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19,028 animal cruelty cases in Mumbai over 5 years; not a single arrest

In five years,19,028 animal cruelty cases were recorded. But there were no arrests or convictions, data compiled by the Bombay Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA) revealed

mumbai Updated: Jun 03, 2017 10:20 IST
Badri Chatterjee
This is a severely starved and undernourished Labrador at a Thane shelter. “Labradors are known for being plump and healthy.  It took us four months to cure her,” said a member of the Thane SPCA, which rescued her.
This is a severely starved and undernourished Labrador at a Thane shelter. “Labradors are known for being plump and healthy. It took us four months to cure her,” said a member of the Thane SPCA, which rescued her.(HT FIle)

Cruelty to pets is on the rise, disturbing data from a Mumbai NGO shows. And, with the law too weak to deter them, animal abusers inevitably go scot-free across Mumbai and Thane.

In five years,19,028 animal cruelty cases were recorded. But there were no arrests or convictions, data compiled by the Bombay Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA) revealed. The victims: dogs, cats, birds, goats, horses, bullocks, fowl and cattle.

Why is this happening?

While cruelty to pets and animals is a punishable offence, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, levies a measly fine of just Rs10 to Rs100.

With the fine so low, the law is not acting as a deterrent.

A horrific case in point: last year, four people were held for beating up a cow. “The accused paid Rs4,000 as bail bond. But a local court fined them only Rs50 each, as per the law. They were reimbursed Rs3,800 and our efforts to get them punished went in vain,” BSPCA animal inspector Divakar Jadhav told HT.

Experts pointed to other issues too. “There are two main causes for the rise in cases of animal cruelty in a megacity like Mumbai. First, people are not aware about animal laws, and second, public veterinary facilities are very poor,” said Lt Col Dr JC Khanna, the chief executive officer in charge, BSPCA. Dr Khanna said Mumbai has 350-400 private veterinary clinics, but their focus is profit-making. “There is one government-run facility in Bandra. This means animal healthcare, especially the critical cases, is dependent upon institutes like ours.”

The BSPCA data also showed a sharp rise of cases in which animals were rescued from violence and cruelty in Mumbai — from 316 in 2011 to 1,013 in 2016. Thane, too, saw a spike in cruelty cases and rescues — 104 since mid-2015, according to the Thane SPCA.

Cruelty at home

Shakuntala Majumdar, president of the TSPCA said animal cruelty is happening at home too. “Many pets run away when the doors are left open by mistake. In the absence of any protocol to reunite them with their families, many of them never meet their parents again,” Majumdar said.

Another scary development, Majumdar said, is the mushrooming of paid shelters and boarding centres that owners use to get rid of their pets. “We have seen cases of owners dumping their pets at such centres by paying them a fee. They ask no questions about how the animals will be kept, or whether a record is maintained,” said Majumdar. “Many centres use these animals for breeding, almost like a factory, to make as much money as they can.”

Impulse buying

People are buying dogs, cats and other animals on an impulse, without considering that they live for 15 years or more, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) members told HT.

“Animals are being bought because they are cute, as status symbols, or, as toys. This often ends in abandonment, neglect or abuse,” said Meet Ashar, animal welfare officer and emergency response coordinator, PETA India.

“Companion animals are left chained or caged alone for hours, without food or water. They are physically abused, abandoned, or even killed.”

The solution?

Dr Khanna from BSPCA stressed on the need for a much stronger law and policy changes by the Centre, so that stricter fines, at a par with the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, (Rs25,000 is the minimum fine) are levied on the abusers. Funding is another issue. “Currently, the state animal husbandry department gives just 10% of their funds for veterinary facilities, the remaining is used for agricultural purposes,” Dr Khanna said.

“What is shocking is many states have a state animal welfare department to look into cases of cruelty. Maharashtra’s department has not met since 2002. It is non-existent,” he said.

The way ahead

Calling animal cruelty a federal crime, Maneka Gandhi, Union Cabinet minister for Women and Child Development had approached the Supreme Court in 2015 for stricter laws.

The SC directed the government to make amendments. Union environment ministry officials said amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act are being planned and is likely to be tabled in the monsoon session.

“The law is being made much stricter. Offenders will no longer go scot free. States will also be issued guidelines,” a senior official in the know told HT.

‘We do not know what was done to Heiley at the shelter. Her body was full off maggots and ticks”

Bandra resident Ryan Rodrics left his healthy, happy seven-year-old German Shepherd, Heiley, at a pet centre in Virar in February, before leaving with his family for a 10-day vacation.

When he returned, Heiley was a traumatised and seriously ill animal.

Rodrics frantically drove through traffic to a veterinary clinic, with Heiley howling in the backseat, her private parts smeared with blood.

Heiley died before they reached.

Heiley’s was one of the 19,028 animal cruelty cases recorded in Mumbai in five years (2011-2016).

The victims: dogs, cats, birds, goats, horses, bullocks, fowl and cattle.

But a weak law protecting animals meant not one of these cases saw those responsible being arrested or convicted, data compiled by the Bombay Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA) revealed.

“We do not know what was done to Heiley. When we got her back, her body was full off maggots and ticks, and she seemed weaker than ever,” said Rodrics.

“What is worse, the woman running the lodging centre offered me a pup to replace Heiley. She will never understand the relationship owners and their pets share.”

The owner of the Virar centre, Shonali Wagh, however blamed Rodrics for his pet’s death. Speaking to HT, Wagh alleged the owners waited for their pet to die. “We took care of the dog, but we were not told about the prior health issues it had,” Wagh said. “We have the expertise of a veterinary doctor and we would never want anything to happen to our pets. We even offered a puppy to compensate for their loss.”