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July 23, 2015

Kerala’s Stray Dog Cull is Illegal

Humane Society International/India calls on state to address stray dog population with humane, legal methods

Humane Society International

  • Erin Van Voorhies

The State of Kerala has recently announced the large scale culling of stray dogs. Humane Society International/India’s managing director, N.G. Jayasimha, issued the following statement in response:

“The State of Kerala’s proposed large scale culling of stray dogs is based on a misreading of the law and would likely be found illegal and a violation of both constitutional and statutory law. The Constitution protects the rights of animals and humans to be treated with dignity and compassion. In addition, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 includes Animal Birth Control rules for dogs mandating that stray dogs are to be sterilised, vaccinated and subsequently released into the same area from where they were captured. These rules provide a holistic scheme that is backed by evidence showing that it results in the overall reduction of dog population as well as reduced aggression in stray dogs and reduced biting incidents.

“When dealing with stray dogs, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the ABC Rules hold the field over the provisions of the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994 and must be given full effect. It would be illegal to deal with stray dogs in manner that is inconsistent with the ABC Rules. Any measures to undertake mass culling of stray dogs would be unlawful.”

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Facts:

  • Article 21 of the Constitution of India protects all forms of life, including animal life. In addition, Article 51A(g) imposes on all citizens a fundamental duty to have compassion for living creatures. The Supreme Court of India has interpreted Articles 21 and 51A(g) to mean that animals have a right to lead a life with intrinsic worth, dignity and security.
  • The Central Government has enacted a law specifically with regard to animals, namely, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Under the Act, the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 (‘ABC Rules’) have been framed and prescribe comprehensive rules relating to stray dogs, amongst others. Under the ABC Rules, stray dogs are to be sterilised, vaccinated and subsequently released into the same area, from where they were captured. The Rules also provide that dogs who are sick are to be treated, prior to their sterilisation and vaccination.
  • Most importantly, under the Rules, incurably ill or mortally wounded dogs can be put to death, and only in a humane manner. Mass vaccinations, an essential part of the programme, have shown to substantially reduce the spread of rabies in dogs, and thus to humans, and has in fact been recognized as the most effective way to control rabies by the World Health Organisation.
  • The Constitution of India gives precedence to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Animal Birth Control Rules, 2001 over state and local laws, such as the Kerala State Municipality Act, 1994, under which Section 438 permits the Secretary to order the “seizure and destruction” of stray dogs in a municipal area. In addition, Rule 13 of the ABC Rules provides that in case of any conflict between the Rules and local laws, the provision that is less irksome to the animal shall prevail.

Media contact: Navamita Mukherjee, nmukherjee@hsi.org, +91 9985472760

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