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Relocating RWAs’ Role in Delhi NCR: Why They Need To Protect and Feed Stray Dogs?

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In July, the Delhi High Court laid down guidelines, emphasising the need to protect and feed stray dogs. The High Court also pressed for care and caution towards stray dogs, restoring their right to food. However, this judgment comes amidst many incidents of atrocities against stray dogs, which continue to persist. Ananya Y locates the responsibility of Resident Welfare Associations (or RWAs) responsible for gatekeeping societies. Ananya understands how RWAs could deter instances of violence and protect stray dogs.

RWA feed stray dogs
Original Image Credit: Indian Express

 

By Ananya Y, Student of B.A.LL.B at Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida

Introduction

For a long time, stray dogs have been considered a ‘menace’. But, unfortunately, the only solution people seem to find for them is either dislocation or culling.

This article intends to start a discourse on the dislocation of street dogs in Delhi NCR and the Resident Welfare Association (RWA).  The main aim here is to understand the need for RWAs to act as ‘loco parentis’ to their street dogs.

Why Dislocation of Stray Dogs in Delhi NCR is a Serious Concern

Cities are divided into smaller localities, and RWAs are the first authorities with jurisdiction over their areas[1]. The residents of the society elect these bodies and, hence, residents and the bodies are reliant on each other.

These authorities are responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of the residential society, for example providing basic amenities, including security, cleanliness and maintenance. They are also responsible for ensuring the welfare of all the residents[2].

But the one thing that hasn’t been excluded is the RWAs responsibility of stray dogs. Stray dogs are homeless and wander in search of territories to call their own. They also compete for food and territory with other stray dogs. In search of these territories, they enter the open gates of societies and colonies.

When noticed, they usually successfully escape the futile attempts of the residents and security chasing them out of society.  They go deeper into society and hide. And as the years pass, they become members of society.  Their daily nutrition is fulfilled by scraps retrieved from the garbage or food received from animal lovers.

However, residents keep complaining about stray dogs biting and scaring away residents, especially the elderly and children. For example, a stray dog in their society bit Mr Vipin Yadav’s 9-year-old son. He said:

“These stray dogs scare even adults, leave alone small kids.”[3]

This results in a severe clash between RWAs and Animal Lovers. RWA favours the dislocation of stray dogs from societies while animal lovers are against it.

In March 2020, six people were booked for harming at least five stray dogs in Emerald Court society in Noida’s Sector 93A. A former resident of the society filed the complaint.

She was a regular feeder of the dogs. She alleged that the dogs were taken away by the security under the instruction of the RWA.[4]

On March 02, between 12 AM and 3 AM  the dogs were taken away.  Based on this, Phase 2 police station filed an FIR under animal cruelty against six people, which included: the society’s ‘security supervisor, the estate manager, a diesel generator operator and the society’s RWA,  the security company’s CEO and its van driver’.[5]

The Deputy Commissioner of Police Zone 2 had assured that an investigation was underway.[6]

In February 2019, the RWA head of Amrapali Village in Indirapuram, Ghaziabad, was allegedly booked to kill a dog and dislocate two others.[7]  The complaint was lodged by the Ghaziabad branch of People For Animal (PFA).  The President of Ghaziabad PFA received information that the RWA head has beaten up three stray dogs to chase them out of society. He stated:

“I have CCTV Footage in which the accused residents and security guards are beating the dogs with sticks. One of the dogs died in the process and the other two were driven out of the society in a tempo”[8].

However, the RWA head denied these charges and said that the residents and the Apartment Owner Association (AOA)[9] never relocated or killed dogs.  He also reasoned that every week over 3-4 cases of dog bites are reported.

In Gurugram 2019, 10 street dogs went missing in Uppal’s Southend.[10] The animal welfare volunteers alleged that the dogs were beaten up and captured at the order of the RWA. They further said that the captured dogs were then taken to undisclosed locations in sacks[11]. The RWA, however, denied the allegations.

President of the RWA argued that ‘it was a case of security lapse wherein some people from outside entered the township and took away the dogs in sacks’.[12]

However,  the volunteers refused to believe this. The residents of the society also reasoned that the street dogs are a menace and cannot be controlled by mere sterilisation and vaccination. [13]

These are just a few incidents that have come to light because of Animal Rights groups and animal lovers. No one knows how many more of such street dogs are being dislocated in societies. However, it is clear from these incidents that the  RWAs and the residents display a clear lack of interest in such matters.

RWAs are successfully neglecting these stray dogs with the excuse of them being a ‘menace’.

Why is RWAs’ Role Important?

It is of utmost importance for the RWAs to fulfil this duty towards stray animals and their regular activities. Furthermore, there is a dire need for them to educate themselves and the members of society.

Since RWAs are the people’s representatives, they are responsible for society and all that comes within its purview.  This can be interpreted as concerning physical boundaries and duties owed. For example, it may be argued that street dogs aren’t a part of their society, so RWAs aren’t responsible for them.

However, it would be prudent to keep in mind that it is their territory even though the street dogs weren’t born there.

It is important to note that dogs are territorial animals, and they look for territories to call their own. Hence removing them would be cruel and illegal.

Stray dogs have consistently faced abuse at the hands of people and are mistreated. However, we fail to realise that constant mistreatment has resulted in aggressive behaviour in some stray dogs.

Dogs are prone to become aggressive when they are scared, afraid and threatened. But when treated with compassion, they can become fierce protectors of the locality and keep away robbers and unwanted people.

We need sensitisation. The RWA must sensitise itself and, eventually, the residents. It is essential to keep in mind that all dogs are the same. Nature wise stray dogs, and pet dogs are not different.  Dogs are known to be gentle and compassionate animals.

The only reason stray dogs have developed defensive behaviour is due to our lack of compassion. This results in them attacking and biting people. Hence it is safe to conclude that we humans ourselves are the reason why stray dogs attack us.

Section 3 of the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules 2001 mandates sterilisation and vaccination for stabilising stray dog populations and eliminate the risk of rabies.[14]  

Section 7 of this act also prohibits the relocation of stray dogs.[15]  It implies that stray dogs sent for sterilisation or vaccination have to be returned to the premises from where they got picked up. Hence, sending them away with the excuse of sterilisation or vaccination by the RWAs is illegal.

The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) issued revised guidelines on February 26, 2015.[16] It noted:

“Our country endorses the virtues of ahimsa and non-violence.  The duty to show compassion to all living creatures is a fundamental duty cast by Article 51A(g) of the Constitution upon all citizens of this country”.  The law of the land protects the rights of non-humans”[17].

These guidelines released by AWBI were for pets, street dogs, their caregivers, RWAs and  AOAs. It also provides a rationale for Sections 3 and 7. The guidelines state that ‘dogs, being territorial in nature, tend to fight off other dogs, and keep them from entering their territory. In this manner, the dog population in each territory stabilises’.[18] It further asserts:

“Any aggression or hostility that the dogs may be subjected to, may render them aggressive, and hostile to humans. They may then resort to snapping and biting in self-defense. If the same happens, the human aggressors shall be the only ones to blame.[19]

Further, it is essential to point out that the Netherlands is the first country to have no stray dogs. It eradicated its homeless dog population through the CNVR programme (Collect, Neuter, Vaccinate and Return).  The CNVR is a nationwide, government-funded sterilisation programme.[20]

In this programme, ‘stray dogs and dogs with an owner are collected, neutered, vaccinated, marked and returned to the same spot where they came from’.[21]

This is important because, first, it lays down the guidelines for what shall be done for stray dogs.  Second, it relays that the dislocation of stray dogs won’t be of use.

If stray dogs are removed from society, new strays will take their place, stretching the problems. However, if strays are sterilised,  vaccinated and returned to the spots, they would become more accustomed to the same locality. Thd same would reduce their aggressive nature and population for the long term.

However, this would be ineffective if the RWAs don’t act ‘in loco parentis’ to their stray dogs.

The Doctrine of ‘Loco Parentis’ and the Need for RWA to Implement it

The doctrine of ‘loco parentis’ means ‘in the place of a parent’.  It refers to ‘the legal responsibility of a person or organisation to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent.’ [22]

This doctrine is recognised in education, wherein teachers and educational institutions act as ‘loco parentis’ to their students. However, that’s not the only way this doctrine can be interpreted.

The doctrine has been referred by Uttarakhand and Punjab & Haryana High Court in 2018 and 2019. The Uttarakhand High Court endowed the duty to ensure the welfare of animals upon the Uttarakhand residents.

The Court said that all the people in the state are guardians of animals[23].  The Court also declared ‘all the citizens of Uttarakhand as persons in loco parentis for the welfare/ protection of animals’.[24]

In a similar move, the Punjab and Haryana High Court declared the entire animal kingdom as ‘legal entities with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.’

Justice Rajiv Sharma also declared that all the citizens throughout the State of Haryana as persons in loco parentis as the human face for the welfare of animals.’ [25].

This raises the question: Why can’t RWAs take up the role of ‘loco parentis’ for their street dogs?

It is of utmost importance that RWAs take up this role. RWA is the immediate authority of an area. They need to take the initiative in this aspect as well. With so many street dogs being dislocated it is important to make RWAs more responsible.

Lack of security and unavailability of CCTV footage can’t be used as an excuse. Instead, RWAs need to accept responsibility in ensuring that street dogs of their society aren’t mishandled in any way.

RWAs believe that stray dogs are not under their jurisdiction, which is entirely misinformed.

Dr Maya D. Chablani v. Radha Mittal & Ors:

The Delhi High Court in Dr Maya D. Chablani v. Radha Mittal & Ors laid down several guidelines concerning feeding stray dogs.[26] The Court stressed the importance of treating animals with kindness and without cruelty. It emphasised:

Human beings are dignified only when animals are treated without cruelty. It is within human self-interest to treat animals with kindness”[27].

This judgment reiterated that under the Prevention to Cruelty Act 1890,[28] it is illegal for an individual, RWA or estate management to remove or relocate dogs.

The judgment also made local authorities, RWAs and Municipal Corporations responsible for ensuring the welfare of the stray dogs within their territories. It also stressed for forming Animal Welfare Committees in every RWA:

“AWBI shall ensure that every Resident Welfare Association or Municipal Corporation (in case RWA is not available), shall have an Animal Welfare Committee, which shall be responsible for ensuring compliance of the provisions of the PCA Act and ensure harmony and ease of communication between caregivers, feeders or animal lovers and other residents.”[29]

Several guidelines mentioned in this judgment are:

  • Municipal Corporations shall be responsible for having the stray dogs registered/ vaccinated/sterilised.
  • The dogs have to be returned to the same area after sterilisation and vaccination.
  • Vaccinated and the Municipality cannot remove sterilised dogs.
  • Every RWA should form Guard and Dog Partnerships and shall get the dogs trained. This should happen in consultation with the Delhi Police Dog Squad to make them effective yet friendly guard dogs for the colony.
  • The community’s responsibility should be to get their street dog population sterilised through an NGO engaged in Dog sterilisation.

Conclusively, the judgment also stressed the ‘need to spread awareness that even animals have a right to live with respect and dignity’.[30]

Conclusion

The  Delhi HC  judgment did not declare the RWAs as ‘loco parentis’ to street dogs.  However, it certainly did emphasise the responsibility of RWAs towards their community dogs and the need for awareness. This judgment is a remarkable step.  But implementing the guidelines is the key to changing the treatment of stray dogs and the perspective of people towards our community dogs.

However, the scenario remains more or less the same. So many street dogs are being dislocated, RWAs are either complicit or taking no action. Therefore, it has to be understood that RWAs need to turn to sterilising and vaccinating their street dogs rather than resorting to dislocating them.

We need stricter legislation to ensure the imposition of this. RWAs must educate themselves and residents as to why the dislocation of stray dogs isn’t the solution. RWAs must introduce strict security measures and ensure that CCTV cameras are in proper working order.

This may help in monitoring the behaviour of people towards dogs. However, if people misbehave, it should be  RWAs responsibility to ensure that the wrongdoer is dealt with properly. This can only be achieved when stricter legislation is put in place and existing legislation is reformed to be highly penalised.

Endnotes

[1] All You Need To Know About Resident Welfare Association (RWA), ESTARTINDIA, (July 05, 2021, 10:08 IST),

https://www.estartindia.com/knowledge-hub/blog/all-you-need-to-know-about-resident-welfare-association-rwa

[2] Id.

[3]  TNN, 9-year-old bitten by stray, residents blame ‘dog lovers’, TIMES OF INDIA, (July 17, 2017, 02:53 IST), https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/9-year-old-bitten-by-stray-residents-blame-dog-lovers/articleshow/59624329.cms

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Avishek Kumar Dubey, RWA head among 2 booked for killing, relocating stray dogs, TIMES OF INDIA, (February 26, 2019, 7:10 IST) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/rwa-head-among-2-booked-for-killing-relocating-stray-dogs/articleshow/68160310.cms

[8] Id..

[9] AOA: Apartment Owner Association

[10] Ashok Kumar, 10 street dogs go missing: animal welfare staff, RWA at odds over issue, THE HINDU, (April 05, 2019, 01:51 IST) https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/10-street-dogs-go-missing-animal-welfare-staff-rwa-at-odds-over-issue/article26739205.ece

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, Section 3, 2001

[15] Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, Section 7, 2001

[16] ANIMAL WELFARE BOARD OF INDIA, Guidelines- with respect to Pet & Street Dogs, and their Caregivers, and for Residents’ Welfare Associations and Apartment Owners Associations, February 26 2015, http://www.awbi.org/awbi-pdf/pet_dog_circular_26_2_2015.pdf

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Freya Sawbridge, How did the Netherlands manage to become the first country to have no stray dogs, DUTCH REVIEW, (August 18, 2020), https://dutchreview.com/culture/how-did-the-netherlands-manage-to-become-the-first-country-to-have-no-stray-dogs/

[21] Stray Dogs and CNVR (Dog Population Management), STRAY ANIMAL FOUNDATION PLATFORM, http://www.stray-afp.org/cnv

[22] Garima Sharma, In loco Parentis- Legal Maxim, LAW TIMES JOURNAL, (June 10, 2019), http://lawtimesjournal.in/in-loco-parentis/#_ftn1

[23] Financial Express Online, Animal lovers, good news for you! All citizens are ‘parents of the animal’ in this state, FINANCIAL EXPRESS, (July 05, 2018, 3:43PM), https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/animal-lovers-good-news-for-you-all-citizens-are-parents-of-the-animal-in-this-state/1232289/

[24] Id.

[25]  Rashid M A, P&H HC Declares Entire Animal Kingdom Including Avian and Aquatic As Legal Entities With All Rights And Duties Of Living Persons [Read judgment], LIVE LAW, (June 02, 2019, 10:07 PM) https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/ph-hc-declares-entire-animal-kingdom-including-avian-and-aquatic-as-legal-entities-with-all-rights-and-duties-of-living-persons-read-judgment-145417

[26] Dr Maya D. Chablani v. Radha Mittal & Ors, MANU/DE/1166/2021

[27] Id.

[28] Prevention to Cruelty Act, 1890

[29] Supra note 27.

[30] Id.

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