Pet owners in these apartments say they are constantly harassed though their dogs are well-behaved and they clean up after them.

Bengaluru apartment evicts a tenant simply for walking pet dogs in common areasImage for representation
news Animal welfare Monday, May 08, 2017 - 13:07

Mandakini Vasudevan moved into an apartment at Sandeep Vihar in Whitefield, Bengaluru, in May 2016, hoping it would provide her affordable housing as well as safety. She lives with her two Labrador dogs, who she thought would have plenty of space to run and exercise in the army welfare housing organisation’s massive campus.

But after just a year of living there, Mandakini has now been served an eviction notice by the Sandeep Vihar Owners’ Association (SVOA). The reason – taking her two dogs “in the lawns and other utility spaces” which has caused “great inconvenience” to others for fear of being bitten by them. TNM has a copy of the eviction notice dated April 30, 2017, which gives Mandakini a month’s time to vacate.

“I was not even consulted before the notice was given to me by a worker. When I tried reaching out to Col Vasudevan (SVOA Secretary and signatory of the eviction order), I was told that they are on a vacation,” says the 30-year-old animal welfare volunteer.

Mandakini says that there are 70-80 pet owners in the 1500-apartment complex and alleges that most of them face constant harassment by owners and members of the SVOA. She recounts an incident which she believes led to the eviction notice being issued against her.

“Last week, a woman yelled at me for walking my dogs on the lawn. She said that the children who play there will catch diseases because of the dogs. I told her that that’s not possible, but when she didn’t stop fighting with me, I yelled back at her and things heated up quickly,” she narrates.

Mandakini alleges that this has been going on for a year now. “Many owners say that substantial funds go into maintaining the lawn and that’s why owners shouldn’t even sit with their dogs there,” she says. She adds that they have tried reasoning with the SVOA members, and provided them with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI)’s guidelines for treatment of pet dogs and street dogs, but this hasn’t changed anything.

“Last year, they physically harmed one of the stray dogs that a lady here was feeding so that we would take them out of the complex. It is illegal to displace strays from their territory, but we did it because we didn’t want the animals harmed,” Mandakini says.

Another resident of Sandeep Vihar, Riti Sinha alleges that she and her Labrador have faced this harassment as well. She says that her dog was kicked by a man in the lift she was in, when the Labrador simply sniffed him.

“I didn’t engage with him, but just told him to never do it again. He just waved his hand at me and got off the lift,” the 35-year-old recounts. “Another time, a lady just yelled at my 5-month-old retriever because she barked,” she adds.

But unlike Mandakini, Riti is an apartment owner. “Tenants are bullied on the pretext that they aren’t owners. But they can’t use the argument with me. So they just tell me things like I don’t have ‘enough sense’ to not be walking my dogs here,” she says.   

Riti tells TNM that between two blocks of the apartment, there is an unkempt wooded area where the non-pet owners insist dogs be walked and taken to relieve themselves. “The area is too unhygienic and it’s next to an unpaved road outside. I don’t think it’s good for the dogs to go there but sometimes I take them there because there’s no choice,” she says.

Mandakini and Riti say that they face such harassment despite making it a point to clean up after their dogs, and putting up notices in the campus for other pet owners to always do so as well.

But pet owners being harassed is not something limited to Sandeep Vihar. Neha Modak, a former resident of Mahavir Kings Place, another apartment complex in Whitefield, alleges that she faced two years of harassment there for having pets, before she moved into Sandeep Vihar.

The 26-year-old business development manager says that one of her neighbours at her former apartment complex made a big issue out of her pug running after the pizza delivery boy because he liked the smell. Following this, Neha and her family shifted out of the apartment to another one in the same building.

“Here, the house in front of ours had a baby. The mother accused us that her baby was falling sick because of my dogs, when we didn’t even share a common wall! She wrote email after email about it to the owners’ association and because we were tenants, no one supported us,” Neha rues.

Neha and her family wanted to move out, but her landlord made her stay for a year, she claims. “My grandmother had passed away in the house, so he said that she couldn’t move out until the one-year rituals were completed. He refused to return our deposit. We had to stay there because our money was tied up. I couldn’t even let my dogs out, not even on the balcony because it faced my neighbour’s,” she says.

Neha moved into Sandeep Vihar last year, thinking it was a more pet-friendly place. But hearing of all the harassment pet owners face, she makes sure her dogs are out for a walk only late in the night after 11pm.

TNM tried contacting multiple people from the SVOA, including Secretary Col Vasudevan, but they all refused to comment.

What AWBI guidelines say

AWBI’s circular has guidelines for pet owners as well as Resident Welfare Associations and Apartment Owners’ Associations.

Pet owners are supposed to keep their dogs leashed in public spaces, healthy so as to not spread diseases, and to attempt keep them quiet barring occasional barking.

For RWAs and owners’ associations, the circular instructs that they must not ban pets, even if it is by consensus. They cannot even selectively ban larger breeds while allowing ‘small sized’ dogs. Dog barking is also not a compelling reason for proposing a ban.

The circular says that barring people from having pets is “illegal”, even if special bye-laws are framed in this regard. RWAs and owners’ associations are infringing on citizens’ fundamental freedom to “choose the life they wish to live” if they do so.

Banning pets from using lifts or parks is also prohibited by the AWBI circular. While pet owners must leash their dogs in public areas, RWAs cannot insist on the use of a muzzle.

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