The Maharashtra government informed the Bombay High Court on Friday that circular issued by the Animal Welfare Board of India dated June 1 stating that pet owners should be allowed to take their pets for walks during the ongoing lockdown and restricting them would amount to animal cruelty, has been adopted by the State Animal Husbandry Department and state police has been directed to comply with the said circular.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice AA Sayed were hearing via video conferencing a Public Interest Litigation filed by Vineeta Tandon, an animal welfare activist from Pune who sought directions to the police authorities who were allegedly stopping people from taking their pets on a walk outside during the lockdown.
Advocate General AA Kumbhakoni submitted that AWBI's circular has been adopted by the State Animal Husbandry department and the local administration & police have been directed to follow the said circular.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh appeared on behalf of the Union of India. He placed the AWBI circular before the Court and submitted that the Union government's stand on the issue is in consonance with the AWBI circular.
As per the circular issued by AWBI dated June 1, all State Chief Secretaries were called upon to allow people to walk their dogs as a measure of prevention of cruelty to animals. The circular states-
"In view of the above, it is requested to kindly direct the local administration to create at least 3 time slots of 20 minutes each in all the zones during which pet owners can take their animals out to urinate or defecate and for walk/ exercise provided they adhere to the "Board's Guideline for pet owners and caregivers to be followed during this period of COVID-19 pandemic 2020" issued by the Board."
In a previous hearing, Court had asked the State to follow any directive issued by the Animal Welfare Board of India to the State DGPs in the matter of walking of dogs, tand in the meantime, the State was 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 as was alleged by the petitioner.
Advocate Harshwardhan Bhende appeared on behalf of the petitioner had contended before the Court that the police stations have issued arbitrary directions to housing societies to stop residents from taking their dogs for walks. Also, ambulances or pet taxis operated by NGOs and others to ferry animals from their shelters or pet owners to veterinary clinics and back are being arbitrarily stopped and obstructed by the police administration, the petitioner had alleged.
However, after hearing submissions from the State and the Union, Advocate Bhende expressed satisfaction with regard to the prayers in the PIL and stated that the matter may be disposed of
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