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Human lives more important: Kerala HC asks ‘dog lovers’ to take responsibility for stray dogs

The court said, "If any action is taken against the stray dogs, the dog lovers will come and fight for them. But I am of the considered opinion that human beings should be given more preference than stray dogs"

The Kerala High Court has addressed the issue of human-animal conflict concerning stray dogs asking dog lovers to assist the local administration in protecting them. The Court also highlighted that the dogs should be protected but not at the cost of human lives, and asked genuine dog lovers to protect and keep stray dogs after taking licences.

The court on Tuesday (5th March) stated that there were two distinct categories of people, one who advocated for the killing of stray dogs and the others who fought to protect them. Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan suggested that genuine dog lovers, rather than writing in print and visual media, should step forward to assist local government institutions in protecting them.

The Court stated that genuine dog lovers could approach local authorities with applications for licenses to maintain stray dogs under the Animal Birth Control Rules and the Kerala Municipality Act.

“I am of the considered opinion that dog lovers need not write and speak for the dogs in print and visual media, but they should come forward to protect these dogs if there is bonafide in their words along with the Local Self Government Institutions. The bonafide dog lovers can be given a license if they are ready to protect the stray dogs in tune with the provisions of ABC Rules 2023 and other statutory provisions,” the Court said.

Recognizing the menace and attacks of stray dogs on tiny children, young people, and even the elderly, it emphasized that stray dogs should be safeguarded, but not at the expense of human life.

“As I mentioned in the beginning, stray dogs are creating a menace in our society. School children are afraid to go alone to their school because of the apprehension that they will be attacked by stray dogs. If any action is taken against the stray dogs, the dog lovers will come and fight for them. But I am of the considered opinion that human beings should be given more preference than stray dogs. Of course, the barbaric attack on stray dogs by human beings also should not be allowed,” the Court noted.

Victimized by the conduct of an animal lover named Rajeev Krishnan, the people of Kannur District’s Muzhathadam Ward filed an application with the High Court. It is claimed that Muzhathadam Ward is a densely inhabited residential region with several houses within a short distance. When a stray dog is attacked, injured, or unwell, Rajeev, a resident of Muzhathadam Ward, brings it home to care for it and subsequently keeps it in his house.

The specific complaint was that Rajeev maintained multiple dogs in his home and was unable to adequately care for them, resulting in the residence being unsanitary, dirty, and foul-smelling, causing a disturbance to the locals.

The residents also contended that dogs barked loudly during the day and night, generating noise pollution. “They wander around the municipality, and children are afraid of contracting infections and health risks from dogs,” the complaint read. 

The petitioners also demanded immediate action against Rajeev for prohibiting the maintenance of stray dogs at his residence.

On the other hand, Rajeev claimed that his family adores animals and that he feeds and cares for them on his land. He stated that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Kannur also seeks his assistance. Furthermore, it was claimed that dogs were no longer a menace to humans following vaccination and sterilization.

The Bench observed that the Supreme Court in Animal Welfare Board of India v. People for the Elimination of Stray Troubles highlighted that there was no reason why High Courts could not consider this problem and provide directions.

It said that the local authorities are responsible for protecting stray dogs under the Animal Birth Control Rules 2023 (ABC Rules). The court ruled that the laws require the local government to be liable for the deworming, immunization, and sterilizing of street animals. It additionally contains guidelines for geotagging pets, euthanasia, and resolving complaints about dog attacks or rabid dogs.

The Court ruled that a person cannot keep a dog without a license from the Secretary, citing Sections 435 to 438 of the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994. It further states that animals shall not be kept on persons’ premises if they disturb others.

The Court said that when an animal lover comes to save stray dogs, the local self-government authorities can issue them a license and guarantee that the ABC Rules and Municipality Act provisions are followed.

It asserted that genuine dog lovers would be issued a license if they were willing to protect and assist stray dogs under the rules of the law.

It was discovered that Rajeev failed to obtain permission from the authorities to keep stray dogs at his place. It noted that Rajeev should be aware of the petitioners’ concerns about the annoyance of maintaining huge numbers of dogs in unsanitary conditions.

As a result, the Court directed Rajeev to approach the Kannur Corporation to obtain a permission to maintain stray dogs on his premises. It asked the Corporation to apply rigorous requirements in accordance with the ABC Rules and the Kerala Municipality Act. It further asked the Corporation to remove stray dogs from its property if no licence application was submitted on time.

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