RWAs causing animal cruelty during COVID-19: PIL

RWAs causing animal cruelty during COVID-19: PIL

Angry over the alleged interference in animal ownership, animal activists have moved the high court against the Residents' Welfare Associations (RWAs). 

Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA), an animal welfare group, has filed a public interest litigation petition in the high court in this regard. 

The petitioner stated that it had been receiving many complaints from apartment dwellers about the RWAs imposing ban on keeping pets, preventing pets from using common amenities, animal feeders being harassed and abused, that the feeding of strays had been banned. There were also complaints about arbitrary fines imposed on “pet parents” and dogs being poisoned, sedated, relocated and dumped on the outskirts by using private dog catchers.

The petitioner wants the government to frame rules to govern harassment of pet owners or feeders. It also wants the BBMP to issue a notification to all the RWAs and apartments owners’ associations (AOA) “restraining them from relocating dogs without following the procedure laid out under the Dog Rules, 2001.” 

Alwyn Sebastian, an animal rights lawyer, who has filed the petition, said some of 150 complaints from apartment pet owners stem from a “tenfold” increase in reporting during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

“We included 25 of those cases in the PIL to show the court that these incidents were not an ‘on and off’ or isolated instances,” he said, adding that the Chief Justice had noted that this is an “ongoing issue and requires the state to draft certain rules in this regard.”

The 25 cases detail attempts by the RWAs to impose restrictions beyond dogs, to cats and birds. In some cases, physical assaults of pet owners or feeders had also allegedly taken place.

The court that heard the petition on Tuesday posted the matter on June 23 for the state’s response.

Disproved beliefs

CUPA said there is a link in the increase of animal cruelty owing to now-disproved beliefs that pets were a vector of transmission for Covid-19.

However, that there had been animal cruelty at apartments over COVID-19 concerns was news to Vikram Rai, General Council member, Bangalore Apartments Federation (BAF), who nevertheless added that human-animal conflicts had been persistent for several years now.

“The BAF has existing guidelines about pet ownership,” Rai said, clarifying it was illegal for the RWAs or AOAs to ban the keeping of pet dogs, even if done by consensus.