SC directs Centre to look into animal welfare concerns during lockdown
The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday directed the Centre to look into concerns raised about zoo animals, wildlife, street animals and pets during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The SC bench of justices NV Ramana, Sanjay Kaul, and BR Gavai, was hearing a petition filed by Delhi-based animal rights activist Sangeeta Dogra against the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), Union environment ministry, and Union animal husbandry and dairy department.
The petition asked for measures to be taken for animal welfare during the pandemic such as a regular supply of food and medical facilities to zoos and rescue centres, emergency medical facilities in forest reserves and protected areas (wildlife sanctuaries, national parks etc.), prosecution of persons abandoning pets and cruelty to street animals. The petition also asked for the collection of swab samples for Covid-19 testing for animals showing symptoms, among other prayers. HT has reviewed the petition.
“We direct the Government of India to treat this writ petition as a representation and look into the suggestions made by the petitioner-in-person in the said petition,” read the order by the SC bench.
The petitioner also raised concerns on the opening of slaughterhouses within zoos for the supply of food to animals, hand over CZA’s charge to the Indian Veterinarian Association (IVA), and requested the SC to form a team of veterinary experts under IVA across every zoo hospital in the country with adequate personal protective equipment. “During this crucial time, the SC heard this sensitive matter, keeping animals and environment issues as priority. Now, it is up to the Centre and public at large to ensure that we too are equally sensitive in protecting these species, and more so even after the pandemic is over,” said Dogra.
CZA said they had already issued directions as suggested under the petition during the first week of the lockdown itself, and subsequent orders were issued in less than 24 hours after a tiger had tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the Bronx zoo in USA on April 5. “The SC disposed of the matter as instructions and actions have been taken by all authorities. Meanwhile, we will be submitting point wise responses to suggestions raised in the petition and highlighting our compliance to each, before the SC,” said SP Yadav, member secretary, CZA.
Meanwhile, over the last week, the number of cases of animals and birds being rescued from home quarantined apartment complexes has increased significantly, said city-based animal welfare rescue groups. NGO Plant and Animals Welfare Society - Mumbai (PAWS-Mumbai) and Amma Care Foundation rescued one parrot from Bhandup, one turtle, two rabbits, and a cat from quarantined buildings in Mira Bhayander. “Residents in quarantine are nervous and scared about how to deal with their pets. As a result, increasing cases of abandonment are taking place,” said Sunish Subramanian Kunju from PAWS-Mumbai and district animal welfare officer.
Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW) received a few distress calls from residents about abandoned pets outside quarantined complexes within the last 48 hours. “It is understood that it is a difficult period for all but there are teams to help animals, and when a building is being quarantined, pet owners need to make alternate arrangements by reaching out to animal welfare groups,” said Pawan Sharma, president, RAWW.