whether Kudumbasree is an organisation that is registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India for the purposes of the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001.

It said the government should conduct an enquiry into whether the infrastructure required as per the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules was in place till the time the State Animal Welfare Board was reconstituted.

'The report to be submitted by the Kerala government in this regard shall contain details of all such facilities existing in this State, district-wise, together with an inventory of the medical equipment, ambulances, and the personnel employed at each of those facilities,' the Bench said.

On the issue of local authorities providing shelter to the stray animals as mandated by the various animal protection laws and rules, the court said it may not be a practical measure presently in view of the constraints faced by the State due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It, therefore, directed the government to explore the possibility of adopting the public-private partnership model for setting up the said infrastructure. 'The government could make use of the facilities currently maintained by the various animal welfare organisations in the State by offering them financial and infrastructural support to the extent possible. We feel that such an arrangement would, while encouraging those private organisations actively involved in animal welfare activities, also assist the government in discharging its statutory and constitutional obligation to provide for the welfare of animals,' the court said. PTI HMP NVG ADMINISTRATOR NVG ADMINISTRATOR

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