When Sainik Farms in south Delhi saw a veritable battle against illegal dog boarding & breeding facility

It was a one-month ordeal for residents, and a lesson in how sheer apathy and rampant corruption among government officials can lead to even the right to live peacefully being trampled upon

The pet shop which was operating the illegal dog boarding and breeding facility in Sainik Farms colony of south Delhi
The pet shop which was operating the illegal dog boarding and breeding facility in Sainik Farms colony of south Delhi

Rahul Gul

A quiet, leafy residential colony in south Delhi, Sainik Farms, recently saw a property being leased out to a pet shop owner, who turned it into a dog boarding and breeding facility.

The residents, disturbed by constant yelling and howling of multiple dogs, at all hours of the day and night, were at their wit’s end on how to deal with the issue. The dogs were evidently being treated in a cruel manner, and the racket was causing a huge nuisance for everyone in the vicinity.

When they tried to have the issue addressed, what followed was a one-month ordeal, and a lesson in how sheer apathy and rampant corruption in government machinery can become a huge obstacle even for Good Samaritans.

The residents got in touch with numerous animal welfare activists by tagging them on Twitter etc, not an easy task in the first place, who then gave various pieces of advice. This included registering a complaint at the local police station, complaining to the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), calling up the MCD, getting in touch with Animal Husband Department, Delhi Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) etc.

When a complaint was made to the local police station, PS Neb Sarai in south district of Delhi Police, its staff simply stamped and returned the complaint's duplicate copy and said it will be forwarded to an investigation officer, which apparently never happened.

As per Section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960, beating, kicking, over-riding, overloading, over-driving, torturing or otherwise treating any animals so as to subject it to unnecessary pain amounts to cruelty on animals. An offender is liable for such actions under the Act and it is a cognizable offence under Section 428 and Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code, which means the police is bound to register an FIR when it is informed of such an incident.

However, this never happened, as is usually the case.

Attempts to bring the matter to the attention of the SHO, ACP (Sangam Vihar) and DCP (South district) Benita Mary Jaiker did not bear fruit, with none of them taking or returning calls.

Emails sent to Rakesh Asthana, Commissioner of Police, Delhi and Meenu Choudhary, Joint Commissioner of Police (Southern Range) did not elicit any response.

None of the officers or their staff officers were accessible on phone, whether the official landlines or cellphones.

Under Section 133 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc), 1973, the police can submit a request to the local Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) and obtain an order for removal of anything causing a public nuisance, as in this case.

However, practically speaking, an aggrieved individual needs to engage a lawyer and petition the SDM’s court, which costs significant money, time and energy. Even if such an order is finally issued, its execution, again, would need to be done by the local police.

When contacted, a board member of AWBI whose cellphone number happened to be listed on its official website, said it could only issue an advisory and had no real power.

Its incumbent chairperson, an Indian Forest Service officer serving as Joint Secretary in Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, was inaccessible on phone, with the staff flatly refusing to buzzer him on the landline or share his cellphone number.

The Director of Veterinary Department of South Delhi Municipal Corportation, when somehow contacted, said they could only issue a notice, advising residents to approach Delhi government's Animal Husband Department since it had powers to inspect and seize animals being subjected to cruelty.

There was no response to a complaint emailed to the Director of Animal Husband Department as well as DSCPA, the latter too helmed by the same official. After persistent calls and emails, an 'animal ambulance' finally visited the site of the dog boarding/breeding facility, but the staff left shortly thereafter, contending that they did not find the dogs being treated with cruelty! Eyewitnesses claimed that money changed hands, but it remains a matter of conjecture.

A dog breeding facility needs to obtain a license under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Breeding and Marketing) Rules, 2017, which was evidently not done in this case. But there is no mechanism to lodge a complaint and no clarity on which government authority will deal with it.

The Delhi govt's Animal Husbandry Department claimed to have served a notice to the pet shop, running under the name and style of ‘PK Pet Shop & Clinic’ in Malviya Nagar and Ambedkar Nagar in south Delhi, saying all pets will be seized from it for illegal trade in pets after the notice period runs out.

Whether that happened or not would, perhaps, never be known, and chances are good that money may simply have changed hands.

Calls made to the Delhi Chief Secretary, Development Commissioner and other senior officials of Delhi government were futile, with no officer available on their official landlines and their staff refusing to divulge their cellphone numbers as if they were keys to Fort Knox.

Eventually, it was pressure mounted by a well-known animal welfare activist which turned the tide. She made calls to the area SHO, the property’s owner and an office-bearer of the local RWA -- who, incidentally, actually denied that he even held such a position -- letting them know they could land in trouble if they didn't take necessary action.

As if happened, two developments happened just around this time which also contributed to the facility being finally shuttered down. One, the dog boarding facility 'lost' a dog in its custody, following which its inconsolable owner went to the police demanding lodging of an FIR against the owner. Second, the Delhi Forest Department razed down some part of the property for encroaching upon forest land.

Incidentally, as per animal welfare activists, it is common for the so-called dog boarding facilities to sell off dogs left under their care in good faith to other people willing to pay the price to get custody of a grown-up dog, and claim that it escaped or got 'lost'.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Never give in.

What you can do if you witness animal cruelty:

If you come across a situation or instance where cruelty is being meted to an animal, you can:

--Call police control room (phone no. 112)

--Lodge a written complaint at your local police station, insisting on receiving a stamped copy bearing Daily Diary number

--Email Ms Maneka Gandhi (gandhim@nic.in)

--Contact Animal Welfare Board of India (Dr Sujit Kumar Dutta, Secretary: Phone no: 0129-2555700; email: animalwelfareboard@gmail.com)

--Tag People for Animals on Twitter (@pfaindia)

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    Published: 04 May 2022, 3:25 PM