Response to pack attacks: new rules also restrict where & when feeders may feed street dogs
CHENNAI, India––Cats, as of March 10, 2023, are at last included in the Indian national Animal Birth Control program, operating since 2003.
The inclusion of cats in effect officially recognizes neuter/return as the preferred method of cat population control throughout India.
Street dog pack attacks kill more Indians than rabies
The newly published Animal Birth Control Rules 2023 also include for the first time restrictions on where and when street dogs may be fed in public places.
The newly published feeding restrictions are meant to reduce fatal pack attacks by street dogs, reportedly now exceeding documented deaths from rabid dog bites for the first time in the 115 years that statistics have been tabulated on either type of fatality.
Cats must not be subjected to “sounds or smells of dogs”
Section 19 of the Animal Birth Control Rules 2023 stipulates that, “Sterilization of cats may be conducted by a recognized Animal Welfare Organization with training and expertise in spay or neuter of cats, in a manner provided in the Guidelines for Cat Sterilization and Immunization, published by the [Animal Welfare] Board [of India].
Section 19 further provides that “The infrastructure and reimbursement of expenses for a Cat Birth Control program shall be provided by the local authority,” in the same manner that local governments have since 2003 subsidized spay/neuter of street dogs.
“While cat sterilization programs can be conducted in the Animal Birth Control Center provided for dogs,” Section 19 states, “the cats must not be housed with or come in contact in any way with dogs.
“The post-operative care of cats,” Section 19 adds, “must be done in a place where they do not suffer from unnecessary stress by the sounds or smells of dogs.”
Three cats replace one street dog, if food sources permit
All of this is exactly as ANIMALS 24-7 recommended in person to the Animal Welfare Board of India at the 1997 meeting in Delhi at which the board first approved the Animal Birth Control approach to population control of street dogs, but declined to discuss cat population control.
This, members of the Animal Welfare Board of India explained, was because amid the abundance of street dogs, few Indian cities had feral cat population issues.
Nonetheless, heeding warnings that three feral cats would replace every street dog not born, so long as food sources remained, at least five of the first major Animal Birth Control programs in India did do sterilization surgeries on cats, even without any governmental subsidies.
Blue Cross of India
One of those programs was that of the Blue Cross of India, of Chennai.
Headed since 1964 by electrical engineer Chinny Krishna, whose parents founded the organization in 1959, the Blue Cross of India initiated the first pilot program to sterilize street dogs in 1966; named the “ABC” program, as it is now widely known; and extended the pilot program to the whole of Chennai in 1996.
At that time the Chennai city government discontinued electrocuting impounded dogs, a practice introduced by the former British government of India in 1936, using equipment removed from pounds in England in 1925 after having been found to be inhumane.
“Wonderful that cats are included!”
The Animal Birth Control Rules 2023 “are excellent,” Chinny Krishna posted to Facebook. “The only points I would suggest as improvements are the inclusion of early age neutering [as an officially recommended technique, including the principle of Feline Fix by Five [months]; tagging animals immediately after catching, not after reaching the Animal Birth Control Center; and systematic ABC in every area to ensure 70% coverage.”
“Wonderful that cats are also included!” Chinny Krishna said.
“Feeding of Community Animals”
Section 20 of the Animal Birth Control Rules 2023, headed “Feeding of Community Animals,” states that “It shall be responsibility of the Resident Welfare Association or Apartment Owner Association or Local [governmental] Body’s representative of that area to make necessary arrangement for feeding of community animals” where any “person residing in that area provides care to street animals as a compassionate gesture.”
However, “The Resident Welfare Association or Apartment Owner Association or the Local Body’s representative shall ensure:
“1) To designate feeding spots which shall be far from children’s play areas, entry and exit points, staircases,” and “in an area which is likely to be least frequented by children and senior citizens.
“2) To designate feeding times, depending on the movement of children, senior citizens, [and] sports [activities],” when the feeding areas are “likely to be least frequented by children and senior citizens,” and
“3) Designated feeders shall ensure that there is no littering at the feeding location or violation of guidelines framed by the Resident Welfare Association or Apartment Owner Association,” or local governments.
“300 children from poor & rural families killed by dogs”
Raged Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology & the Environment conservation biologist Abi T Vanak in an Indian Express guest column on the Animal Birth Control Rules 2023, “The conflict between people and stray dogs in India has crossed the threshold of tolerance. While cases of young children being mauled to death by packs of dogs are in the news now, this phenomenon is not new. Over the last five years,” Vanak alleged, “more than 300 people — mostly children from poor and rural families — have been killed by dogs.”
Vanak did not cite a source, but ANIMALS 24-7 has collected the details of nine fatal pack attacks on children from poor and rural families during the month preceding publication of the Animal Birth Control Rules 2023.
This would project to 108 for the year.
Rabies cases plummet
Rabies killed 55 people in India in 2021, the most recent year for which the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence has published data, killed 92 in 2020, and has not killed more than 300 people in a year since 2006, when the toll was 361.
“India recorded a whopping 160,000 cases of street/stray dog bites [requiring hospital treatment] between 2019 and 2022, according to data submitted in Parliament in November 2022,” reported Chandigarh Tribune senior journalist Seema Sachdeva, lauding the Animal Birth Control Rules 2023 and extensively quoting Chinny Krishna.
The dog attacks, Seema Sachdeva observed, have “led to an increase in revenge crime and atrocities against dogs, feeders of dogs, and caregivers, as well as conflicts among urban residents.”
Pack attacks erode public faith in ABC
ANIMALS 24-7, after helping to found the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations in 2007, repeatedly pointed out via the FIAPO listserv, especially between 2009 and 2011, that fatal and disfiguring pack attacks, already escalating in frequency, would erode public confidence in the Animal Birth Control program if careless dog-feeding in public places continued to habituate street dogs to being fed.
Non-rabid dog attacks were historically rare in India, because most street dogs spent their days scavenging refuse and hunting rodents, not congregating in packs to await handouts.
However as the risk of rabies receded, directly handing food to dogs instead of simply leaving scraps for them in out-of-the-way places became popular––and fed dogs responded by mobbing any passer-by with food in their hands or carrying bags, chasing motorcycles, pedi-cabs, and bicycles, fighting each other over choice loitering locations, and ever more frequently injuring humans, especially children and seniors.
ANIMALS 24-7 left FIAPO in mid-2011 after the FIAPO listserv fell captive to a faction favoring unrestricted dog-feeding and engaged in pit bull advocacy, in the wake of several fatal pit bull attacks in Bangalore suburbs known to host illegal dogfighting.
Notwithstanding the specific prohibitions on feeding dogs in heavily trafficked public places in the Animal Birth Control Rules 2023, Delhi architect Rishi Dev of the organization Citizens for Animal Rights amplified false claims “for those who don’t bother to read or have less understanding of law” that the new rules are “a law that is now a part of the constitution and cannot be challenged, amended, changed or denied by any government, non-government department, police and even courts,” making “All other state acts, laws, bylaws null and void.”
In truth, the Animal Birth Control Rules 2023 are Indian federal regulations, promulgated like any other federal regulations to govern enforcement of the enabling legislation, not to supersede it, and––also like all other Indian federal regulations––are completely subordinate to rulings by the Supreme Court of India.
“Aggressive & nuisance dogs”
“Feeding cats and dogs is a law now,” contended Dev. “If anyone stops you from feeding, then they are going against the law. No courts can now order ‘No Feeding.’”
Further, Dev insisted, “There is no provision for aggressive or nuisance dogs, so they can’t be impounded or picked up or housed in shelters permanently.”
In fact, the Animal Birth Control Rules 2023 neither addresses nor supersedes any local, state, or national legislation pertaining to “aggressive or nuisance dogs”; it simply does not pertain to that subject.
Supreme Court of India
Indian advocates for no-kill animal control, feeding street dogs wherever and whenever, and defenders of dangerous dogs on October 12, 2022 lost a head-on collision with advocates for public safety before a two-judge panel representing the Supreme Court of India.
The Supreme Court of India panel rejected the contentions of the Animal Welfare Board of India that the 20-year-old national Animal Birth Control program is the only street dog control method permitted by law, and that previous court decisions have established feeding street dogs as a right.
Regionally nuanced & situation-specific
Instead, the court opened the door to more regionally nuanced and situation-specific interpretations of what is and is not legal under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 is in India the supreme law governing the treatment of animals, applicable in all cities and states.
The Animal Birth Control program exists through a series of edicts and regulations subordinate to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
Rules of jurisdiction
The Supreme Court of India did not allow cities and states to resume indiscriminate population control killing of dogs, nor to forbid feeding street dogs, but as LiveLaw put it, “clarified that that there is no bar on the High Courts,” meaning the equivalent of U.S. state courts, “to hear matters pertaining to the issue of stray dogs.”
Explained LiveLaw, “A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and J.K. Maheshwari clarified that an earlier order of the Supreme Court on November 18, 2015,” widely heralded by animal advocates as establishing as sacrosanct a right to feed street dogs, “did not intend for all proceedings before High Courts to come to a standstill in cases pertaining to stray dogs.”
The Supreme Court of India did, however, remind that future High Court decisions must keep in mind previous orders and precedents pertaining to dogs.
Thus, while a High Court may not authorize randomly culling street dogs, it might allow a city government to cull a dog pack of demonstrated dangerous behavior.
A High Court may not ratify a local prohibition on feeding street dogs, but could ratify rules, such as those published in the Animal Birth Control Rules 2023, pertaining to where feeding street dogs may be done safely.