COVID-19 has not only affected us humans, but also stray animals in several ways. For one, though the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that animals can’t transmit COVID to humans, they are ill-treated and not allowed in residential areas. Another issue is that stray animals, especially dogs, are often dependent on leftover food from street vendors and fast food vendors. But with fewer people and shops, and more restrictions since COVID, strays have been left without enough food.
In Bengaluru, many individuals such as Rakesh Shukla and Manjari Chaitanya Colaco have taken steps to provide food, shelter and care to animals in times of COVID. So have small groups of pet lovers running social media pages such as Paws For a Second, Pet Adoption and Whitefield Rising Community Dogs, along with residential communities’ Whatsapp groups.
However, many animal lovers and activists say they have been threatened by local residents. Some apartment RWAs (Resident Welfare Associations) banned the feeding of stray animals, and even imposed a ‘pet ban’. In response, animal rights groups have taken up campaigns and petitions, such as the ‘Not without my dog’ campaign by CJ Memorial Trust. CUPA (Compassion Unlimited Plus Action) even filed a PIL in High Court, asking that the government frame rules to prevent the harassment of feeders and pet owners.
On July 13, the state government issued a circular detailing the guidelines to be followed by RWAs and AOAs (Apartment Owners’ Associations) on stray and pet animals.
Adopt ‘Doctrine of Ahimsa’: GoK
The government circular advised RWAs/AOAs to adopt the ‘Doctrine of Ahimsa’ towards pets and stray animals. The circular cites Article 15(G) of the Indian Constitution: “It is the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for all the living creatures.”
Following are the key guidelines on stray and community animals as per the circular:
- No relocation: Stray animals can’t be relocated or removed, but may be sterilised, vaccinated and returned to the same area
- Sterilisation and vaccination: RWAs to coordinate with authorised organisations and carry our sterilisation and vaccination
- Feed strays: Feeding stray animals is not against law, and RWA/AOA cannot interfere with a person’s freedom to do this. Feeding helps reduce aggression and population distribution of dogs. Persons who to object to feeding strays and display aggression, can be held liable for having committed offences under the Indian Penal Code.
- Increasing awareness: RWA/AOA to increase awareness among residents to take care of stray and community animals.
Guidelines on pets during COVID:
- No ban: RWA/AOA cannot resort to any ban on keeping pets
- By-laws and regulations: It’s illegal to have by-laws and regulations that ban pets
- No discrimination: It’s illegal to discriminate against the use of certain facilities – lifts, gardens, etc – by pets
- Cleaning of pet poop: There can be no rule mandating the cleaning of pet poop. RWAs cannot levy charges or fines on pet owners in this regard; they can only request owners to maintain civic responsibility.
Priya Chetty-Rajagopal of CJ Memorial Trust says the existing laws and rules relating to animal rights are good enough, but that the government needs to step up and do more. She says, “What is critical is for the concerned authorities to implement existing rules and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and ensure the safety and well-being of pets, pet parents and streeties. The local corporator and ward committees must sign off on, and aggressively share this circular to ensure that the AOAs/RWAs in their respective wards are following these rules. Many just don’t know!”
Further, the Trust has advised apartment residents to contact the local police and District Magistrate if they continue to face harassment.
As an individual, you too can help stray animals in distress. Following are some pointers.
How to help stray animals?
Carry a few biscuits or some food, along with a bottle of water, and an old bed sheet/cotton cloth in your vehicle. If you find any animal that needs food, water or shelter, make use of these and inform the rescue shelters for further care.
What to do if you see a stray animal being mistreated?
- Immediately contact the nearest Stray Animal Rescue Shelter for assistance.
- Inform the local police, alerting them about the severity of the situation.
- Immediately inform the Animal Welfare Board of India for further action to be taken.
What if an animal met with an accident?
- Try to contact the nearest vet clinic
- Reach out to the social media page Bombat Dawgz or CUPA. They will respond within a few minutes about further action to be taken.
- Try to give first aid (listed in the next section)
- Reaching out to your contacts who are residents of the area, and can help you access a local veterinary clinic
First aid to be given while you wait for the rescue team
- If the animal is being mistreated, try to protect it and take it to a safe place
- Place the animal in a cool, well-ventilated place/shaded area
- Give a small amount of cold water containing glucose or sugar frequently
- Apply an ice pack or cold towel all over the animal’s body; press it on the head and chest
- Give cold milk to drink
- If the response from the rescue shelter is delayed, try to reach out to the nearest veterinary clinic
Following are some establishments and groups working for animal safety.
|Organisation||What they do||Contact|
|CESSNA||Veterinary email@example.com; 0767636536|
|CUPA||Animal shelter||Trauma and rescue centre – 080 22947300/301|
Large animal rescue and rehabilitation centre – 080 22947317
|Jeeva||Pet hospital||080 42687782|
|Woof Wagon||Veterinary clinic||6361633287|
|Voice Of Stray Dogs||Rescue and rehab firstname.lastname@example.org|
|People for Animals||Rescue, treatment and care of urban wild animals||9900025370, 9980339880|
|Charlie’s Animal Rescue Centre – CARE||Rescue of cats and dogs||9483911110, 9035999372|
While Bengaluru has several private facilities that care for strays, Nandita Subbarao who volunteers for the vaccination and sterilisation of street dogs, opines that the BBMP needs to set up its own 24/7 treatment facility for these animals.