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TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.


One must try to be a mouthpiece for the voiceless. One should help in rehabilitation and advocate for stricter and more uniform laws...


Mahatma Gandhi once said: The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. Ironically, in his very own country, animals are run over on the streets, tied to bikes and dragged long distances, poisoned and otherwise brutalized, all amid a hue and cry from animal activists for enforcement of stricter animal protection laws. Isnt it time civilized society realized that animals are an essential part of the ecosystem and have as much right to life and safety as humans? TreeTake takes a look at cruelty to animals in India...

Ever since his brother-cum-friend Jai was bludgeoned to death last month, Veeru has been heartbroken, scared and forlorn, not even eating properly. No, we are not talking about the famous leading pair from the film ‘Sholay’, but of a couple of canines lovingly adopted and cared for by the residents of a building in Lokhandwala, Mumbai, since 2020. Needless to state, the merciless killing sparked a protest, on ground and online, calling for justice for the animal. 

Actor Sudhanshu Pandey of TV serial 'Anupama' fame, who was the first to see Jai lying in a pool of blood was outraged, saying the residents considered him their child. An FIR was lodged according to which the dog had run after a girl, bringing forth a threat from her father. CCTV footage then showed the accused walk out of the building with a stick past midnight. Social media posts calling for justice claimed the accused had been let off on bail at a mere Rs 50, but police said he had not been arrested so there was no question of bail and as per the procedure, he was sent a notice under Section 41 A of the CrPC. 

            Meet Ashar, Cruelty Case Division Legal Advisor and Manager at PETA India said though the offence was bailable and the amount for bail typically higher, an investigation would be conducted, a chargesheet filed, and a trial conducted, and only after that would a punishment be decided. Ashar cited a similar case in Navi Mumbai in 2015 in which the trial court in 2021 fined two the accused Rs 20,000 each, along with community service at an animal protection institute. But this is not a lone case. Throughout the length and breadth of the country, in almost every city, mute, defenseless animals, mostly strays, are subjected to brutality.

Recently, in Lucknow, a couple tied a stray dog to the back of a motorcycle with a wire and dragged it on the road, beating it mercilessly with a rod. An NGO got wind of it and arrived on the spot, even calling the police. The hapless animal had allegedly nipped the hand of the couple’s daughter. The seriously injured canine was sent to a veterinary hospital which said it would take a month to recover, and the accused couple got bail. 

In October 2021, some kids set a kitten on fire in Hyderabad. The kitten suffered severe burns and died shortly afterward. The local police registered a case under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act when animal rights activists raised a hue and cry. In another case in the same city, the local municipality conducted a mass culling of stray dogs after complaints from residents about stray dog attacks. The bodies were later found dumped in a forest.  

In Rajasthan, 11 langurs were killed using sharp objects. Forest officials further added that they were beaten and attacked with acid. The farmers thought that the langurs were harming their crops and the best solution was to kill them. In yet another case, a police vehicle ran over a cow in Chhattisgarh. A video of the incident went viral and animal activists demanded action, following which a probe was conducted and the driver suspended. In 2021, labourers poured tar on a street dog sleeping on the roadside. Then, there was another incident of guards of a shop beating up an already injured dog even as it was left with no energy to get up and escape (the exact location of the incident could not be found out though there was a video posted to highlight the crime).

A most shocking case of brutality was revealed in a recent video that was posted in an animal lovers’ group on Facebook wherein a live white goat was thrown in a pyre by a crowd of cheering villagers. The goat tried to escape thrice from the fire, bleating hoarsely with pain, but each time was caught and thrown back into the fire until it succumbed. This incident was too shocking, and a hue and cry was made to find out its exact location and timing. The result was that the video was removed!

There is a long list of such tragic incidents, underscoring the need for stronger animal welfare and protection laws in the country. More importantly, the culprits must be made accountable for their cruel actions. Not only poisoning and killing but also beating or harassing the poor animals in any way must be made to stop. Maneka Gandhi, founder, and chairperson of People for Animals, India’s largest animal welfare organisation, said the laws should be strict and the police should be trained to use the laws that exist. Besides, during election time, the issue should be raised with every member of Parliament.

Psychological problem?

What is the mentality of a person who does not have any qualms in drowning a kitten or burning or torturing an animal?

As per Dr Vivek Agrawal, a leading psychiatrist of Lucknow, shooing away an animal or giving it a slap is one thing, but barbaric action is quite another. “Such people suffer from a condition called conduct disorder. They do not feel empathy towards fellow living beings and unfortunately, they are not even aware of this fact. There should be more awareness in society and parents must teach their children from an early age to behave kindly with animals,” he said. According to a psychologist wishing anonymity, some people unleash cruelty on animals due to ignorance, others for fun but mostly it is because people think that animals are ‘lesser beings’ and inconsequential.

According to a report titled ‘In their own right’, prepared by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) on crimes against animals during 2010-20 in India, the idea persists that such crimes are not a major issue. Every form of violence documented is rooted in the view that animals are lesser beings. In fact, in recent years, there has been an alarming rise in the number of cases of cruelty against animals, with mostly stray animals being targeted. Deccan Hospital’s clinical psychologist Dr Radhika said some persons might have some sort of fear or bias against some animals, like dogs.

The FIAPO report cited 20,000 intentional and brutal crimes against animals in the last 10 years in India. That means on an average, five stray animals are killed per day in a violent act. The actual figure could be at least 10 times higher, according to the report, which means 50 animal deaths per day and an average of two animals being senselessly killed every hour in a country that has been torchbearer of non-violence and practices ahimsa as a way of life. 

Dr AK Verma of the Gwari government veterinary hospital, Lucknow, said: “We sometimes get cases in which an animal has been subjected to violence and it is heart wrenching to see that people can be so cruel. In a civilized society, there should be more awareness about a kind attitude towards animals and of, course, the laws should be stronger to deter such behaviour.”  

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960

The basic cruelty law of India is contained in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. The Act's objective is to prevent unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to amend the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals. The Act defines “animal” as any living creature other than a human being.

In accordance with Chapter II of the Act, the Government of India established the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) with some of the following functions: Advising the central government regarding amendments and rules to prevent unnecessary pain while transporting animals, performing experiments on animals or storing animals in captivity. Encouragement of financial assistance, rescue homes and animal shelters for old animals. Advising the government on medical care and regulations for animal hospitals. Imparting education and awareness on humane treatment of animals. Advising the central government regarding general matters of animal welfare.

The Act enumerates different variants of cruelty to animals under Section 11 as the following actions:

 a) Beating, kicking, overriding, overloading, torturing and causing unnecessary pain to any animal.

 b) Using an old, injured or unfit animal for work (the punishment applies to the owner and user).

 c) Administering an injurious drug/medicine to any animal.

 d) Carrying an animal in any vehicle in a way that causes it pain and discomfort.

 e) Keeping any animal in a cage where it doesn’t have reasonable opportunity of movement.

F) Keeping an animal on an unreasonably heavy or short chain for an unreasonable period.

 g) Keeping an animal in total and habitual confinement with no reasonable opportunity to exercise.

 h) Being an owner failing to provide the animal with sufficient food, drink or shelter.

 i) Abandoning an animal without reasonable cause.

 j) Willfully permitting an owned animal to roam on streets or leaving it on the streets to die of disease, old age or disability.

 k) Offering for sale an animal which is suffering pain due to mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding or other ill-treatment.

 l) Mutilating or killing animals through cruel manners such as using strychnine injections.

 m) Using an animal as bait for another animal solely for entertainment.

 n) Organizing, keeping, using or managing any place for animal fighting.

 o) Shooting an animal when it is released from captivity for such purpose.

However, the Act does not consider as cruelty the dehorning/castration of cattle in the prescribed manner, destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers in prescribed manner and extermination of any animal under the authority of law. This Section provides somewhat of a leeway.

Jitendra Sarin, lawyer, Allahabad high court said: “Protection of animals is one of the fundamental duties provided in the Indian Constitution and there exist several animal welfare legislations such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 at the Central level and cow slaughter prohibition legislations at the State levels. Section 428 and 429 of the IPC provides for punishment for cruelty against animals such as killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering useless of animals. The maximum punishment provided under these provisions was five years but many a time offenders have to only pay a meager amount as fine. On the other hand, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 was legislated with an objective to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals. Under the act, animal cruelty is punishable with a fine of Rs 10 which may extend to Rs 50 on first conviction. On subsequent conviction within three years of a previous offence, it is punishable with a fine of Rs 25 which may extend to Rs 100 or imprisonment of three months or with both. However, these laws could not stop acts of cruelty against animals. Now and then, one comes across videos on social media showing cruelty to animals. Thus, there is need to amend the laws prohibiting cruelty against animals by enhancing the punishment for such acts and introducing new provisions prohibiting and punishing, recording and sharing the videos of animal cruelty on social media.”

What animal welfare organisations/activists say

Animal welfare organisations such as the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), People For Animals (PFA), and People for Cattle in India (PFCI) have been highlighting the plight of voiceless animals. These organisations have been working tirelessly to change the attitude of people towards animals and are finding ways to address the root cause of the problem. 

Meet Ashar, Cruelty Case Division Legal Advisor and Manager at PETA India, said: “While punishments under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972 and Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 are stronger, punishments under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960—India’s main animal protection legislation—are light. This is a serious problem—currently, people convicted of crimes against animals often get away with paying only a paltry Rs 50 fine. However, PETA India always urges the police to apply all relevant provisions of law for the maximum punishment such as Section 429 of the IPC. Section 429 of the IPC, which deals with the maiming and killing of animals carries a punishment of jail time up to five years or fine, or both and is a cognisable offence. Section 377 of the IPC makes sexual abuse of animals a non-bailable offence, punishable by up to lifetime imprisonment along with fine.” WPA, 1972 provides for a maximum jail term of 7 years and a fine of at least 25,000. Some offences under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 are also non-bailable in nature.

“A multitude of cruelty to animals cases are reported to PETA India regularly ranging from people abusing community dogs and cats, cruelty towards stray cattle that are typically discards of the dairy industry, cruelty towards companion animals, illegal slaughter/killing of animals, cruelty towards animals kept in captivity or used for entertainment,” she added. “PETA India’s Cruelty Response Team works round the clock to address cruelty cases that are reported by the public. We work with local law enforcement officials and team up with local activists or NGOs where necessary to get appropriate action taken – FIR registered, animal(s) rescued from cruelty, prevent illegal slaughter/sacrifice, avert unlawful animal fighting or racing event and much more. We recommend that perpetrators of animal abuse undergo psychiatric evaluation and receive counselling, as abusing animals indicates deep psychological disturbance. Research shows that people who commit acts of cruelty to animals are often repeat offenders who move on to hurting other animals, including humans.” A study published in Forensic Research & Criminology International Journal stated “Those who engage in animal cruelty were three times more likely to commit other crimes, including murder, rape, robbery, assault, harassment, threats, and drug/substance abuse.” Animal abusers are a danger to everyone – they take their issues out on whoever is available to them, human or non-human, and must be stopped before they act again.

“If any society chooses to treat cruelty to animals lightly, they are encouraging violence towards humans too. That’s because research in psychology and criminology shows that people who commit acts of cruelty to animals often don’t stop there – many move on to hurting other animals or humans. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has found that a history of animal abuse is one of the traits that regularly appears in the records of serial rapists and murderers. Strengthening our animal protection laws is the need of the hour, not only to safeguard animals from abuse, but to ensure the safety of the societies too. PETA India has long campaigned for strengthening the PCA Act, 1960, which contains outdated, inadequate penalties, such as a maximum fine of only Rs 50 for convicted first-time offenders (although the IPC prescribes stronger punishments). In a proposal sent to the central government regarding an amendment to the PCA Act, PETA India has recommended significantly increasing penalties for cruelty to animals,” Meet elaborated.

However, the efforts of the Animal Welfare Board of India can be gauged from the fact that none of their officials was willing to speak on the subject. They did not answer repeated efforts to contact them, evaded replies and one of them (member secretary, Maharashtra AWBI) flew off the handle saying he did not wish to talk and was too busy.

A former member of an SPCA said on condition of anonymity: "As per the Establishment of SPCA Rules, 2001, every district is supposed to have a functional SPCA under the chairmanship of the District Collector. Till 2017, most of the districts ignored this directive and private NGOs continued to work as SPCAs with recognition from the AWBI. In 2017 some districts implemented this rule and all private SPCAs were asked to change their names or face prosecution. This was a painful period for these private SPCAs who have given their best years and efforts to prevent cruelty on behalf of the government, when the latter did nothing to implement the rules.  Most government SPCAs are only existing in name, most still do not have the mandatory facilities of running ambulance services or hospital, let alone an inspectorate to prosecute cruelties against animals, which is the most important and the first activity for an SPCA - to prevent cruelty. In 2023, a draft for the amendment of the 2001 Rules was published for comments. However, the new amended rules have not been notified yet. During this transition, general public and NGOs have faced severe difficulties to get work facilitated through the government SPCAs, some of which are not yet registered with the charity commissioner even after 7 years of the revival. Windows to attend and close cases with private SPCAs were very quick. Cruelties would be attended with priority. Sadly, this is not the case with the revamped SPCAs. It takes constant follow ups for cases to be attended, the concept of cruelty is unclear with them. Unless the SPCAs come under a veterinary department, we don't see much hope.”

Police take 

Senior IPS officer Aravind Chaturvedi said: “Police execute prevailing rules and regulations. So, their role is limited. However, stronger rules are needed. Such incidents, in the long run, have an adverse impact on the young, especially children, whom we teach to be kind to animals. Gruesome videos on social media often traumatise them.” On anonymous videos on animal cruelty surfacing on social media, he said there were forensic tools to detect where and when such videos were posted and there were a few agencies in Mumbai which traced such things, but it would take dedicated efforts which only an NGO or organisation could make, and not an individual.

DCP central, Lucknow R Tyagi said: “In all such cases, police act within the ambit of law. When FIRs are lodged, cases are investigated. However, if people help by coming forward with evidence, the case can be put up in court speedily. It would then be for the court to decide the punishment.”

What can be done?

There is a need to sensitise people, particularly children, about being kind to animals. In fact, in 2017, the Madras high court passed an order directing the state government to include animal welfare in school curriculum. People for Cattle founder Arun Prasanna had approached the court as the number of animal cruelty cases were alarming in Tamil Nadu as well as across India. Some animal welfare organisations like Blue Cross of Hyderabad have been conducting awareness workshops for schoolchildren to guide them on how they can help community animals around them and how they can bring about a positive change in society.  

It is also imperative to drive home the point that both humans and animals belong to the same ecosystem, both have their own importance and lives of both are precious. In a civilized society, animals must be accorded their rightful place. Moreover, there is a need to combat such cruelty towards animals with courage and kindness. People openly showing kindness to animals, even going out of their way to feed strays or help animals in distress, can inspire others, especially the younger generation. Besides, people should be courageous enough to raise a voice and speak out if they see an animal being attacked or harmed, they should contact the police without any reservations, and even the local SPCA. 

How can you take action against animal cruelty?

Remaining calm and taking prompt action can help save an animal’s life.  

One should ensure one is safe before intervening in any situation involving animal cruelty. If the situation appears dangerous or violent, one should not take the risk. Instead, the focus should be on documenting the incident safely from a distance. Howsoever moved one might be, emotions should be kept under check and one must make rational decisions, not confronting the perpetrators till there is adequate support or backup.

On coming across an injured or sick animal, one must take it to the nearest vet or government veterinary hospital. If this is not possible , one should summon help and stay with it till help arrives. Although it make take a person’s precious time, it can potentially be a life-or-death verdict for the animal.

            One should always try to gather evidence as documentation is crucial when it comes to reporting animal cruelty in India. One should try to capture photos or videos of the incident on a smartphone or camera, making sure that the images are clear and recognisable, specially of the perpetrators. Information like date, time, location, and landmarks around should also be collected as it will be valuable when reporting the incident.

When one has collected all the information and evidence on coming across an incident of animal abuse and the animal has been taken care of the incident should be reported to the authorities concerned immediately. The nearest police station can be contacted and if the police do not respond, District Animal Welfare Officers or animal welfare shelters or NGOs can be contacted. 

Last, but not the least, one must try to be a mouthpiece for the voiceless. One should help in rehabilitation and advocate for stricter and more uniform laws. 

Remember, many animals routinely subjected to physical violence, abuse and life-threatening neglect have no one to turn to. They pin their hopes on a kind soul standing up for them and speaking on their behalf before it’s too late. The revered Dalai Lama has rightly said: “Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to a man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not to die, so do other creatures.”

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