The Ultimate Guide to Animal Rights, Welfare & Safety Laws in India
Incidents of brutality and cruelty towards animals and those tending them are not rare. Many cases have come to light, such as Bhadra, the dog who was thrown off a five-story building by two medical students in Chennai in 2016. Or more recently, the street dog who was gang-raped by four men in Mumbai in November 2018, and many more. Sadly, these are not lone incidents; they’re not even recent developments.
While social media has made them more accessible now, cases of animosity and violence towards animals are not new in our country, unfortunately. If you parent a pet or take care of strays in your area, you’ve been subjected to some kind of hostility or the other. From neighbors, RWAs, local municipal bodies or random vandals, animals & animal lovers face atrocities every now and then. Some more hostile than the others.
Every time an incident occurs, we wish we had stronger laws to protect the voiceless and those that look after them. Interestingly enough, there are several laws and provisions built in our Constitution to protect the animals and their caretakers. But many people are not aware of them, and often fail to seek legal remedy under them.
We’ve compiled a list of all such legal remedies that are provided in Indian Law to protect our beloved pets and strays, and those that protect them. We’d like to thank Advo. Astha Sharma & the Animal Welfare Board of India for helping us compile these. Astha is the Advocate on Record in the Supreme Court of India. She’s actively involved in pro bono cases related to animal rights, including the one against the culling of stray dogs in UP’s Sitapur district.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (59 of 1960) was enacted by the Parliament of India in 1960 to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals. This act laid down the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals, except those used for food or scientific experiments. It also provisioned for the formation of a statutory advisory body on Animal Welfare Laws and to promote animal welfare in the country. Thus, the Animal Welfare Board of India was established in 1962 under Section 4 of this act.
India has a grade of C out of possible grades A,B,C,D,E,F,G on World Animal Protection’s Animal Protection Index. The UK, Switzerland, Austria and New Zealand are the only countries in the world with grade A.
Cognizable vs Non-cognizable Offences
Section 2(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 defines Cognizable offences as offences wherein a Police Officer is empowered to arrest the accused or offender without a warrant, such as murder, robbery, theft, rioting, etc.
Non-cognizable offences are defined under Section 2(l) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. In such offences, the Police are not empowered to arrest the accused or offender without a warrant. In cases of public nuisance, assault, causing simple hurt, or any other non-cognizable offence, the Police must obtain a warrant from the Magistrate before making an arrest.
Cruelty Towards Animals
Section 11(1) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 chiefly defines what constitute as cruelty to animals. The following table lists out all possible forms of cruelty towards domestic animals (including stray dogs):
|Offence or Act of Cruelty||Sections Violated||Nature of Offence|
|Beating, kicking, over-riding, over-driving, over-loading, torturing, causing unnecessary pain or suffering to any animal||Section 11(1)(a), PCAA 1960||Non-Cognizable|
|Employing any animal that's unfit to work due to age (too young or too old), disease or injury||Section 11(1)(b), PCAA 1960||Non-Cognizable|
|Wilfully and unreasonably administering injurious drug or substance to an animal; poisoning an animal||Section 11(1)(c), PCAA 1960||Non-Cognizable|
|Conveying or carrying an animal in a manner that causes unnecessary pain or suffering||Section 11(1)(d), PCAA 1960||Non-Cognizable|
|Keeping or confining an animal in a cage or container that's too small to allow reasonable movement||Section 11(1)(e), PCAA 1960||Non-Cognizable|
|Keeping an animal chained or leashed for a long time, or with an unreasonably heavy chain or rope||Section 11(1)(f), PCAA 1960||Non-Cognizable|
|Neglects to provide sufficient exercise to a pet animal||Section 11(1)(g), PCAA 1960||Non-Cognizable|
|Failure to provide sufficient food, water or shelter to a pet animal||Section 11(1)(h), PCAA 1960||Non-Cognizable|
|Abandoning a pet animal to suffer starvation and thirst||Section 11(1)(i), PCAA 1960||Non-Cognizable|
|Wilfully letting out an animal with a contagious or infectious disease to suffer and die on the streets, causing danger to public health & safety||Section 11(1)(j), PCAA 1960|
Section 270, IPC
|Sale or possession (without a reasonable cause) of an animal that's suffering pain due to mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding or other ill-treatment||Section 11(1)(k), PCAA 1960||Non-Cognizable|
|Mutilating or killing any animal (including stray dogs)||Section 11(1)(l), PCAA 1960|
Section 428, IPC
Section 429, IPC (applicable only for pets)
|Using animals as baits||Section 11(1)(m), PCAA 1960||Non-Cognizable|
|Organizing, participating, or managing animal fights; allowing admission to such events for money; keeping or using animals for the purpose of fighting||Section 11(1)(n), PCAA 1960||Cognizable|
|Promoting or participating in animal shooting matches or competitions||Section 11(1)(o), PCAA 1960||Cognizable|
|Engaging in sexual acts with animals, mutilating or inserting foreign objects (rods, bottles, etc) in private organs of animals||Section 377, IPC|
Section 11(1)(a), PCAA 1960
|Stealing or forcibly taking away a pet dog or any other animal||Section 378, IPC|
Section 11, PCAA 1960
However, after widespread criticism from animal activists (#NoMore50) and recent directives from the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the Indian Government is finally evaluating a bill to revise the penalties for offences against animals. The proposed plan suggests raising the fine to ₹6,000/- instead of ₹50/-. According to ThePrint, the bill is supported by several MPs, including Shashi Tharoor, Poonam Mahajan, Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda, Varun Gandhi and Meenakshi Lekhi.
Theft of a pet animal may fetch the offenders up to 3-years prison time under Section 378 of the Indian Penal Code. Killing or poisoning an animal is punishable under Section 428 of IPC by up to 2-years imprisonment or fine or both. If the animal is a pet (value above ₹50/-), the jail-time could go up to 5 years under Section 429 of IPC.
In case a person is convicted of engaging in unnatural sex with an animal, he can be penalized under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Offenders found guilty of mutilating or inserting rods, bottles, or any other object in private organs of animals can also be prosecuted under this section. Perpetrators under this section are subject to life imprisonment, or up to 10 years of rigorous jail-time, and a fine.
Protection of People Caring for Animals
If you love and care for stray animals and haven’t been harassed by your neighbors, RWA bodies, or other random people – consider yourself lucky! Most others are not as much. Almost everyone tending to strays in their area, and even pet-parents have been subjected to some kind of hostility or the other. Hence, we’ve also compiled a list of legal rights and provisions for anybody who cares for animals in the area.
Article 51-A (g) of the Constitution of India states that “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect & improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.” Hence, the animal lover is protected under the Constitution.
Article 19 (1)(g) of the Constitution imparts all citizens the right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. Therefore, if someone takes up caring for animals as their occupation, it is legal and he has every right to carry on with his occupation. Article 21 guarantees the protection of life and personal liberty. Hence, if someone wants to feed and provide shelter to dogs, he is at liberty to do so.
Articles 25, 26, 27 and 28 of the Constitution, provide religious freedom to all citizens and preserves the principle of Secularism in India. According to the Constitution, all religions are equal before the state. All citizens are free to preach, practice and propagate any religion of their choice. Feeding animals, like dogs, is a part of many religions.
If anyone threatens or intimidates any person keeping pets or taking care of stray animals, they can be booked for Criminal Intimidation u/s 503 of IPC. This is a cognizable offence and can attract up to 2-years imprisonment u/s 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. If they threaten to cause grievous hurt or death or abuse a woman pet lover – the sentence may extend to 7-years with fine. Any physical violence or assault on pet lovers is punishable by jail time of up to 3-months and a fine of ₹500/- u/s 352 of IPC.
The Delhi High Court, while hearing Writ Petition (CRL) No. 1101/2009, had also issued a directive to Delhi Police to “ensure that no harm is caused to the volunteers feeding dogs, provided that they feed them only during the hours as specified by the Animal Welfare Board”. A Government of India circular (Dy No 1237 dated 30/9/2006) orders that “no resident or association will interfere with the freedom of other residents in caring and attending animals. Intimidating in any manner, those who feed and care for animals is a criminal offence. Apart from action under appropriate criminal law, such persons will render themselves liable for action under CCS Conduct Rules.”
It’s important to note that all animal caretakers and feeders must register with the AWBI and obtain their ID cards. These cards will assist in seeking police protection or legal remedies in an unpleasant situation.
The Guidelines with respect to Pet & Street Dogs, and their Care-Givers, and for Resident’s Welfare Associations and Apartment Owners Associations issued by the AWBI on 26/02/2015 clearly state that no RWA or other resident bodies can restrict residents from keeping pets. The RWAs cannot even impose restrictions such as “small dogs only” on residents, and pet’s access to parks, elevators, and common areas cannot be banned.
However, just because we love animals, it does not mean that we shall not be considerate about the safety of the neighborhood and other residents who are not as comfortable with animals. Courts have, time and again, emphasized that if the feeding of dogs creates nuisance in the locality or blocks common passage or pathways in an area, it may cause inconvenience to the other residents, and should be avoided at all costs.
Dog feces (poop) is another important cause of inconvenience to residents. Feeders must ensure that they only feed the animals in designated areas, and animals are toilet-trained to ensure cleanliness and hygiene. The AWBI 2015 bylaws also instruct the pet-owners to be mindful of the comfort, safety, and hygiene of other residents.
Relocation of Stray Dogs & Animal Birth Control
Societies, RWAs or other resident organizations are often found removing or driving out stray dogs from areas. They often hire dog catchers or other professionals to pick up dogs and relocate them elsewhere. This often causes problems of territorial aggression among dog packs, resulting in increased risk of dog bites. This can also potentially result in outbreaks of diseases.
Relocation of stray animals is strictly prohibited under the law. The 2006 Government circular (Dy No 1237 dated 30/9/2006) specifically directs RWAs and other resident bodies to refrain from relocating stray dogs from their natural habitat. The circular suggests that if any residential society is facing issues with stray animals, they must only contact the designated authorities to handle the situation. No action can be taken against the animals by the RWAs or other citizen associations.
The Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 states that sterilization of stray animals must only be conducted by authorized agencies (Municipal or Registered Non-Government Organizations). These rules also dictate that the dogs must be released in the same area after sterilization and due vaccination. Even the Supreme Court of India has prohibited the culling & dislocation of stray dogs.
Legal implications kept aside, stray dogs are, in fact, good for the community. Not only they act as guards and alert the residents of potential intruders, but they also keep the population of snakes and rodents in check. Stray dogs mostly scavenge on human waste, and there’d be huge piles of rotting, stinking garbage if it weren’t for these animals.
Pets’ Access to Public Parks & Common Areas
The AWBI has issued the Guidelines for allowing Pet Dogs in Public Parks in 2016 following an order dated 12/11/2014 passed by the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in WP(C) No. 7731/2014. This states that no pet animal shall be banned from access to any public park or other common areas owned by the DDA or other local administrative authorities like RWAs. However, the pets must be leashed and accompanied by an adult.
The guideline orders all public parks to remove signage such as “Pets/Dogs are strictly prohibited in the Park”. The parks may specify reasonable timings during the morning and evening hours when pet owners may take their pets on a walk. And these timings can change according to the season. Pet parents are also required to put their dogs on a leash, maximum 6 feet long, and must carry poop scooping equipment or bags.
The RWAs also cannot restrict or ban access to lifts or elevators for pets or their owners, provided the pets are on a leash and attended. However, if there are multiple working lifts, the RWAs may designate one or more for use of pets. Pet owners and residents are expected to abide by such reasonable restrictions.
These restrictions are imposed for the safety and welfare of common residents while ensuring coexistence and inclusivity of pets. Walking the dogs on pavements is difficult and dangerous – for both, the pets as well as the pedestrians.
SEE ALSO: How to Walk Your Dog
The above clauses cover most real-world scenarios involving pets, strays and the people who look after them. However, there are some special cases which may need additional discussion. Let’s look at them:
All Indian species of birds are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Therefore, it is illegal to possess any Indian bird. Certain exotic species of birds can be kept, but only if the owner or seller can prove that they have been imported from outside the country. The seller must have an import license and permission from the CITES bureau.
Possession or sale of a ‘wild bird’ of a protected species may be considered ‘hunting’ in the eyes of the law. This is a cognizable offence, punishable by up to 3-years imprisonment and ₹25,000/- fine under Section 51 of the WPA 1972.
Even exotic birds are protected in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. A cage that’s not big enough for the bird to freely move around, or failure to provide adequate food, water or shelter to the bird may attract penalties u/s Section 11(1)(e) & (h) of this act. That’s why it’s best to not keep birds as pets. Birds belong in the sky, not in cages!
Cows & other Dairy Animals
All milch animals are protected under the PCA Act (59 of 1960). Often we’ve noticed dairy farmers using phoonka or doom dev or other unethical techniques including the use of Oxytoxin injections to increase milk production. This is illegal and punishable by up to 2-years imprisonment and ₹1,000/- fine.
Letting cows, buffaloes or other animals on the streets, unattended could amount to offences under Section 11 of the PCA Act and Section 289 of IPC. Negligence towards an animal resulting in danger to public health or safety is a cognizable offence punishable by ₹1,000/- and up to 6 months prison time. This is also an offense u/s 98 of the Delhi Police Act, 1978.
Circus & Performing Animals
Performing Animals are used for the purpose of entertainment. Animals used at Circuses and in films are included in this classification. Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 prohibits any person to use, exhibit or train such animals without due registration. Bears, Monkeys, Tigers, Panthers, and Lions are banned from all such activities.
The profession of Madaris or Saperas (snake charmer) is also illegal. No private person in India is allowed to capture, own, buy, sell, train or show any wild animals for public exhibition. Monkeys, Snakes, Bears, Mongoose, and Parakeets are all protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and cannot be used. Any man in possession of such animals can be arrested without a warrant (cognizable offence) and can be sentenced up to 3-years imprisonment and ₹25,000/- fine under Section 51 of this act. Violation of Section 22 of the PCA Act 1960 may attract additional penalties in this case.
In 2013 India made it illegal to use captive dolphins for public entertainment.
Use of animals for military or police purposes, like sniffer dogs, etc are exempted under Section 27 of the PCA Act 1960. However, such animals must still be treated with compassion and are protected under Section 11.
Draught & Pack Animals
Animals used to draw carts or carry heavy loads are classified as Draught & Pack Animals. Bullocks, Buffaloes, Horses, Ponies, and Camels are examples of such animals. Maximum load restrictions, work timings, and conditions for draught & pack animals are prescribed in the Prevention Of Cruelty To Draught And Pack Animals Rules,1965.
Animal Trade Fairs
Animal fairs where trading of cattle & livestock animals takes place are very common in our country, especially in rural India. Pushkar Mela in Rajasthan is one of the biggest of such fairs, where camel, horses, and livestock animals are sold in big numbers. Although cattle fairs have been very normal for the farmers, they recently became a sourcing platform for butchers. There are now laws to ensure this doesn’t happen. Heavy vehicles like trucks etc are prohibited near the event venues to prevent illegal transport of animals. Local municipal bodies are alert and on the lookout for offenders at these events. Various NGOs and other bodies provide counseling to farmers and a record of all animals sold is maintained to avoid malpractice.
Transportation of Animals
The Transport of Animals Rules of 1978 prescribe the regulations for the transport of animals for various purposes. This includes the minimum space requirements for the animals during transport, the maximum number of animals that can be transported at a given time and using a particular vehicle or mode of transport.
Slaughtering & Sale of Meat at Shops
The Slaughter House Rules of 2001 lay down the regulations for the registration & operation of slaughterhouses. These rules also define what animals can and cannot be slaughtered. They also prohibit the slaughtering of any animal that’s less than 3 months of age, is pregnant or has an offspring that’s less than 3 months old, or hasn’t been deemed fit for slaughtering by a veterinary officer. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) set forth the guidelines to ensure that the slaughtering is conducted in a humane manner.
While humane slaughtering may sound like an oxymoron, there are provisions to ensure that the animals do not undergo unnecessary pain & suffering. These animals too are protected under Section 11 of PCA Act 1960.
Slaughterhouses and meat shops (where animals are not slaughtered, but their meat is sold) have to comply with the various laws of the local Municipal Corporations and the provisions under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001. These regulate the sale of meat and ensure clean & hygienic conditions at meat stalls. Slaughtering is strictly prohibited in residential areas, unlicensed institutions, or roadside shops.
Cow slaughter is banned in all states except Kerala, Goa, Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura. Article 48 of the Constitution of India prescribes the state to prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.
Animal sacrifice or ritual killing of animals is illegal in India. This is covered under the Local Municipal Corporation Acts, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It is also specifically forbidden in many states under The Prohibition of Bird and Animal Sacrifice Act.
However, the Constitution empowers every citizen to practice a religion of their choice and the rituals related to it, animal sacrifice included. Even the Supreme Court has sanctioned the slaughter of animals for religious purposes, like during Bakri-Eid. Sadly enough, the PCA Act does not override the religious freedom provided to our citizens in the Constitution of India.
Experiments on Animals
The Breeding of and Experiments on Animals (Control and Supervision) Rules, 1998 lays down the various guidelines and rules for conducting experiments on animals. It also controls who can breed and sell such animals. It also provisions for the conditions under which these animals must be kept and made to work. Even animals meant for performing experiments are protected under the provisions of Section 11 of the PCA Act of 1960.
A 2006 amendment specifies that experimenters must first try to use animals “lowest on the phylogenetic scale“, use the minimum number of animals for 95% statistical confidence, and justify not using non-animal alternatives. A 2013 amendment bans the use of live animal experiments in medical education. In 2014 India became the first country in Asia to ban all testing of cosmetics on animals and the import of cosmetics tested on animals (Rule 148C and 135B of The Drug & Cosmetic Rules, 1945).
Police & their Role in Preventing Cruelty to Animals
Section 34 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 empowers the Police to stop acts of cruelty towards an animal. If such an incident is reported to the Police, they are empowered to seize the animal and present it before a Magistrate u/s 35 of this act. If the offense is cognizable, the Police can immediately arrest the accused and confiscate the animal in question. In cases of grave offences such as poisoning or killing the animal, the police must take the animal and other relevant evidence to a Veterinary Officer for examination. The Delhi Police Act 1968, Sections 73 to 79 also direct the police to take necessary action to prevent the cruelty to animals u/s 11 and 12 of the PCA Act 1960.
The police also have the right to inspect the premises where performing animals are kept or trained, or slaughterhouses and question the people concerned. They can also stop a cart or vehicle suspected of overloading draught animals and question them. If a violation of the Wildlife Protection Act is reported, the Police are authorized to arrest and detain the accused without a warrant, under section 50.
If you see an act of cruelty to an animal, report it immediately to the local Police Station. An FIR can be registered against the offender under one or more of the sections described above. It may be noted that the cases regarding cruelty to animals are seldom registered, due to their unusual nature. The police may show resistance initially and may not even take the offence seriously in some cases.
However, please do not refrain from insisting on them the need and urgency of the matter. They too are obligated by Article 51-A (g) of the Constitution to protect & improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures. They might just need a friendly reminder.
If nothing works, you can always contact the local office of the Animal Welfare Board of India or another local animal welfare organization near you.
Agreed that the laws for the protection of animals are not strong enough yet. There are several exceptions and loop-holes that the accused may exploit to escape justice. And even if they’re convicted, the penalties are not severe enough. The police and authorities too may lack interest and the will to assist in most cases. However, it’s important that we seek all legal options available, every time we notice an act of cruelty towards a voiceless animal. If not the fear of penalties, at least the hassle of paperwork and legal formalities will keep the perpetrators at bay.
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