SC for humane killing of only 'irretrievably ill or mortally wounded' stray dogs

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed only "irretrievably ill or mortally wounded" stray dogs to be put down in a "humane manner" and asked all states and union territories to go by the central rules on the issue.

Maintaining that a "balance between compassion for animals and human lives" has to be struck, a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh said the "life of a dog is not more important than the life of a human being. ... Life is the glorious gift of nature and the compassion for animals and human lives should harmoniously co-exist." 

Stray DogsStray dogs picked by the Delhi authorites. File Pic/AFP

The bench made it clear that "removal/destruction" of a particular kind of stray bovines has to be done under the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act.

For the time being, it was not dealing with the relevant provisions of municipal laws of Maharashtra and Kerala but rather ordering the authorities to act as per the 2001 Rules framed under the central legislation the PCA Act.

When pointed out by counsel that some High Courts may come up with a contrary orders by taking note of such issues under the respective municipal laws, the apex court made it clear that it was asking all states and union territories to follow the central rules which will override.

The court has asked Chief Secretaries of states and UTs to provide data on cases of dog bites and "removal/destruction" of stray dogs as prescribed under the Rules.

It has also asked the authorities to apprise it of the steps taken for welfare of stray dogs. The rules require creation of shelter homes and isolation wards for certain kinds of stray dogs.

The bench is hearing a bunch of pleas including Animal Welfare Board of India's petition to decide on the issue of primacy of laws framed by Centre and state governments in this regard.

One of the pleas has been filed against Kerala High Court decision approving culling of stray dogs by the Thiruvananthapuram civic body on a PIL by advocate Anupam Tripathi.

The apex court has refused to stay the HC decision saying that the killing of dangerous dogs and those inflicted with rabies should be guided by rules.

Anjali Sharma, appearing for the Animal Welfare Board of India, said there "cannot and should not be indiscriminate" killing of stray dogs. 

The court, in its order, referred to various provisions of the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rule and asked civic authorities to act as per them.

The Rules provide that stray dogs can only be sterilised and immunised and then returned to the very location from where they were picked up from, once they recover after the animal birth control surgery, Sharma said.

"Only with respect to irretrievably ill or mortally wounded dogs, humane euthanasia, i.e. mercy killing in the manner prescribed in Rule 9 is to be resorted to by vets (and none else)," she said.

The court is also dealing with the legal question as to whether state municipal laws, which allow "destruction of stray dogs" are to be upheld or whether central law and the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act providing for animal birth control of stray canines in the manner prescribed, is to be upheld.

Maharashtra government is also seeking lifting of stay granted by the apex court on the Bombay High Court's verdict.

The High Court had allowed civic bodies in the state to cull stray dogs which are creating nuisance for public order and common persons' health.

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