The problem of stray animals is not new in India. These animals regularly obstruct highway flow, resulting in serious traffic accidents. The issue deteriorates at night, when the unrestricted wandering makes it impossible for cars to see them owing to the darkness. As a result of stray animal incidents, many lives have already been lost, and many more have been wounded. Stray animals, such as dogs, have become a big issue in cities due to excessive barking and biting, generating not only noise pollution but also health risks for human civilization.
Every five years, the national level of livestock population data is gathered. The most recent livestock census occurred in 2019, and the next one is scheduled for 2024. According to the 2019 census, the total number of stray dogs and livestock in the country was 203.31 lakh. The administration of public health, sanitation, and livestock pounds is the responsibility of the state/UT government, and local governments must develop a strategy to regulate stray animals in order to safeguard residents.
According to Article 246(3) of the Indian Constitution, in List II of the Seventh Schedule, the Preservation, protection, and improvement of stock, as well as the prevention of animal diseases; veterinary training and practise are under the State list, on which the State has exclusive power to make laws for such State or any part thereof with respect to any of the matters enumerated in List II of the Seventh Schedule.
Furthermore, according to Article 48 of the Indian Constitution, the state shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines, and shall, in particular, take steps to preserve and improve breeds, as well as prohibit the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.
According to the Eleventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution, the state may endow Panchayat with the authority to develop and operate Cattle Pounds (Kanji Houses)/Gaushala Shelters (community assets). For the management of stray cattle, many states are erecting Gaushalas and Shelter Houses.
Furthermore, according to Section 3 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Creatures Act, 1960, it is the responsibility of anybody who has care or charge of any animal to take all reasonable efforts to safeguard the well-being of such animals and to avoid undue pain and suffering.
Section 11(1)(h) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 states that it is cruelty if any person, being the owner of (any animal), fails to provide such animal with sufficient food, drink, or shelter. Section 11(1)(i) states that it is cruelty if any person, without reasonable cause, abandons any animal in circumstances that make it likely that it will suffer pain due to starvation, thirst, and it is also a punishable offence under the PCA Act, 1960.The provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the Rules created under it, must be implemented by state governments.
According to the aforementioned constitutional provisions, the states are required to set up shelters and quarantine houses in order to manage the stray animal population. In addition, the Central Government has established Rules for Animal Birth Limit (Dogs) in order to control the dog population. Local Bodies are obligated to execute the ABC Program in their respective locations in accordance with the Rules.
The number of people killed by animals in each state/UT during 2018-2020 is listed in Annexure-I. No Gaushalas have been established across the country during the previous three years under the Rashtriya Gokul Mission.
However, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) provides financial assistance to recognised Gaushalas/AWOs/NGOs/SPCAs and Local bodies under a scheme titled Shelter House for the establishment of new animal Shelter Houses and under the Regular Grant Scheme for the maintenance of animal shelters, animal medicines, the purchase of medical equipment, and the holding of veterinary camps, among other things, and rescued cattle maintenance grant for the maintenance of animals rescued from illegal trafficking.
Furthermore, under the programme of Provision of Ambulance Services for Animals in Distress, financial help is provided for the acquisition of suitable vehicles for transportation, rescue, and the provision of emergency services to animals in distress. The Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying, Shri. Parshottam Rupala, provided this information in a written reply to the Lok Sabha today.
Large animals, particularly cows, considerably contribute to the stray animal population. The unlawful dairy farms must be closed down. Following that, huge Gaushalas in suitable places capable of caring for a large number of stray cattle must be encouraged. If animals escape from a dairy or cow shed, the licence shall be cancelled, and the dairies should be relocated outside of the city.
Furthermore, owners of stray cattle who let their animals to roam freely in public streets must be penalised. The municipal corporation should engage a robust animal catching team to catch stray animals such as dogs. To limit the stray animal population, pet ownership, commerce, and rubbish management must all be regulated.