India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered no enforcement action to be taken on an order by the Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench) banning the feeding of stray dogs in public places in Nagpur. Noting that the threat of stray dogs had ‘increased beyond tolerable levels’, the High Court in October ordered that anyone interested in feeding street dogs should formally adopt the dogs and register them with the municipal authorities first , then feed the strays inside their own home. Taking a prima facie different position, a compound formation Judges Sanjiv Khanna and JK Maheshwari stay of the observation of the Tribunal de Grande Instance which posed this precondition.
“You cannot insist that people who want to feed dogs adopt them or keep them in shelters,” Judge Khanna said orally.
Judge Khanna observed that not all street dogs could be taken to foster homes or kept in captivity. “It is an extreme position which is unacceptable,” he said. “Wherever necessary, to cope with their numbers, relocation can be considered. But, where the population is under control, let the street dogs be where they are.”
Emphasizing the need to strike the right balance between human safety and animal welfare, Justice Khanna observed: “When there are humans and cars, for example, there are bound to be accidents. Conflicts of interest are inevitable. Otherwise we cannot We need Indian Penal Code and other penal provisions. We will not need courts. Just as humans can cause harm, stray dogs can also cause a nuisance. Therefore, we must be aware of both sides. He added: “There may be other consequences if the dogs aren’t there. There may be other issues that come up. That’s why something has to be done at this point. [High Court] order can have its own consequences and repercussions.”
The Animal Welfare Board, however, advised the higher court that if the dogs were “left to starve” they were likely to become more violent. “If the guidelines issued by the Animal Welfare Council to all states are followed correctly, then this issue can be resolved,” the bench said.
Judge Khanna also acknowledged that street dogs, if not fed by the communities to which they belonged, would have to resort to scavenging from bins for food. Senior Solicitor Gopal Sankaranarayan, on behalf of a claimant opposing the interim stay of the High Court order, said: “The literature has shown that dogs foraging near landfills can lead to the spread serious illnesses”. That comment was met with a scathing retort from one of the lawyers arguing for the October 21 order to be suspended. “That’s why they have to be fed by us.”
Judge Khanna also pushed back on claims by another barrister who tried to justify the High Court’s order by saying: ‘What the High Court has done is simply prohibit the feeding of dogs in public places. “. “Where do street dogs live? Do they have private homes? asked the judge rhetorically, responding that street dogs lived in public places and therefore should be allowed to be fed in public places.
In issuing the interim order, the House ordered the municipal corporation to designate places in public places that could be used to feed stray dogs. Judge Khanna suggested employing the services of road sweepers, to inform dog feeders of demarcated feeding areas. “It won’t take more than two days if you really want to do this exercise. Forget the objections, do it proactively,” Judge Khanna said.
Swati Sudhirchandra Chatterjee & Ors. vs. Vijay Shankarrao Talewar & Ors. [Diary No. 35297-2022] and other related matters