Animal activists fear that the new byelaws will not only lead to largescale abandonment of dogs but is a setback to adoption and foster care.

One dog per apartment 3 in independent house BBMPs new laws anger Bluru pet ownersImage for representation
news Animal welfare Wednesday, June 06, 2018 - 12:07

Manjari Chaitanya, a resident of JP Nagar in Bengaluru, is a pet parent to five dogs. Along with ill health and small children, she has an added worry to her list. “I feel like I am being harassed by the government,” she says.

Manjari’s feelings are echoed by a number of people in the city, who have more than one dog. According to the recently approved BBMP pet byelaws, there is now a cap on the number of dogs you can have. While apartment dwellers can only have one, those living in independent houses can have three.

This, along with several other aspects of the byelaws, have pet parents and animal activists in Bengaluru up in arms.

The byelaws

The byelaws, which were approved by the Karnataka government on Monday, do have a few good points such as making it mandatory for people to pick up their dog’s poop or pay a fine of Rs 100, which would be doubled the second time. It also orders the quarantine of animals with dangerous and infectious diseases. Ironically though, the BBMP does not even have a quarantine area.

The most salient features of the byelaws, which are also the most controversial, are the limits imposed on the number of dogs one can have based on their lodging.

Further, the notification also specifies 64 “approved breeds” which can be reared in flats and homes. Strangely, this does not include indies or strays, or even popular ones such as the Cocker Spaniel and Golden Retriever.

The mandate also includes compulsory licensing and microchipping of dogs, inspection of the same by a veterinary official attached to the BBMP and capturing of dogs found to be without an “ear notch or identification mark as required under the Animal Birth Control (ABC) Programme”.

These captured dogs may be taken by their owners within 72 hours after paying a fee of Rs 450. However, unclaimed dogs would be “auctioned, sent to a shelter home or detained in a dog point.” And if an unclaimed dog is found to be suffering from rabies, it can be euthanised by a veterinary officer attached to the Department of Animal Husbandry – a provision animal welfare workers say is prone to be misused to put down healthy but unwanted dogs.

Fear of large scale abandonment of dogs

Priya Chetty Rajagopal, founder of the CJ Memorial Trust, has been at the forefront of several pet licensing and registration drives, and has also been working with the BBMP to help strengthen their ABC programme.

These new byelaws, however, have shocked and angered her.

She along with citizens including a team of legal experts, have prepared a document which provides a point by point rebuttal to the BBMP’s byelaws.

For instance, the rebuttal points out that while microchipping itself is an excellent idea, the byelaws do not have clarity whether this is mandatory and from when. They also argue that there is no information on cost, vendor and logistics to implement the idea.

As for capping the number of dogs one can have, the rebuttal argues that this will actually create a situation where people are encouraged to abandon dogs – which, it should be noted, is punishable under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

There is also a fear that this rule will be used by apartment associations to harass residents who have dogs. And it also does not specify whether breeders, who anyway have multiple dogs, will also be penalized.

Priya also argues that while the BBMP wants to capture the dogs which are over the limit of one per apartment or which are unlicensed, there is no specification of whether they even have the wherewithal to house the animals.

“The city’s shelters are anyway full and overflowing. And what does it even mean when they say ‘auction’ of unclaimed dogs? They are just going to make more dogs vulnerable to breeders who can come in, buy them and then exploit them,” she says.

 “The BBMP is supposed to be concentrating on ABC. Forget that, they want to punish dog owners, go inside their homes and tell them what to do with their dogs?” she fumes.

Setback to adoption and foster care

Sudha Narayanan, Founder Trustee of Charlie’s Animal Rescue Centre (CARE), has been receiving several calls from worried pet parents. “They ask me if they can leave their second dog at CARE. They say they are ready to pay for their upkeep if we can just keep them. We are a trauma care centre for street animals. Where do the injured and ill go if we fill all our kennels with healthy pets?” she questions.

She also criticises the byelaws for making adoption even more difficult. “Many people who come to the shelter to adopt an indie are influenced by online campaigns, so they decide to bring in a second indie dog. Who will come in now that they can only have one?”

Sudha also points out that these byelaws place people who foster under risk. “They almost always have more than one dog. We rely so much on fosters because there is anyway a lack of space and caregivers,” she rues.

Worried pet parents in a fix

Akshay Rajagopal, who has two Labradors, is also livid. “Both my labs are rescues. One of them was given to me when he was a month-old by a techie who could no longer care for him. He has been hand fed by me. These dogs do not know a life beyond my home. How can the government expect me to just give them up?” he says.

Manjari, who lives in an independent house and all of whose dogs are 10 years and older, is angry at the callousness of these byelaws.

“Today, when I told my four-year-old that we may have to give up two of the dogs, he simply asked me how we could do that with his ‘akkas’. When a four-year-old understands that, the BBMP cannot? These are not just for show, they are part of families for many of us,” she asserts.    

However, not everyone is as strong minded as Akshay and Manjari, who are determined to not give up their dogs. “Just today, we got to know of a case where a couple was coming from Mysuru with a puppy. They got to know about this law, and they just abandoned the puppy on the highway. Now their son, who is in Bengaluru, has gone frantically searching for the dog,” Priya narrates.

Despite the situation looking bleak, Priya assures that they are not going to let this injustice happen to their four-legged companions. “A PIL is also in the works and we have a legal team working on it too,” she says.

Also read: Why are the most loved dog breeds also most abandoned in India?

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