Dog-bite menace: Why pet parents need to be held accountable
Rising attacks by pet dogs is highlighting owners who shrug off moral and legal responsibility for the action of their pets
In the wake of rising attacks by pet dogs and grievous injuries thus sustained, pet parents’ role in taking responsibility for the same, ensuring safety as well as their training is now under the scanner.
Recently, the Department of Urban Development, Uttar Pradesh mandated pet owners in the state to give an undertaking to the local authorities to ensure their pets will not cause any nuisance in public.
Similar rules need to be implemented in other areas too, where pet parents seem to have scant regard for human life. Dipti Mudaliar, a journalist with Hindustan Times, who was mauled by a pet Pitbull that bit off an entire chunk of her arm, says, “The owner did not offer anything more than a verbal apology.” The cost of treatment, including surgeries, multiple dressings, doctor’s fees, medicines and hospitalisation, has already crossed ₹3 lakh.
Shripriya Agarwal, who owns the Pitbull that attacked, has two other dogs as well. A case was registered against her and the dog walker Rampal, under sections 289, 324 and 337 of the IPC. The two were arrested and later released on bail. Highlighting how Agarwal never walked the dogs herself, Mudaliar adds, “She wasn’t aware about the ferocity of her dog’s breed. She couldn’t answer as to why all the three dogs were being walked by a single person and why the Pitbull was not muzzled.”
This instance also raises the question of who takes responsibility for a pet that has caused life-threatening injuries to someone. Kaveri Rana Bhardwaj, founder of SMART Sanctuary and animal rights activist explains, “If a pet dog bites, the owner needs to be held accountable. Their responsibilities include raising the pets, making sure they get ample exercise and training them right.”
Adding how the right kind of training and socialising is essential, Bhardwaj says, “An indisciplined Pitbull is a disaster waiting to happen. I have four of them who were abandoned and they are adorable. No bites, ever since we rehabilitated them.”
Legal recourse for victims
For those who have been victims of serious dog bites, there are certain provisions under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Advocate Vishal Gautam explains, “For such a case, there is Section 289 (negligent conduct with respect to an animal) of IPC. But if there’s any grievous injury, then one can file the case under section 338 of IPC. Since it is a cognisable offence, an FIR can be registered. For compensation to damages, they need to file a civil suit for damages under CPC (civil procedure code).”
Animal activists believe it is not just pet parents who are responsible for pets’ behaviour, but also the environment we collectively create. Animal welfare activist and trustee, People For Animal (PFA), Ambika Shukla shares, “When we exclude animal needs from all civic planning, routinely threaten them with sticks and stones, run them over and speed away, then we are sowing the seeds of discord. Instead, let us create a pet-friendly society where animal companions can be brought to work, to restaurants and use transport services.”