The Supreme Court on Thursday, 21 September, posted for hearing on 18 October, a batch of 30 petitions — many from Kerala, including one from a gram panchayat in Kannur district — seeking steps to curb and control the menace of stray dog bites and fatal attacks.
Indicating that it would issue guidelines to resolve the human-animal conflict, a bench of Justice JK Maheshwari and Justice KV Viswanathan said that two nodal counsels — one each from each side — would prepare a common compilation that would be relied upon by the arguing senior advocates from both sides in the course of the hearing that would be held on day-to-day basis.
While one set of petitioners favoured the elimination of stray dogs, the other side wanted the issue to be addressed as per the provision of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules, 2023.
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To decide between state, Central rule
Besides the framing of the guidelines, the court would adjudicate on whether state laws favouring a stern approach towards stray dogs should prevail, or the Central statute — the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and the Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules.
The bench will also look into the 2014 Bombay High Court judgement that had ruled against the then Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules, 2001, and the 2015 Kerala High Court judgement which had sought to strike a balance on the issue.
While the majority view in the Bombay High Court judgement had ruled against Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules, 2001, a minority judgement had ruled in its favour.
The 2015 Kerala High Court judgement was by Justice Ashok Bhushan, who later became a judge of the Supreme Court. At present, he is the chairperson of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal.
The 2001 rules have now been superseded by the 2023 rules that require stray dogs to be caught, vaccinated, neutered, and released. This approach aims to control the dog population without cruelty.
While a lawyer said on Thursday that local laws favouring the elimination of stray dogs should prevail over the Central rules, a lady lawyer told the bench that in Ghaziabad (a district of Uttar Pradesh) a stray dog was burnt alive.
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‘Pleading not complete in several petitions’
As the matter was called out for hearing, Justice Maheshwari noted that in a number of petitions, the pleading was not complete.
The Supreme Court on 17 November, 2016, had said that the impression should not be created that human life has lesser value than that of a dog, but at the same time stressed that stray dogs can be dealt with only in accordance with the Animal Birth Control Rules.
Noting that even dogs are created by the divinity that created humans, the court in 2016 restrained vigilante groups in Kerala from propagating and imparting training for killing of dogs.
On 18 November, 2015, the top court favoured striking a balance between empathy for stray dogs and the safety of human beings.
Permitting municipal bodies to kill the irretrievably ill and wounded stray dogs suffering from rabies in accordance with the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Animal Birth Control Rules, the top court had said, “We are disposed to think … that a balance between compassion to dogs and the lives of human beings, which is appositely called a glorious gift of nature, may harmoniously co-exist.”