In the month of March 2023, two sets of Rules were issued in a gap of mere 10 days under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act) of 1960. This is probably necessitated due to several judicial orders from different High Courts and also the intervention of the Supreme Court on stray dog management. Over the years, Courts have adopted varied positions on the issue of management of stray dogs. In Animal Welfare Board of India v. People for Elimination of Stray Troubles, the Supreme Court, underlined that the issue of street dogs shall only be done strictly adhering to the 2001 Rules and any attempt to circumvent these rules will not be tolerated. Following this, the Karnataka State Government had issued a detailed guideline for the monitoring and implementation of the 2001 Rules. These Guidelines entrust Urban Local Bodies across the State with the duty to put these rules into action. Standard Operating Procedure for the ABC Program, infrastructure to be set up for the same, manpower required, rabies protocol, post-operative care and more are detailed in these Guidelines. In another order issued in November 2016, the Court strongly disagreed with the cruel ways adopted by the State of Kerala to solve the issue of stray dogs which included some groups and organizations imparting training to even children to kill stray dogs.
The Allahabad High Court in 2020 had ordered the removal of stray cattle and stray dogs from a certain area, however, Maneka Gandhi, as an intervening applicant, brought another order issued by the Supreme Court in the Animal Welfare case on 18 November 2015 requesting all High Courts to not pass any orders relating to the PCA Act or the 2001 Rules. Acknowledging this, Allahabad High Court put its order for the removal of dogs in abeyance. In October 2022, the Supreme Court gave a clarification that the order of 18 November 2015 is not intended to restrict any High court from resolving issues relating to stray dogs. It held that matters requiring urgent resolution under the PCA Act or the 2001 Rules can be taken up and decided by the High courts.
PCA is one of the most important legislations for the protection of animals from cruel treatment. It establishes the Animal Welfare Board of India and regulates various activities that can inflict pain and suffering on animals such as experimentation. India has quite a number of laws and regulations to protect its fauna and the Rules issued in March 2023, can be clubbed among the same. This article offers an insight into the both of these Rules.
Animal Birth Control Rules, 2023
As per the State of Pet Homelessness Index of 2021, India is home to 62 million stray dogs. Stray dog population in India comprises of dogs that were born in the streets and also dogs that were previously kept as pet dogs but eventually abandoned by owners in the streets. Huge stray population caused by lack of or improper birth control methods have been a source of concern as stray dog attacks has consistently grown over the years. As per World Health Organization, India accounts for nearly 60% of the rabies deaths mediated through dogs in Asia and 36% of global rabies deaths happen in India. Rabies is a deadly virus that is transmitted to humans mostly through stray dog bites. The mortality rate of rabies is close to 100%, however, it can be prevented by vaccinations. Methods adopted to address the population explosion has been far from preferable in many cases including mass culling of stray dogs. Conflicts have also arisen between individuals or groups that feed street dogs in residential areas and other members of the residents associations or communities. In certain cases some associations have banned feeding of strays.
It is in this backdrop, the Animal Birth Control Rules, 2023 notified on 10th March 2023 becomes extremely relevant. This is not the first time rules are being issued to find a balanced solution to the issue of stray dogs. In 2001, Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 were issued which aimed at capturing, sterilizing and releasing street dogs and the onus of ensuring the goals of the Rules were put on the local authorities. The 2023 Rules retain the essence of the 2001 Rules but is infused with other provisions that are aimed at a more humane way of handling this issue.
Animal Birth Control Program
The 2023 Rules are applicable to pet dogs and as well as to street dogs. The category of street dogs will include ‘community dogs’ which are defined by the Rules as dogs born into a community and not owned by a particular individual or organization and abandoned pets. As the title suggests, it seeks to put in place a procedural framework for controlling the unchecked breeding of stray dogs. An ‘Animal Birth Control Program’ (hereinafter referred to as ABC Program) has to be put in place by local authorities (Municipal Council, Municipal Committee, District Panchayats etc.). They may conduct it through their veterinary offices or through any Animal Welfare Organisation recognised by the Animal Welfare Board of India (hereinafter referred to as ‘Board’). ABC program has to be certified by the Board for it to be operational. ABC Program shall strictly adhere to the procedures and conditions laid down in the ‘Module’ which is a document on dog population management and rabies eradication issued by the Board. This program shall be operationalized through Animal Birth Control Centres (ABC Centres) which are various kinds of veterinary facilities required for the implementation of it.
Once an application for the recognition of an Animal Birth Control Centre is received by the Board, it shall direct the Animal Husbandry Department of the respective State to do a thorough inspection of the premises of said applicant Centre within 30 days from the receipt of the application, to ensure whether the Module conditions are followed.
In the case of pet dogs, the owners are responsible for ensuring deworming, immunisation and sterilisation of them and in case of street dogs, the responsibility falls on the local authority. Local authorities are further responsible for ensuring that kennels, veterinary hospitals, vans modified for safe handling and transportation of dogs, a mobile Operation Theatre Van and other facilities required for safe birth control of dogs, in the ABC Centres within their jurisdiction. A Monitoring Committee shall be constituted for the effective implementation of the ABC Program, rabies eradication and reduction of human-animal conflicts. Further, a Local Animal Birth Control Monitoring Committee will be constituted to gauge the level of implementation of ABC Program. The Board is also conferred with the power to inspect ABC Centres periodically or on the receipt of a complaint and if any violation is found, the Board has the power to cancel the registration of or blacklist the Animal Welfare Organization from further participating in ABC Program. Said violations are considered an offence under PCA Act and the office bearers of such organization or the Project In-Chief (Veterinary Officer in charge of the ABC Program) can be charged with them.
The Rules charts out the procedure for capturing, sterilizing and releasing of street dogs. In the past there have been incidents where street dogs were captured in cruel ways by inflicting physical or mental agony, furthering the violent tendencies of the animal. Thus the Rules tread very carefully on this issue. The team set out to capture dogs shall have two or more employees of the local authority or Animal Welfare Organisation who are trained in humane capturing of street dogs. Sufficient announcements shall be given to the residents nearby prior to the capturing and also that they will be released into the same area after the procedure is done. This is crucial to prevent any casualties that could take place while capturing street dogs. Special regards is given to prevent overcrowding of ABC Centres. Several other provisions ensuring utmost care while handling the captured dogs are embedded within these Rules. If the services of an Animal Welfare Organisation are used for the sterilisation or immunisation of dogs, they shall be reimbursed by the local authority.
Even though the focus of the Rules are on dogs, cats can also be spayed and neutered in accordance with the Guidelines for Cat Sterilisation and Immunisation, published by the Board and this is also a significant provision as uncontrolled feline population growth is also another growing concern. Animal Welfare Organisations that take up such cases will be provided the necessary infrastructure and reimbursed by the local authority.
The Rules permit euthanasia of dogs that are diagnosed by a team appointed by the Local Animal Birth Control Monitoring Committee as incurably ill or fatally wounded. Euthanasia of a dog has to be done in a humane way by a qualified veterinarian and shall not be done in front of another dog.
Complaints regarding dog bites or rabid dogs can be made to the Animal Helpline established by the local authority. Animal Welfare Organization or the Project In-charge is responsible for recording and resolving such complaints. Complaints so received shall be reported to the Government Medical Hospital for post-bite treatment and such animals will be kept in ABC Centres and be observed and further action shall be done depending upon the status of the animal.
Feeding of community animals
As mentioned before, this has become a bone of contention between resident associations/communities and those who feed stray animals in residential areas. The Rules directs resident welfare associations or apartment owner association to work with the individuals who intends to or is feeding stray animals in such area to make necessary arrangements for safe and proper feeding. Special areas for feeding have to be designated keeping in mind the size of dog population and the territorial nature of the animal. Such areas shall not be close to play areas for children, entrance or exit to the apartment or building or areas frequented by children and senior citizens. The designated feeder shall also ensure that there is no littering in the area. In case of a conflict regarding this, an Animal Welfare Committee constituted for this purposes shall take a decision on it and such decision shall be final. The 2001 Rules lacked any provision on feeding of stray animals.
In contrast to the 2001 Rules, the 2023 Rules definitely has a huge focus on effective implementation, the lack of which was one of the main reasons for the failure of the former. The new Rules attempt to establish a better balance between keeping the human safe and caring for the four legged non-human animals.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Animal Husbandry Practices and Procedures) Rules, 2023
The second set of rules that were notified on 20th March 2023 under Section 38(1) of PCA Act is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Animal Husbandry Practices and Procedures) Rules, 2023. As per the Rules various practices namely, dehorning, nose roping, branding and castration to which cattle are commonly subjected to will be performed by a Registered Veterinary Practitioner.
Manner of Castration
- It shall be done at an early age as possible.
- Under anaesthesia.
- During the procedure, animal shall be placed on a soft ground with the head elevated.
- Animal should be blind folded and humanely handled before the procedure.
- Pain relieving drugs shall be given to the animal after the procedure as recommended.
Manner of Dehorning/Disbudding
- Animal should be blindfolded before and during the procedure.
- Under anaesthesia.
- Pain relieving drugs shall be given to the animal after the procedure as recommended.
- Discouraged, where selection and breeding of naturally hornless cattle is preferred as a policy.
- Manner of Branding
- Alternatives to branding such as ear-tagging or using of radio frequency shall be explored for identification purposes.
- If branding has to be done, then it can be done only on dead tissues.
- Animal shall be blindfolded before and during the procedure.
- Thickness of branding shall not be more than 3/4th of the thickness of the dead tissue on which it is done.
- Sedatives or analgesics shall be administered as recommended.
Manner of Nose-Roping
- To be adopted as the method to restrain and handle the method only if all other human methods including behavioural methods fail.
- Shall be done under the while sedated.
- Instrument used for nose-roping shall be sterilized.
- Rope used for this purpose shall be made of natural fibre and not sharp or rough.
If an animal is affected with a disease, it can be euthanized, in the opinion of the Central Government or the State Government, to prevent the spread of such disease. It can also be permitted if in the opinion of a registered veterinary practitioner the animal is fatally injured. Manner of euthanasia is also prescribed by the Rules, echoing the humane treatment reflected in the previous provisions as well.
In addition to these provisions, the Rules prohibit several cruel and harmful practices such as inserting more than one rope in the nose, cold branding, and using plastic or other sharp materials for nose roping etc.
In a recent incident, the Muzhappilangadu Panchayat in the Kannur district of Kerala has moved to the Supreme Court to euthanize suspected rabid or extremely dangerous dogs. This action was prompted as a 11 year old boy was mauled to death by stray dogs in this Panchayat. The matter is scheduled to be heard along with several other petitions on stray dogs by the Apex Court on 18th October 2023. Even though the 2023 Rules do not specify whether stray dogs can be relocated, the Odisha High Court ordered the relocation of all stray dogs in the National Law University, Odisha campus, as one of the students was suffering from cerebral palsy and 65% disability after being attacked by stray dogs in the campus. Thus the matter of dog management with humane treatment of animals becomes a critical balancing act between human v/s animal’s rights.
The subject matter of the two new rules may be different, however, the core of these Rules remain the same; kinder and more humane way of treating animals. The first of these, Animal Birth Control Rules, 2023, are not only aiming to protect dogs; both strays and pets, by ensuring safer procedures for their birth control, but also humans from dog bites and further severe health complications that may arise from rabid dogs. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Animal Husbandry Practices and Procedures) Rules, 2023, also stands out as an excellent intervention to prevention inhumane and cruel treatment of cattle by their owners or handlers. How these Rules will fare in terms of implementation, especially the former in comparison to its predecessor will largely depend on the role of Urban and Rural local bodies, though many Municipalities were taking measure to control the menace of stray dogs, they must seek to implements these rules in letter and spirit. Regardless, these are value additions to the growing jurisprudence of animal rights in India.
 Sairam Bhat, Professor of Law & Coordinator, CEERA-NLSIU.
** Gayathri K K, Research Associate, CEER-NLSIU.
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 Guidelines for the Monitoring and Implementation of Animal Birth control(ABC) programme in the state, https://ahvs.karnataka.gov.in/storage/pdf-files/Joint%20Circuler%20attachment%20English.pdf (last visited on Sep. 23, 2023)
 Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 691/2009, http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/stray%20dogs%20Kerala%20Supreme%20Court.pdf (last visited on Sep. 23, 2023)
 In Re: Civil Misc. Intervention Application No. Nil of 2020, https://theleaflet.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Allahabad-High-Court_August-31_Stary-Dogs-matter.pdf (last visited on Sep. 22, 2023)
 Animal Welfare Board of India v People for Elimination of Stray Troubles & Ors., Civil Appeal No(s) 5988/2019, https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/994200992138873order12-oct-2022-440603.pdf (last visited on Sep. 22, 2023)
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 The fatal mauling of 4-year-old forces India to grapple with stray dog problem, CNN World (Apr. 1, 2023) https://edition.cnn.com/2023/04/01/india/india-stray-dog-attack-debate-intl-hnk/index.html (last visited on Sep. 22, 2023)
 Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, WHO https://www.who.int/teams/control-of-neglected-tropical-diseases/rabies/epidemiology-and-burden (last visited on Sep. 22, 2023)
 Bharat A Patel, Jalahalli residents’ society in soup over ban on feeding strays, Bangalore Mirror (Jul. 19, 2016) https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/bangalore/others/jalahalli-residents-society-in-soup-over-ban-on-feeding-strays/articleshow/53273083.cms (last visited on Sep. 22, 2023)
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 Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, https://chdanimalhusbandry.gov.in/pdf/ABC__Dogs__Rules__2001.pdf (last visited on Sep. 22, 2023)
 Rule 7
 Rule 3(1)
 Rule 3(6)
 The team for the inspection shall consist of:
- Chief Veterinary Officer of the District;
- Nodal officer of the State Animal Birth Control Monitoring Committee;
- Representative of the Board or the State Board;
- One expert having specialization in Veterinary Surgery or in the field of Animal Birth Control programme.
 Rule 8
 Rule 10
 Rule 9
 Rule 14
 Rule 18(4), 18(5)
 Rule 11
 Rule 15
 Rule 15(2)
 Rule 16(1)
 Rule 20
 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Animal Husbandry Practices and Procedures) Rules, 2023, https://awbi.gov.in/uploads/regulations/167956428519244574.pdf (last visited on Sep. 22, 2023)
 Rule 4
 Rule 5
 Rule 6
 Rule 7
 Rule 8
 Rule 9
 Arjun Raghunath, Stray dogs maul 11-yr-old boy with autism to death in Kannur, Deccan Herald (Jun. 12, 2023), https://www.deccanherald.com/india/stray-dogs-maul-11-yr-old-boy-with-autism-to-death-in-kannur-1227015.html
 The Hindu Bureau, SC to hear stray dog ‘menace’ case on October 18 to iron out a lasting solution, The Hindu (Sep. 22, 2023), https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-to-hear-stray-dog-menace-case-on-october-18-to-iron-out-a-lasting-solution/article67331372.ece (last visited on Sep. 23, 2023)
 Statesman News Service, Odisha HC orders relocation of stray dogs from NLU campus in 24 hours, The Statesman (Aug. 29, 2023), https://www.thestatesman.com/india/odisha-hc-orders-relocation-of-stray-dogs-from-nlu-campus-in-24-hours-1503216766.html (last visited on Sep. 23, 2023)