On Friday (May 8th, 2020) the Bombay High Court directed the state government to pass clear instructions to the police and administration to not stop pet taxis or ambulances from ferrying sick animals to and fro from the veterinarian. The HC order also sought the clarity from the state on whether pet owners can take their pets for a walk during the lockdown.
Justice SC Gupte heard the arguments via video conferencing in response to Public Interest Litigation filed by Vineeta Tandon - an animal activist from Pune who contended that due to the pandemic, police authorities have been arbitrarily stopping citizens carrying their pets, specifically dogs on walks.
The lawyer on behalf of the petitioner- Harshwardhan Bhende argued that the police administration has given clear instructions to the housing societies to not allow and rather stop residents from taking their pets for walks. He also remarked that ambulances or pet taxis operated by NGOs and others to ferry animals from their shelters to the vet clinics and back are being arbitrarily stopped and have been obstructed by the police administration.
The Animal Welfare Board of India known as the (AWBI) has also issued requisitions to the state DGP’s to allow people to take their dogs and pets for a walk as a measure of prevention of cruelty on animals. Despite that, the police department has refused to issue passes for the pet taxis and ambulances. The directives by the board have been reported in the press too.
On behalf of the State - AGP PP Kakade stated that the directives issued by the state does not allow people to take their pets outside their compound but allowed them to walk them within the compounds. He further noted that with regard to ambulances and pet taxis ferrying animals to vets, the state had not asked the police administration to stop or prohibit the issuing of passes.
The Bombay High Court in its order held, “If there is any directive issued by the Animal Welfare Board of India to the State DGPs in the matter of walking of dogs, the state must take an appropriate decision on that behalf and communicate the same to the court by this next due. In the meantime, the state is directed to issue a clear directive to the police administration not to stop or obstruct ambulances or pet taxis for ferrying sick animals to and from veterinary clinics.”
With regard to the walking of dogs and the concerns of animal feeders, the State is directed to communicate its stand in the next hearing scheduled for May 15th, 2020.
In a similar plea, the Kerala HC last month allowed a writ petition seeking movement of a vehicle to buy pet feed by a person for his cats amid lockdown. Allowing the plea, the court observed that choice to rear pets was traceable to the fundamental right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution.