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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

Sisters assaulted, harassed and molested for feeding strays outside their society in Mumbai

Lack of uniform guidelines for pets in housing complexes results in constant tussles between pet owners and other residents, and leads to rise in animal cruelty cases.

mumbai Updated: Oct 27, 2017 11:54 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Kiran her sister were both registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), and were allowed to feed and neuter dogs.
Kiran her sister were both registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), and were allowed to feed and neuter dogs.(HT Photo)

The Kurar police station arrested a family of four on charges of molestation, harassment and assault on two women for feeding strays outside their society in Dindoshi on Tuesday.

Kiran Ahuja, 29, a physiotherapist, and her sister Shilpa, 28, a corporate lawyer; have been feeding close to 80 dogs every day within the Dindoshi area in Mumbai’s suburbs over the past few years. They moved to Sanjay Gandhi Nagar SRA in Dindoshi in March, where they continued feeding strays at one end of the colony. However, after regular complaints from residents, Kiran and her sister began feeding the dogs outside the society premises from April onwards.

Kiran told HT that she and her sister were both registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), and were allowed to feed and neuter (most common way of sterilization of animals) dogs. “Since April onwards, we ensured that majority of the dogs in the area were neutered. However, there were two that we were unable to sterilize. One of the dogs gave a litter of seven pups during the second week of October,” she said.

She alleged that while she and her sister were at Raipur, Chhattisgarh for Diwali celebrations, the family of four accused took the dogs and dumped them at a nearby isolated location. After the sisters returned, they were able to bring back only four of the seven dogs. “After reaching out to union cabinet minister Menaka Gandhi and her NGO, we were directed to file complaints,” said Kiran.

Lack of uniform guidelines for pets in housing complexes results in constant tussles between pet owners and other residents, and leads to rise in animal cruelty cases.

Read: Animal lovers’ pet peeve: Rules of housing societies in Mumbai

On October 24, the four accused got hold of the sisters while they were on their way to feed the dogs. “After one of the dogs accidentally entered the society, we were mercilessly beaten up, our tops were torn, we were touched inappropriately, and got help from no one. The accused got support from another 20 people they called while we screamed for help,” said Kiran.

Officials from the Mumbai police said a first information report (FIR) was filed against Rustom Patel, his wife Rabia, and sons Riyaz and Arbaaz under sections 354 (molestation), 323 (physical assault) under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and other sections such as unlawful assembly, rioting and criminal intimidation.

“We arrested the four accused on Tuesday itself after investigating the case. They will be presented at the Borivli Magistrate Court on Friday for a bail-plea hearing. We will ensure no harm comes to the complainants,” said Uday Rajeshirke, senior police inspector, Kurar police station.

The sisters will be filing an affidavit in court highlighting the cruelty towards the pets allegedly carried out by the accused.

Housing societies cannot ban pets or impose rules on where they are allowed. As a pet owner, you have the right to fight against such restrictions. But you also have the duty of being considerate and courteous towards your neighbours
Ban pets: Even if it is added in the societies’ bylaws, it is illegal to ban pets from the society
Insist on the size of the pet: A society cannot allow smaller dogs, but ban larger ones
Use ‘dog barking’ as a valid and compelling reason to enforce a ban
Restrict the use of elevators: Pets can’t be banned from using the lift, according to Bombay high court rulings. The society can’t impose extra charges to allow pets to use the lifts
Ban pets from parks: Banning pets from gardens or parks is a short-sighted move. Residents may fix specific timings for pets, to ensure it doesn’t make people around them uncomfortable
Ask you to use leashes: Pet owners can be requested, at the most, to put their pets on a leash when they are being walked in common areas
Ask you to use muzzles on your pets: The law already provides penalties on negligent pet-owners. The society cannot force owners to make their pets wear muzzles
Force you to scoop up poop: Pet-owners can be requested to clean up after their pets, but societies can’t force them to do so. Societies can’t impose fines for this either. However, as a pet owner, this is a basic courtesy — scoop up your pet’s poop, it will make your neighbours happy and keep your surroundings clean. Societies could also set aside specific areas for pets to defecate
Intimidate you: Any intimidation towards a pet-owner to abandon the pet is in violation of the law and punishable under the Indian Penal Code
KEEP DOGS INDOORS: Unlike humans, dogs sweat only through their footpads, and they cool themselves by panting. Soaring temperatures can cause heat stress and physical injuries – including brain damage – and can result in death
DON’T LEAVE YOUR PETS IN PARKED CARS: Even for short periods of time and even if the windows are slightly open. On a relatively mild 28-degree Celsius day, the temperature inside a car can climb rapidly, reaching a dangerous 32 degrees Celsius in the shade and a deadly 71 degrees Celsius in the sun. Animals trapped inside a car can succumb to heatstroke within minutes – even if the car isn’t parked in direct sunlight
OFFER WATER OUTDOORS: Place mud pots filled with cool, clean water outside your home or at places where there are homeless animals. Inexpensive mud pots will help keep the water cool and won’t tip over
PROVIDE BIRDS WITH WATER: Place water bowls on your window sills, balconies, terraces and in the gardens. Change the water regularly.
GIVE WORKING ANIMALS A BREAK: Ask owners of bullocks and donkeys to give the animals a rest, especially during the afternoon heat
STAY ALERT, SAVE A LIFE: Keep an eye on animals you see outdoors. Make sure they have adequate water and shelter. If you find an animal in distress, contact a veterinarian or animal-welfare organisation right away and give the animal water for immediate relief. Contact your nearest vet for advice. Do not leave an animal’s side until help arrives.
(SOURCE: Animal Welfare Board of India’s pet norms for societies) (ILLUSTRATION: SIDDHANT JUMDE) (GRAPHICS: HITESH MATHUR)

What the society members have to say

“We had only informed the sisters to ensure that whenever they feed the pups, they should not litter the area with the plastic they were using. Other than this, we had no problems. However, what happened is extremely unfortunate and we condemn the family’s actions,” said Baliraj Yadav, secretary of the society.

Animal activists speak

“The society should be supportive enough towards such people and take a stand against such acts of cruelty. Many women are even scared to speak up because of the external pressure,” said Nirali Koradia from NGO People for Animals (PFA).

First Published: Oct 27, 2017 11:33 IST

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