Considering the legality of the prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dogs Breeding and Marketing) Rules 2017, the Madras High Court on Wednesday granted interim relief to pet breeders of restraining the state from physically seizing dogs from their owners.
The said Rules introduced by the Centre proceed on the assumption that breeding amounts to "cruelty" for the purpose of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and accordingly prohibit breeders from carrying on any breeding activity or owning or housing dogs for breeding and sale of dogs and pups, unless he has obtained a certificate of registration in respect of the establishment being used for breeding or housing the dogs for breeding, from the State Animal Welfare Board.
Chief Justice A. P. Shah and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy noted that the challenge raised to the Rules framed under Section 38 of the 1960 Act is that it clearly amounts to an incompetent exercise of framing a delegated legislation which is constitutionally impermissible keeping in view the nature of the definition of Entries as contained in Entry – 15 of List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India which is exclusively a State subject.
It is urged on behalf of the petitioner that the exercise is in contrast to Entry 17 and Entry 17B of the Concurrent List - that breeding not being a defined cruelty under Section 11 of the Act of 1960, there is no competence with the Central Government to frame any such Rules.
"Thus, the challenge is on the ground of total incompetence with a further contention that it even travels beyond the boundaries contained in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960", observed the division bench.
On the other hand, the respondents have come up with a plea that breeding per se may not be cruelty, but, breeding in violation of certain norms relatable to dignified animal existence of pets may be excessive and it is in order to regulate such contingencies which may amount to cruelty that Rules can be framed and thus, saved under List III Entry 17B of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India read with Section 38 of 1960 Act.
The Court on Wednesday deemed it fit to grant time to the Centre to file its counter-affidavit before proceeding with the hearing.
The bench also called for details as to any such challenge having been raised in any other Court and orders passed in relation thereto as well as such other expert material and research documents that may be necessary with regard to breeding and possession of animals vis-a-vis cruelty in the light of impugned Rules.
However, it was of the view that during the interregnum period, "keeping in view the COVID situation existing as on today, particularly, in the State of Tamil Nadu", it is "expedient" and "in the interest of justice" to provide interim relief to the effect that pursuant to the impugned Rules, no further action to physically seize dogs from their owners shall be undertaken by the respondent State subject to any further orders in this regard.
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