In a recent incident in an upscale apartment complex in Jalahalli, north Bengaluru, a pet dog bit a child and that triggered the executive committee of the apartment to levy an annual maintenance of Rs 2,500 on all pet parents in the community. The committee also mandated pet parents to cough up Rs 1000 each, if the pet was found using passenger lifts or if poop was not cleaned up.
The discriminatory behavior of the committee has come under the scanner when the media reported it and the Bangalore Apartment Federation (BAF) stepped in. On December 28, 2018, the latter came out with a set of guidelines for all apartments’ associations to incorporate these in their bye laws. This is for the first time that in an Indian city, an association of apartments has issued guidelines for keeping pets.
The guidelines have to be incorporated in the byelaws of an apartment association or managing committees. One of the highlights is not to levy any fee separately on pet parents, which is discriminatory in nature. As per the recommendations, it however allows associations/ administration of residents in apartment complexes “to impose fines/penalty or take action, only on pet owners who violate rules and not penalize an entire community of pet owners, when you find instances of violations by a single pet parent.”
Srikant Narasimhan, general secretary of BAF said, “These guidelines for apartments we hear are being received well among most apartment associations because it places responsibility on pet parents as well as associations in a balanced manner. Charging extra fee in the name of maintenance from pet parents will not tackle the problems most apartments witness or complain about. Simultaneously, pet parents also have to become more responsible. An association has the liberty to frame byelaws including the guidelines within the constitutional framework. If someone goes to court, we believe these will hold ground.”
The guidelines have been made by a committee including Srikant, Priya Chetty Rajagopal, animal activist and people who are either afraid of animals or pet haters. “While we condemn the discriminatory behavior of associations which ask pet owners to pay extra fee, we must also understand that apartments house people who are pet neutrals or afraid of animals or simply hate pets and we must respect their feelings. The problem is also created by some who disrespect pets; and some pet owners are also to be blamed for their irresponsible act towards the animal as well as their neighbours. This policy does not target pet parents or associations who are against pets. The idea is to protect pet rights as well as bring about a sense of peaceful co-existence. Many apartments are discriminatory towards pet parents. Let us bring better standards to pet parenting,” she said.
Pet parents have been quite happy about the guidelines but pet haters and those not friendy towards pets or animals in general, are wary about the issue altogether. SV Prasad, president of Federation of Apartment Associations Bengaluru said, “Discriminatory behavior against pet parents in apartments exist in every society but we have to put an end to human rights versus pets’ rights versus pet owners’ rights. If these guidelines are adopted by apartments, it will make things easy for associations to be impartial towards pet parents and non-pet owner residents and bring about a sense of co-existence.”
Law practitioners say that the guidelines do not mandate that they be incorporated in byelaws of an apartment and that they are very mild in nature. “The guidelines are suggestive and not mandatory and completely align with enactments as per Animal Welfare Board of India. But these are very mild in nature and pet parents would be happy to take up the responsibilities. There is nothing that the court of law will have to interfere with in the guidelines at all. Although byelaws are not laws but contractual stipulations between the residents and the management or executive body of association of residents, it will be hard to challenge these guidelines in court as these are completely legitimate suggestions made,” said Anupama Hebbar, advocate, working on animal rights’ cases in Bengaluru.
Take a look at the highlights of BAF note sent to apartments:
• Animals and pets have right of existence / right to space just as human beings do
• Societies and communities should be animal / pet-friendly
• Associations and pet owners should engage collaboratively to create a framework for peaceful coexistence
Legal framework (what the Indian Constitution and law says about pet ownership) As per Article 51A (g) of the Indian Constitution,
“It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.”
Summary of legal aspects of pet ownership
• Citizens have the right to own pets whether living in individual houses or apartments and cannot be denied the right by anybody
• Apartment associations need to frame their byelaws to regulate pet ownership within the constitutional framework and which are not discriminatory in nature
• Pet owners need to abide by the reasonable rules as per the byelaws of an association
Guidelines for pet owners
• Always accompany your pets and keep them on a leash when you take them out of your home.
• Take efforts to keep your pets quiet, particularly in the night so that they do not disturb others.
• To the extent possible, train pets to poop in your home or in designated areas for pet pooping.
• Always carry newspapers to collect the poop in case the pet poops in a common area.
• Keep your pets away from people who are afraid / not comfortable with animals.
• Take care of the health of your pet, including necessary periodical vaccines.
• Abide by the reasonable rules and byelaws laid down by the apartment association.
• Take proper care of your pet and do not subject it to any cruelty – PCA Act provides for stringent penalties for negligent pet owners.
Guidelines for apartment associations
• Do not charge extra maintenance or fees from pet owners – this is discriminatory in nature.
• Do not disallow pets in lifts or other common areas.
• Collaborate with pet owners to finalize mutually convenient timings for pets to be walked about.
• Impose fines / penalties / take action only on pet owners who violate rules and not penalize an entire community of pet owners, when you find instances of violations by a pet owner.
• Engage in a dialogue with pet owners to make them aware about their responsibilities, including keeping the pets on leash in common areas and cleaning up if they poop.
• Educate other residents about the community being animal / pet-friendly and to report any instances of violations to the managing committee.
• Where possible, create designated areas for pet pooping and separate bins for collecting poop.
• Educate your residents’ community to not intimidate a pet owner into giving up or abandoning a pet.
Abandoning a pet is illegal as per Section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Intimidation, leading to abandonment of a pet, can lead to prosecution including imprisonment.
Suggested byelaws relating to pet ownership
BAF recommends that the byelaws and rules of an apartment be kept simple relating to pet ownership. The following might be included in the byelaws of an apartment association, related to pet ownership:
• Residents owning pets shall ensure that their pets are accompanied by the owner / caretaker and kept on leash at all times when the pets are outside their home.
• Residents owning pets shall ensure that they clean the place immediately, if their pet poops in a common area.
• Residents owning pets shall ensure that their pets are regularly vaccinated and abide by the rules laid down by the BBMP. BAF recommends that there be no other rules relating to pet ownership in apartments.