Why BBMP makes pointless pet rules

 Animal lovers from across the city are coming together to protest against the BBMPS new bylaws.

The new pet licensing rules thought up by the BBMP may make for comic reading but it says a great deal about how new laws are devised in India.

As may be expected, the new pet bylaws invited the ire of Bengaluru’s residents and were hastily put on hold, but what if they had not been resisted? Would they have been implemented strictly by the BBMP?

According to reports, these were some of the new bylaws: a) an apartment can keep only one dog and an independent house can have only three; b) pet owners must restrict their dogs to breeds from an approved list; c) people who own more than the stipulated number of dogs will have to give up some of them, and the rule holds good for ‘unapproved’ breeds as well.

The BBMP already has a dog licensing policy in place, but till recently, it was not particularly simple to get a dog licence.

The reason is that while most of BBMP’s bylaws are lucrative propositions---in more than one sense---there is an upper limit on how much a dog owner can be charged, and BBMP’s bureaucratic apparatus will simply not stir itself to set up a process to actually hand out dog licences against paltry payments. Unless something is hugely paying, the bureaucratic apparatus will not drive itself to action. 

Secondly, one believes that the basic reason for the pet bylaws is the proliferation of stray dogs not being matched by the scale of the sterilisation measures undertaken.

Something needed to be done and a token gesture of some sort would at least imply that the stray dog menace was being seriously considered.

Cities around the world have bylaws for pet ownership but they don’t have an enormous number of strays as in Bengaluru, which makes pet ownership a relatively trivial issue. BBMP’s ‘think tank’, one presumes, came up with the pet bylaws but not with any intention of having them implemented. 

If one considers the new bylaws, one is immediately struck by the impossibility of enforcing them. In the first place, how is the BBMP to ensure that no apartment will have more than a single canine when there are millions of apartments in Bengaluru? Do they have the manpower to send out inspectors? And then, if someone owns an unapproved pet (say a ‘Bedlington Terrier’) and declares it as a ‘Finnish Spitz’ to get it into the approved list, does BBMP have the expertise to nail the deceit, or will DNA samples have to be sent to the US?

One also wonders if the unclassifiable stray has even been allowed into the approved list.

If not, are citizens to replace their pet mongrels with approved candidates like Siberian Huskies that demand air-conditioned quarters? If restrictions are placed on dog poop, how will that be enforced in such a chaotic city? When even the rainwater harvesting bylaws, which are more critical, are not being enforced effectively, how are such whimsical pet bylaws intended to be?  

The new pet bylaws can hardly be an isolated instance of impractical law-making in India and an issue that should engage every citizen is how such laws are even conceived, when they seem so divorced from ground-level realities. The list of approved breeds, it is alleged, was simply lifted from a Singapore document and this is not implausible.

There is a kind of Indian thinking that looks for ‘best practices’ everywhere without wondering if these practices were not the result of specific local problems being addressed. Since Singapore is an administrative model for so many Indians, the reasoning could be that perhaps a Singaporean list of approved pet breeds would ideally suit Bengaluru.     

There is enough evidence that laws in India are formulated without enough understanding of their implementation, and such laws are very difficult to repeal.

Sentiments are often the reason for new laws and sentiments are more important to us than where acting on them might eventually lead. 

A looming disaster could be the cow protection laws which have let loose a reign of terror with vigilante mobs lurking about.

Stray cows could also become a much greater menace than stray dogs in the years to come but one does not envisage that the issue will ever get a saner look. Vigilantism and lynching have caught on for all kinds of things and are a frightening new development.

The right thing to do before enacting a law would be to undertake a simulation exercise to determine enforceability and likely consequences, which should be an easy task with the advances in computerisation. But it is as though laws are only token gestures and these aspects could be safely ignored.   

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Why BBMP makes pointless pet rules

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