The Indian Constitution advises peaceful coexistence in between all creatures and lists it as one of our Fundamental Duties (Article 51(g)) to show compassion to all living creatures. To protect the interests of animals and ensure their well-being, we need to be cognizant of these animal protection laws, to take appropriate action if the situation arises. Refer to the sections below to understand the laws about pets.
(A) Animals that can be kept as Pets in India:
Dogs, Cats, and most animals that are domestically found can be kept as pets. This includes horses, ponies, pigs, red-eared sliders, fish reared in aquariums, rabbits, etc. Bird species such as Budgerigars, pigeons, finches, poultry, and some other variety of love-birds are allowed while others like Parakeets, Red Munia, Jungle Maina, etc. are strictly forbidden. Most varieties of rodents and turtles are also banned from being kept as pets. Cetaceans (dolphin or porpoise), penguins, otters, and manatees are also banned according to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
(B) Laws for Pets in India:
Below mentioned are the few rights available to domestic pets in India:
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
(C) Protection of Pets living in a society or apartment:
The Animal Welfare Board of India has set out clear guidelines for pet owners living in apartments under Resident Welfare Associations (RWA) and Apartment Owners’ Associations (AOA). These are mentioned as below:
No Resident Welfare Association has the right to ban residents from keeping pets in their apartments, not even by getting a majority vote in the society with the help of other tenants or residents. They cannot insist that ‘small-sized’ pets are allowed and ‘large-sized’ are not.
Pet owners rightly can consider their pets as family members but they have to ensure their pets don’t cause inconvenience to others. No amount of pressure should lead to an abandonment of a pet animal. Doing so is a violation of law.
Barking, which is a natural form of expression of a dog, has to be tolerated in a society. Pet owners must make an effort to keep their dogs quiet, especially during night hours.
Pet owners are advised to ensure that their pets are healthy and clean. Adequate health care and regular vaccinations need to be ensured. Sterilization is advised as our country has an excessive animal population.
If pet owners abide by the municipal laws regarding pets then no civic body has the right to ban the pets or their owners from the society.
No pets can be banned from lifts. No ban or special charges can be imposed on pet owners for using lifts with their pets. However, if an alternative lift already exists in the apartment, pet owners are advised to use it for convenience.
Leashing the dog is advisable (but not compulsory) when the dog is taken out for walks. It will make the people around feel safe. Leashing also ensures the safety of the pet from being run over by vehicles. Apartment welfare associations cannot insist on the use of muzzles, the law already provides for penalties for negligent pet owners, which the aggrieved parties can avail of.
Even if Residents’ Welfare Association cannot impose fines on any pet owner who does not clean their pet’s excreta, they can request pet owners to clean up after their dogs defecate for society’s cleanliness.
No pet can be banned from gardens or parks. Consensus can be made on the timings when pets can be walked without inconvenience to other residents.
RWAs and AOAs also cannot create any by-laws to implement bans or restrictions on residents getting pet dogs, or even discriminate upon the size or breed of the dog.
(D) Laws related to killing or harming of Pets:
The killing of an animal/pet is illegal and it is an offense being to cruelty on animals as defined under Section 11 of The Prevention Of Cruelty to Animals Act. It is a cognizable offense under Section 428 and Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code. A person who is caught violating these laws can be reported to the local animal protection group and the police. A case can also be filed under the above-mentioned sections.
Section 428 of the IPC deals with the punishment for committing mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless any animal or animals of the value of ten rupees or upwards. The punishment for such acts/offenses are simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term, which may extend to two years, or with a fine, or with both. While Section 429 of the IPC deals with the punishment for the same nature of crime but the animals of the value of fifty rupees or upwards. It must be immediately lodged as an F.I.R with the area police station. The punishment, in this case, will be imprisonment of either description for a term, which may extend to five years or with a fine, or with both.
Disturbing or destroying eggs or nests of birds and reptiles or chopping a tree having nests of such birds and reptiles or even attempting to do so constitutes hunting and attracts a punishment of a fine of up to Rs. 25000, or imprisonment of up to seven years or both under Section 9, Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
(E) Laws related to theft or stealing of Pets:
Section 378 of the Indian Penal Code deals with ‘Theft’, stating that whoever, intending to dishonestly take or take any moveable property out of the possession of any person without that person’s consent, is said to commit theft. And the property, under this section includes ‘animals’ too. The section itself explains the matter related to animals. A person, who by any means causes an animal to move, is said to move that animal without the consent of the owner.
(F) Evidence required to accuse someone of harming or killing a Pet:
The accuser should immediately contact the nearest police officer. The police officer should visit the site and note the condition of the pet. The pet has to be taken to a vet, either private or government, for a post-mortem to determine the cause and approximate time of death. In the meantime the police officer can collect any available physical evidence, indicating both the perpetrator and the method used. The police officer must record the statement of the witnesses who have seen the poisoning or witnesses who can record the attitude or history of previous cruelty of the alleged perpetrator towards the deceased. Thereafter, the police officer must put up a challan before the court of the concerned magistrate.
(G) Consequences of abandoning a Pet:
Abandoning any animal for any reason can land you in prison for up to three months under Section 11(1)(i) and Section 11(1)(j), PCA Act, 1960. Also, neglecting an animal by denying him/her sufficient food, water, shelter and exercise or by keeping him/her chained/confined for long hours is punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to 3 months or both under Section 11(1)(h), PCA Act, 1960.
(H) Laws for Pet Transportation:
Conveying or carrying animals whether in or upon any vehicle, in any manner or position which causes discomfort, pain or suffering is a punishable offense under two Central Acts-Section 11(1)(d) Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (Transport of Animal) Rules, 2001 and Motor Vehicles Act 1978.
(I) Actions to take on observing any violation of the animal welfare laws:
Sending a legal notice: Send legal notice to an individual/group of animal abusers through a lawyer or report the matter to an NGO. If no action is taken by the abuser after sending the notice, file an official complaint.
Getting a wildlife case registered: File a Wildlife Offense Report (WLOR), prepared under Section 50(4) of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, by approaching a magistrate and making an allegation orally or in writing. One can approach a forest officer, who can further file a complaint to the magistrate. According to Section 55 of the WLPA, the following persons can file a complaint to the magistrate:
The Director of Wildlife Preservation or any other officer authorized on his behalf, who is authorized by the Central Government, Members of Central Zoo Authority or Member-Secretary of Tiger Conservation Authority, Director of the concerned Tiger Reserve.
Chief Wildlife Warden
Any person who has given another person/group a notice of at least sixty days, of his intention to make a complaint.
Arrest by an individual: Offences under the Wildlife Protection Act are non-bailable and cognizable offenses. Under Section 43 of the CPC, an individual can arrest an offender who has committed a non-bailable and cognizable offense or is a habitual offender, and hand him/her over to the police.
(J) Laws related to Euthanasia of Pets:
All euthanasia of mortally wounded or injured animals or incurably sick or terminally ill animals shall be accomplished by a registered veterinary practitioner under Veterinary Council of India or the State Veterinary Council in a manner and through a method approved by the Veterinary Council of India and the records including post mortem report shall be maintained of all animals euthanized, and all carcasses including those that naturally died must be incinerated and shall not be sold. Read more about pet euthanasia here.
In the times we are dealing with, where animosity and hatred have become so much common that pet owners at times, vent out their misdoings on the speechless animals, these laws ensure to protect them from any such offense. As owners, we should all be cognizant of the animal rights and take care of them as our family members like we committed to when we bought them home.