Street dogs guaranteed ‘Right to Food’ in landmark Delhi High Court judgment

The judgment warns, however, that in ensuring this right “one should proceed with care and caution to ensure that it does not affect the rights of others or cause harm, obstruction, harassment or harassment to any other person or member of society”.

India’s street dogs have been given their own statutory charter of rights and duties in a landmark ruling by the Delhi Supreme Court, which includes the right to food and the obligation to guard the colonies in which they live.

“Animals have a legal right to be treated with compassion, respect and dignity,” said the court in its judgment, which is strongly in favor of man’s best friend. “Animals are sentient beings with intrinsic value. Therefore, the protection of such beings is the moral responsibility of every citizen, including governmental and non-governmental organizations, ”the court added.

The verdict came out of a longstanding dispute between a resident of Delhi and animal lovers who fed dogs in the colony near the entrance to the plaintiff’s house. In February the court ordered the two sides to work out a settlement. This led to a dead end and Justice Pratibha M. Singh asked the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) to step in as arbitrator.

The ruling could have far-reaching implications for the millions of “community dogs,” as the ruling respectfully refers to strays living across India.

The court ruled unequivocally: “Community animals (stray / stray dogs) have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed community dogs.” However, the court warned that when exercising this right, “care and caution should be exercised to ensure that it does not interfere with the rights of others or cause harm, obstruction, harassment or harassment to any other person or member of society. ”

Although an amicable agreement was finally reached between the two sides to establish permanent feeding grounds for the stray dogs, the plaintiff and defendant’s lawyers asked Judge JR Midha to establish rules for feeding stray dogs in communities. The stray feeding problem in India creates some of the bitterest disputes in urban colonies, with some residents viewing it as a security and health threat.

Judge Midha laid down detailed rules for the establishment of feeding grounds in all of Delhi’s colonies. He also suggested running a pilot project in 10 residential areas with the help of the AWBI. According to the scheme proposed by the court, each RWA must set up an animal welfare committee.

The judgment of the court could have far-reaching consequences as it concerns the establishment of “feeding grounds”. RWAs must also make arrangements for the sterilization of animals and treatment of the sick. “If one of the street / community dogs is injured or unwell, it is the duty of the RWA to ensure the treatment of this dog by the veterinarians provided by the city society and / or privately with funds from the RWA,” the court ruled.

Beyond these areas, the court also pointed out that stray dogs tend to be extremely territorial and attach themselves to the areas where they live. A way was outlined how the dogs could be trained to become guard dogs for the area with the help of the police. “Each RWA should form guard and dog partnerships, and in consultation with the Delhi Police Dog Squad, the dogs can be trained to be effective as guard dogs, yet friendly to the residents of the colony,” the court suggested.

The court added, “The importance of stray dogs in our community is of great concern. As territorial animals, they live in specific areas and play the role of guardians, protecting the community from intrusion by outsiders. ”The court said the goal of animal training should be to“ make community dogs a fortune for the community rather than seeing it as a threat “.

In 2014, the New Delhi Municipal Corporation made a proposal to turn stray canines into security dogs, and even had a plan to get them to attend a police school. But the project never got off the ground.

Taking into account the fact that dogs are territorial animals, the court also ruled that feeding must take place in an area where residents will not experience any inconvenience, but also within the dogs’ “territory”.

“Every dog ​​is a territorial being, and therefore the street dogs must be fed and groomed in unfrequented or less frequented places within their territory and used sparingly by the population and local residents.” The court ruled that the RWAs and the Animal Welfare Board of India should set “appropriate times” for feeding the dogs twice a day. In addition, the court proposed a dispute settlement mechanism through the Welfare Committee to resolve differences between residents and RWAs and animal feeders.

To ensure peace between all parties, the court also stated: “It is the duty and responsibility of government officials, particularly the relevant SHO, to ensure that peace and harmony are maintained between residents, carers and community dog ​​feeders.”

India already has some of the world’s most favorable laws for dogs. For example, it is illegal under the Indian Penal Code to kill healthy strays. Stray dogs are also protected by the Animal Welfare Act.

In his ruling, the judge cited Article 48A of the Constitution, which states that the state must protect forests and wildlife. He also cited Article 51A (g), which enshrines respect for animals, and said that humans must have “compassion for living beings”. He claimed that Article 21 gave the right to life and that this had to be extended to animals as well. “The said article not only protects human life, but also the life of animals,” he said.

“We must show compassion to all living beings. Animals may be dumb, but we as a society must speak for them. No pain or agony should be inflicted on the animals, ”said the judge. “Animals breathe like us and have emotions. The animals need food, water, shelter, normal behavior, medical care, self-determination, ”he explained.

In addition, Judge Midha noted that various countries such as the UK, Austria and Germany have introduced new laws to protect and protect animal welfare.

Animal rights activists hailed the judge’s ruling, which established rights for stray dogs, as far-sighted and compassionate. However, they warned that the verdict could be difficult to put into practice. Says one expert: “Some RWAs can be incredibly offensive to people trying to feed strays. But there is also a problem with some animal lovers who don’t want rules or regulations. “