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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

Tighten the leash, end animal cruelty in Mumbai

Cruelty to pets is going unchecked not only because of lax laws, but also because of their poor implementation and a lack of awareness. Get aware, get involved and make sure pets are treated well

mumbai Updated: May 31, 2017 10:40 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
(Illustration: Siddhant Jumde)

Beating up, maiming and even killing a dog is punished with a fine of just Rs50 — an amount fixed way back in 1960, when the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act was first tabled.

Six years ago, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) decided to tighten the law. It drafted the Animal Welfare Bill with stricter fines — starting at Rs1,000 and going up to Rs10,000 depending on the degree of cruelty. To date, this draft bill has passed through a number of offices and changed many hands, but has yet to be made law.

With deterrents this weak, it’s little wonder that cruelty to animals, especially pets, is so rampant.

Three years ago, AWBI decided to look at more specific ways to tackle pet cruelty. They formulated a draft of guidelines for how pet shops and dog breeding centres should be run. According to AWBI, both are lucrative businesses that account for millions on the black market and result in the mindless breeding, smuggling and selling of animals. The first draft, for pet shops, was submitted to the Union Environment Ministry in 2014; the second one (for dog breeding and marketing) was submitted a year later. Officials from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) told Hindustan Times the draft guidelines were being compiled by the ministry and were likely to be included in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 by the end of the year.

“Cruelty to pets is on the rise, not only in Mumbai but across the country. We issued the draft guidelines in the form of a notification on our website in December. After receiving a number of responses, we are compiling the final rules,” said a senior official from the ministry. “The guidelines will be tabled during the monsoon session of the Parliament this year and is likely to be issued by the year end.”

The official said the ministry also had discussions in February about raising fines for animal cruelty cases.

“To improve deterrence, stricter fines have to levied. Owing to problems related to Jallikattu, the decision was deferred. We have plans to meet state government bodies later this year. We will consider raising fines and bringing it at a par with those in the Wildlife Protection Act,” the official said. Other top officials from the BJP-led central government, however, said it was too early to comment on the guidelines as they have been delayed time and again. “I do not know whether the environment ministry is going to issue the guidelines. They keep putting it off on one pretext or another. So to speak about them would be premature. Once they come in, I will be happy to speak on them,” Maneka Gandhi, Union cabinet minister for women and child development told HT.

Meanwhile, courts, local authorities and NGOs have been taking steps to curb cruelty to pets. For instance, after a Bombay HC order on April 10, the Mumbai police shut down all pet shops at Crawford Market, Mumbai’s pet trade hub. “We shut 21 shops that were housing exotic pets. Currently, there are no pet shops open at Crawford Market,” said Sukhlal Varpe, senior police inspector, MRA Marg police station. “There were a few shop owners who tried to argue with us, but when we told them their licenses would be cancelled, they pulled down their shutters.”

“Mumbai is a trade hub for inbound and outbound pet animals,” said Jose Louies, head of trade control, Wildlife Trust of India. “Turtles, tortoises and exotic birds are traded globally from shops in Crawford market. Shutting down these shops is a welcome move.”

Cruelty to pets is going unchecked not only because of lax laws, but also their poor implementation.

According to the Bombay Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the AWBI, the Maharashtra state animal welfare board, a part of the animal husbandry department, has not met even once in the past decade.

State officials, however, denied this. “After directions from the Centre, teams have been set up in every district along with animal welfare NGOs to look into specific issues related to animal and pet cruelty,” said PM Kamble, regional joint commissioner of animal husbandry, Mumbai. “A year-long plan has been drafted to study problems and mitigate them .”

Experts, however, said there was a long way to go and that the onus lies on citizens to drive the movement.

“Anybody who has a pet should be absolutely sure they are responsible for it,” said Dr S Chinny Krishna, former vice chairman, AWBI. “It boils down to one thing – don’t own a pet because you think it is cute. Protect them like you would protect your family.”

First Published: Apr 28, 2017 16:55 IST

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