Following stories about the abandonment of dogs and cats over unwarranted fears about the COVID-19 pandemic, PETA India fired off a letter to the directors general of police of states and union territories across India, urging them to direct officers to book anyone who abandons a companion animal and to take action against pet shops that leave animals to starve. The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) made the same requests in recent advisories.
The World Organisation for Animal Health says, “The current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals play a significant role in spreading the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.”
In its letter, PETA India points out that in an advisory dated 11 March, the AWBI acknowledged that some people are abandoning their animal companions on the streets without food and water and urged law-enforcement authorities of states and union territories to take action against such offences. Via another advisory, dated 23 March, the AWBI requested that law-enforcement authorities ensure that no animals suffer from hunger during the lockdown. On 24 March, the board also advised that district authorities must search pet shops in case animals are locked inside without adequate food, water, or ventilation and that animals must be rescued in such situations.
Through a recent order, the High Court of Karnataka directed district magistrates and administrations to open all pet shops in order to ascertain the condition of the animals and to provide them with food and any necessary medicine, noting that local police must help contact the shop owners. In a 7 May 2014 judgment, the Supreme Court of India directed that it is the duty of the government to enforce the provisions of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.
Under Sections 3 and 11 of the PCA Act, 1960, it is a punishable offence for a guardian to fail to provide an animal with sufficient food, water, or shelter or to abandon the animal to suffer from hunger and thirst. Under Section 289 of The Indian Penal Code (IPC), “Negligent conduct with respect to [an] animal” is an offence punishable with up to six months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to Rs 1,000, or both. Under Section 429 of the IPC, it is a violation of law to kill animals, for which the punishment is up to five years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both – and this applies to pet shops if animals are allowed to starve to death.
If you see someone being cruel to a dog or cat during the COVID-19 pandemic, here are appropriate steps to take.
For additional help, call PETA India’s emergency number (+91 9820122602).