Are you a pet owner who is worried that neighbors or apartment folks may ask you to abandon your pet(s) for any reason – more so because of the panic set in due to Coronavirus (COVID 19)?
Worry NOT! No one will be able to separate your pet from you nor can they have rules that DO NOT allow PETS in apartments OR not allow PETS in lifts. It is illegal and the Supreme Court of India has made it very clear.
Read on to understand how all of this works. I am sharing my personal experience so that all of you can benefit and say goodbye to sleepless nights.
I live in Bangalore in an apartment complex and I have a 14-year old dog who is about to turn 15 next month. Her name is Jerry. She has lived with us in Delhi and now calls Bangalore home for the last seven years.
About a year back she started to develop a condition called pemphigus foliaceous, an auto-immune skin condition that is non-communicable.
With the recent panic and hysteria around Coronavirus, some people in my residential apartment complex apparently got worried. Usually when this happens in a city like Bangalore, what follows is a suggestion or demand to get rid of the pet. In our case as well there was a (friendly) suggestion to get rid of the pet.
Hearing that suggestion was heartbreaking. I also realized there is a lot of confusion and fear in people’s minds right now (and you cannot fault them). If you have compassion in your heart, you will also feel for people who are worried about their families.
Perhaps it is wise to first educate yourself and then create awareness using facts and bring everyone along. I strongly believe when people understand things more clearly they will support you.
I got in touch with Dr Varun Taneja, a practicing veterinarian (and my brother-in-law) in New Delhi, Dr Waseem (Head Veterinarian, CUPA RT Nagar) and the CUPA Communications team to understand what are my rights and duties as a pet owner in India.
Here is what I found out that will help all of us here.
Dogs and Cats are not carriers of COVID 19 virus strain. That means your pet pooch is NOT in the circle of suspicion as a probable host of this pandemic virus outbreak. Pets are not known to either contract or transmit COVID 19. So relax and start educating others.
…issued a circular (No.9-16/2019-20/PCA) dated: 11.03.2020 making it abundantly clear on the abandoning animals due to fear of COVID 19 / Coronavirus is illegal and will be penalized under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and a violation of the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
…has clarified that Dogs and Cats are not involved in spreading infection in the current episode of corona virus infection.
…is in full action mode in supporting pet owners who are facing challenges in their neighborhoods. They have issued notices based on multiple High Court and Supreme Court verdicts and various other government and NGO machinery by their side to RWAs and Apartment Owners Associations(AOA). When I reached out for help and counsel to CUPA, they shared the following with me
- CUPA’s notice to RWAs / AOAs
- Circulars issued by Animal Welfare Board of India (Government of India) – shared above
- Circular issued by World Health Organization – shared above
CUPA’s notice to RWAs / AOAs
This notice is being issued to you in relation order to inform you that despite various High Court and Supreme Court directions and Animal Welfare Board of India Guidelines, the bye laws of most Apartment Associations have not been in conformity with the prescribed guidelines and it is under these circumstances that this letter is being addressed to you. It is important that the following directions are incorporated into the bye laws of the association to ensure the legality of the same:
1. It is illegal for an Association to ban residents from owning pets in totality. Pets cannot be classified based on size and aggressiveness, to impose such a restriction. Even if the restriction is supported by an absolute majority through voting in general meetings, it cannot be imposed and such acts are against the law.
2. However if there is any municipal law that has come into effect in the respective municipality, then the bye laws can be amended to that effect. Presently, the BBMP has placed no restriction on apartment dwellers to own pets. In the absence of the same, it is illegal for any notice/byelaw to be drafted, banning pets.
3. Associations cannot place a restriction on pets from using common amenities such a lifts, staircases and corridors. However if there is a vulnerable area that requires safety of residents such as a children’s play area or a community prayer hall, then the restriction can be imposed for that specific area or by imposing restrictions on time. Nevertheless, pets cannot be restricted from entering private parks and amicable timings can be decided between the members of the Association to allow the pets to use these parks at such timings.
4. Associations are allowed to place rules to ensure that pet owners clean up after their pets and those who negligently cause injury by keeping their pets unleashed in such common areas, are made to pay appropriate fines and penalties.
5. Pet owners are supposed to take at most care to ensure that excessive barking is limited. However barking cannot be cited as a reason to impose a ban or restriction on such pets.
There have been many conflicts that have arisen between residents /pet owners and the Resident Welfare Associations(RWA)/ Apartment Owners Associations(AOA), primarily due to ignorance of the bye laws in relation to pet policy. Therefore, it is advised that the bye laws be in strict conformity with the ‘AWBI Guidelines – Pet and Street Dogs, their Care Givers, and Resident Welfare Associations and Apartment Owners Associations’ dated 26.02.2015, which has been upheld by various state governments.
It is therefore urged that you frame a policy within the bye laws, regulations, rules, guidelines, notices and memorandum of association, to incorporate the aforementioned norms, which will help garner harmony between residents /pet owners and the Resident Welfare Associations(RWA)/ Apartment Owners Associations(AOA), and prevent any dispute from escalating to the judiciary, media, local police or/and other state or non-state missionary.CUPA | www.cupabangalore.org
Creating awareness in your neighborhood
Now that you know that law and law enforcement is on your side, here is how I suggest you go about creating awareness in your residential or apartment complex:
- Firstly, contact your veterinarian and seek her/his advice and update your vaccination booklet. Then connect with the office bearers (of your RWA) or specific residents to understand any objections or fears they or other residents may have (regarding your pet).
- Secondly, politely explain to the office bearers or specific residents why their fears may be unfounded. Quote from circulars of WHO and Animal Welfare Board of India.
- Thirdly, share a copy of the Circular (No.9-16/2019-20/PCA) by Animal Welfare Board of India.
- Fourthly (if needed), bring up the fact that it is illegal to create a situation or stipulation that would force pet owners to get rid of their pets or ask tenants to vacate because of them being pet owners. Reference the CUPA notification along with the Supreme Court directives in this matter.
- Fifthly (only as a last resort), reach out to CUPA Communications <firstname.lastname@example.org> with details of your case and apartment address and related details. They will help initiate a formal process towards the respective residents or the RWA who may be in violation of various directives issued by the honorable Supreme Court of India and High Courts and the Animal Welfare Board of India (Govt. of India). You may also report to the nearest police station mentioning the harassment you are facing (if any).
Responsibilities as a Pet parent
Please do keep in mind that as a pet parent you also have responsibilities – mostly social. Make sure your pet is not creating a nuisance, that you are cleaning up after your pet, and you are also generally respectful of people’s personal space.
In full disclosure, I may not require to go through points one through five. Mostly, I believe the folks in my apartment are very understanding and some of them may be in a panic due to the recent Coronavirus outbreak. I will share how conversations in my apartment evolve.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment or reach out to CUPA or other local animal support groups. If you know of other resources that may help – in Bangalore or outside, I really request you to post it as comments below. It will surely help a lot of people who are dealing with this.
Please share this blog post in your network so that pet parents can confidently hold conversations with people in their community and assert their rights and live out their duties.