Beneath the Bark: India’s Laws Governing Animal Advocacy

Author: Priyanka Kolvekar

A Primer on Indian Animal Acts, Guidelines for Residents and Caregivers and Street Dog Care

The Animal Welfare Board of India issues new guidelines to address conflicts arising between pet owners, street dog caregivers, and Resident Welfare Associations. These guidelines replace a previous circular from 2014 and are issued under Section 9(k) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Emphasizing the principles of ahimsa and non-violence, the advisory highlights the fundamental duty under Article 51A(g) of the Constitution to show compassion to all living creatures. It underscores the importance of respecting diverse perspectives and lifestyles, with the aim of promoting peaceful coexistence and upholding the rights of non-humans.

The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, has issued a plea to the Directors General of Police in all States and Union Territories (UTs) regarding the harassment of citizens showing compassion to animals.

It emphasizes the need for intervention and enforcement of animal protection laws to prevent cruelty and ensure the well-being of animals utilizing the following measures:

1. Legal Support for Feeding Street Animals: There is no law prohibiting the feeding of street animals. Citizens engaging in such activities are fulfilling a constitutional duty outlined in Article 51A(g), which emphasizes showing compassion to all living creatures.
2. Court Endorsement of Street Dog Feeding: Courts have upheld the practice of feeding street dogs, acknowledging its role in reducing conflicts
between humans and animals, fostering trust, and facilitating animal birth  control through easier catching.
3. Animal Cruelty Offenses: Animal cruelty is considered an offense under Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, as well as Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code. Offenders may face imprisonment and fines.
4. Protection for Animal Caregivers: Interfering with or harassing individuals who care for and feed street animals is a serious offense, equated
with criminal intimidation.
5. Caution Against Aggression: Aggression or hostility towards street dogs can have consequences. Any aggression or hostility experienced by the
dogs may lead to defensive behavior such as snapping and biting. In such cases, the blame lies with the human aggressors for provoking the animals.
6. Sterilization and Return: Street dogs cannot be beaten or killed. Sterilization and vaccination are encouraged. Dogs should be returned to their original locations after procedures.
7. Feeding Street Dogs: Feeding street dogs is a duty cast upon citizens by the Constitution. Courts have upheld street dog feeding to reduce human-animal conflict.
8. Request for Police Intervention: AWBI urges Directors General of Police to issue circulars or directions to police stations, ensuring citizens showing compassion to animals are not unnecessarily harassed. This highlights the importance of investigating animal cruelty cases and taking appropriate legal action.
9. Concerns about Law Enforcement: Expresses concern that complaints about animal cruelty are not adequately pursued by law enforcement agencies and stresses the crucial role of human beings in protecting the welfare and
rights of voiceless animals.
10. Supreme Court Directions: Cites the Supreme Court’s directions in SLP (C) No. 11686 of 2007, emphasizing the protection of the five freedoms of animals under Sections 3 the and 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act. This directs AWBI and Governments to ensure the well-being of animals and prevent unnecessary pain or suffering.
11. Enforcement of PCA Act: Calls for effective enforcement of the PCA Act by States, Central Government, Union Territories, AWBI, and Governments and specifies that disciplinary action should be taken against officials failing to comply with the provisions of the PCA Act.
12. Role of Animal Welfare Officers: Mentions that AWBI has provided identity cards to Honorary Animal Welfare Officers (HAWOs) who are compassionate citizens and animal welfare activists. This outlines the duties of HAWOs, including interacting with law enforcement officials and providing information about animal cruelty cases.
13. Requests to Directors General of Police: Urges Directors General of Police to issue orders for effective enforcement of animal protection laws, acting as a deterrent against cruelty. This calls for the establishment of an administrative setup to handle animal cruelty cases and take appropriate action on information provided by HAWOs or citizens.
14. Awareness and Training: Encourages the inclusion of animal welfare protection laws in the curriculum of Police Academies, aligning with the Ministry of Home Affairs’ directive and emphasizes the need to raise awareness about animal welfare laws among law enforcement personnel at all levels.
15. Cooperation and Communication: Seeks the cooperation of Directors General of Police and requests them to send instructions/orders to AWBI promptly via email and post.

The AWBI’s letter serves as a crucial call to action, emphasizing the importance of effective enforcement of animal protection laws and collaboration between law enforcement agencies and compassionate citizens to safeguard the welfare of animals.

Guidelines for RWAs and Apartment Owners’ Associations

1. Pet Ownership Rights:
– Bans on pet ownership are illegal.
– No restrictions based on dog size or breed.
– Use of lifts by pets cannot be disallowed, and no charges can be imposed.
2. Use of Parks:
– Avoid outright bans on pets in gardens or parks.
– Establish consensus on acceptable timings for pet walks.
3. Regulations on Pet Behavior:
– Leashing in common areas is advisable.
4. Intimidation and Abandonment:
– Intimidation of pet owners is illegal and may lead to violations of law.
– Abandonment of pets contributes to the problem of ownerless animals


The guidelines presented by the Animal Welfare Board of India seek to create a balance between the rights of pet owners, the compassion of street dog care-givers, and the concerns of RWAs and Apartment Owners’ Associations. By promoting responsible pet ownership, humane treatment of street dogs, and legal adherence, these guidelines aim to build a society where humans and animals coexist harmoniously.



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