A chilling case of animal cruelty was reported from Davangere district on Saturday, where 150 stray dogs were poisoned to death in Belagutti village. And it was none other than the villageâ€™s gram panchayat that allegedly did the deed, according to an FIR filed in the Nyamathi police station.
The case against the Belagutti Gram Panchayat was registered based on a complaint by an activist of Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA), an animal welfare organisation based in Bengaluru. CUPA probed into the incident, which took place on November 20, after receiving videos from residents of the village showing multiple stray dog corpses being laid out in lines.
According to Shilpa, a representative of CUPA, the organisation decided to file a police complaint after finding numerous dead dogs, despite pressure from the villageâ€™s residents to drop the case. "The dogs have been sent for postmortem to confirm the poisoning," she said.
Nyamathi police officials confirmed the death of several dogs, and said that the residents feared an outbreak of rabies. â€śThere were a few cases of rabies and the Panchayat decided to tackle the problem of dog bites by poisoning stray dogs,â€ť said Hanumanthappa, a Sub Inspector in Nyamathi.
Criticising the Belagutti Gram Panchayatâ€™s decision to resort to a culling exercise, Shilpa said, â€śWe need to create awareness in the village that the way forward is by implementing Animal Birth Control programmes and not killing innocent animals.â€ť
Rules framed by the Centre in line with the World Health Organisationâ€™s (WHO) Animal Birth Control programme, mandate that dogs should be sterilised and immunised instead of being killed.
According to the FIR, a reward of Rs 150 was being offered by the Panchayat for every dog that was killed, said Shilpa. Incidentally, the fine for killing an animal runs to a maximum of Rs 50 for a first offence, according to Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960.
Animal rights activists have long been up in arms over the low rate of penalties for animal killings. Earlier in November, the hashtag #nomore50 was used by social media users following news that a month-old puppy lost its life after allegedly being thrown from a terrace by an engineering student in Vellore.
Attempts to amend the PCA Act by the Animal Welfare Board in India are yet to gain approval. A draft of amendments suggesting a minimum fine of Rs 10,000 and a maximum punishment of three years imprisonment was formulated and sent to the Parliament in 2011, but there has been little progress on the draft in the last six years.