– Sanjana S. Jain147


In the recent past, though the human community is embracing pet dogs as family members, desensitized laws have made no contribution to this remarkable change. Behavioural scientists through their experiments have brought to light the fact that dogs do have emotions. The experiments and various discoveries have finally succeeded in actively negating the views of many philosophers who reduced animals to disposable items. The psychological benefits gained out of the human-animal relationship, non-human agency exhibited by dogs, assistance provided by these four-legged friends in the field of an army, courts have made it relevant for us to revisit the archaic laws.

The society’s attitude towards the wailing street dogs, irresponsible government being inconsiderate about the inferior beings, has paved the way for increased cruelty on dogs. The legal framework governing these creatures, which appears to be human-centric, has to undergo a revolutionary change of broadening its outlook by including such offenses which hurt the mental state of dogs. The IPC sections have been looked into, and the loopholes in them have been pointed out. The juridical thinking and recent advances in the jurisprudence are in the direction of recognizing the rights of nature and animals.

Judicial activism was manifested in its decision of holding local authorities liable in cases of non-complying with the rules formulated with the intention of protecting the dogs. The honourable judges’ efforts to protect the fluffy friends are indeed appreciable. The paper looks at the changes which can be brought about in the laws which could successfully alleviate the tribulations faced by canines.

Keywords: Dogs, Laws, Behavioural analysis


In ancient times, it was church-related schools and universities which sponsored science. They believed that humans have the soul and they backed their claim with the fact that humans have consciousness and feelings. Though they agreed that animals might have the same mechanical system as of humans, the absence of divine spark in these creatures is the reason behind reducing them to mere machines.148Descartes analysis is on the same lines. Descartes noted that dogs are nothing but machines149 which can be negated by taking instances of how dogs react in various situations. When a dog is angry, it would snare. Dogs help to spur other dogs. When the dog’s yelp was recorded and played at the dog shelter, it had a miraculous effect of reducing the stress of other dogs.150 This finding has wholly negated the claims of Descartes.

The researches have shown that four-legged best friends of man are bright and unique. However, many of them still believe that there are smart and dumb dogs. Brian Hare, Associate Professor in the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology and Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University, broke the stereotypes by revealing that the dogs can be intelligent at different things. Their ability to interpret communicative gestures is one of the areas in which a dog may excel.151

In the French army, dogs which were deployed contributed to the army by rendering their service as patrol dogs, liaison dogs, and guard dogs. These fluffy creatures showcased their skills by locating the wounded and conveying the location through their body language instead of barking, which could have easily attracted the attention of the enemies. These instances bring out the non-human agency.152

The scholars who realized the importance of these beings gave a call for knocking an end to human exceptionalism and a call to adopt a way of life which acknowledges the fact that we live in a ‘more than human world.’ It is proved that these dogs have the unique ability to recognize the photographs of those whom they know. Dogs, when given the privilege of living in a stable social group, would be in a position to know who they are and with whom they are.153 Hence the justification put forth by the offenders that animals are not as important or as intelligent as humans does not hold good anymore.

We cannot disregard the fact that animals can adapt to the ever-changing environment which reflects their consciousness. Humans from time immemorial have continued to consider their possession of unique capacities as a reason for their superiority over animals. Recent explorations have shattered such a myth of human exceptionalism.

The research conducted by therapists, sociologists, pediatricians, sociologists, psychologists, has brought to light the psychological benefits gained out of the human-animal relationship. Reduced blood pressures, lowered heart rate, decrease in depression, heightened mental clarity, increased speech and memory functions are some of the positive outcomes. There are several instances of dogs comforting victims in the American courts, which has made many in the criminal justice system to reconsider the way canines are treated.

German Shepard named ‘Vachss’ was honored with ‘Hero of the year’ award for its splendid service rendered by comforting children in the courtroom.154 As we go through the darkest times of our life, dogs could be our support system.155 Hence we would be committing a grave sin if we continue to ignore the vital role which animals play in our lives.

An experiment was conducted to answer an all-time question which haunted many. The issue addressed was whether dogs love their owners. In the maze experiment, an object was shown which meant that the dog would be provided with food and yet another signalling meant that the dog’s owner would arrive. It was found that a vast majority of the dogs chose praise of their owners over food.156 Undoubtedly the result of the experiment is a matter of pride to the dog lovers.

Dogs, who are heroes without a cape, show their heroism by being more protective about their owners, by guarding them, by being a companion and by empathizing them during their lows. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University pretended to be trapped behind a door and their cries made the dogs rush to their rescue. By keeping their emotions under control they put in all the efforts to save those trapped behind the doors.157 As these experimenters have been witness to the fact that dogs have the same emotions as us, it is time for us to shred our age-old beliefs and provide more protection for them within the legal framework.


As we are aware of the fact that humans are responsible for the extinction of many species, it is time for us to realize that we would survive only if the natural environment supports us. Humans, Animals, and Natural Environment are interlinked and our survival depends on the survival of animals. Health approach clearly states that harm caused to any one of these would lead to destruction.158 Unfortunately, the people who have failed to understand that the animals are members of this universe as humans have continued their slaughters.

In the year of 2017, the data collected by two NGOs – Plants and Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) and Pet Owners and Animal Lovers (PAL) brought to light the fact that the street dogs suffer from fractures either when they are run over by vehicles or when they are beaten up. 90% of the rescue cases are accident cases, while 10% of them include instances of dogs being beaten up either to show their anger on those animal lovers feeding these creatures or to put an end to its existence in their vicinity.159

An animal control officer walking with a noose is a worse nightmare to every dog out there living on the streets on its own. As it is known that the humans who first domesticated dogs, conditioned them in such a way that they have become utterly dependent upon humans. It is appalling to note that humans by forsaking their duties have orphaned these poor creatures.

Lack of tolerance exhibited by humans is the root cause of all tribulations faced by them. Hardship faced by them includes fighting for resources, guarding against intolerant humans, living in a constant state of panic. Most of the people have a firm conviction that killing a dog would be a solution to all the woes faced. Rights of dogs, Humanism, Kindness, all of these are thrown in the air while making such a hard decision.

The decision to have dogs killed talk’s volumes about the arrogance and the assumption of the superiority of humans. The government which considers culling the dogs as a sole viable option has failed to consider the fact that the dogs bite only when provoked. ABC programmes have been forsaken, and killing of dogs has become the norm. As people are involved in an endless animal-human conflict, the inaction of the authorities has been left unnoticed.160

The video of a dog being thrown from the roof in Chennai in the year 2016 horrified millions of animal lovers throughout the country.161 A video posted on Facebook on Sep 4, 2018, showed 4 members maliciously tying crackers to the helpless stray dog. The defenseless stray dog running away in agony would melt any person’s heart and would undoubtedly make one to question the inadequate laws of the land.162 These unsympathetic people not only rejoice but also go to the extent of capturing the last moments of a dog. By proudly posting the acts of cruelty on animals in their social media handles, they have committed an unforgivable blunder.163

In Chandigarh, a street dog was beaten up and tied upside down on a tree by residents of Kendriya Vihar Society. Though there were no complaints of dog bites, such a ghastly act was committed.164 In Kancheepuram, a pack of dogs feasting on the goat was poisoned the next day, and a group of farmers set fire on the dogs.165In West Bengal, an accused was caught red hand having sex with a dog and was charged under S. 377 of IPC for having sex against the order of nature.166

The bitter reality is that some people who love their pets back at home would distance themselves when they come across a howling street dog. The major problem encountered is the ignorance of people when it comes to crimes on animals. Instead of testifying in the court, such witnesses conveniently inform it to the NGOs assuming that they have done their part of work. Till the time people start considering their duties seriously towards street dogs, the dogs on streets would lead a petrified life.


The proponents of indirect duty theory though have not acknowledged the rights of animals, have talked about indirect duties which humans have towards animals. Animals to Kant, are beings which lack reason, which can neither bind us nor by which we can be bound. He stated that if we wrong a dog or a horse, as those beings can feel pain, they have right not to be beaten. The relationship between humans and animals can be described as a relationship to a being who has rights and no duties.167

Kant mercilessly opined that humans do not have any ethical duties towards animals, because of the reason that the animals do not have rationality. He recognized the indirect duties owed by the humans towards animals, because the way we treat animals has an impact and influence on the way we treat humans.168

In order to come to this conclusion, Kant relied on the four stages of cruelty by William Hogarth, which inspired the animal movement in London. Through this story, Hogarth tried to appeal to people to accept kindness, and by narrating the unfortunate fate met by the main character of the story, he tries to deter people from involving themselves in such acts. Moreover, he further equated cruelty with moral blindness. Thus, begins the story. Tom during his childhood was found torturing animals. Moreover, he used to rejoice at the sight of wailing animals.

The boys around him were also party to his monstrous acts. They hung the cat by its tail, burnt the eyes of the dove with a red-hot wire, and whipped to death an emaciated horse. Hogarth criticized the treatment meted out to the animals in the thirteenth century by making references to the malicious activities in his story. Tom’s cruelty finally took the form of homicide, and he ended up killing Ann Gill who left everything for him. He was punished with the death sentence and his body was placed in an anatomy theatre filled with surgeons dissecting his ribcage, abdomen, and eye.

In the end, the story ends with the dog sniffing Toms’ heart. Through this story, the author has undoubtedly given a strong message to the government to come up with stronger laws to punish those perpetrators who commit atrocities on animals.169 From the views of these philosophers, it can be inferred that the duties which we owe towards dogs cannot be denied because of the sole reason that animals can suffer like humans. Hence it can be construed that we have a duty to ensure the better lives of our fluffy friends.


The loopholes of the laws indicate the fact that laws of the country abandon these poor creatures. Section 428170 of IPC punishes the offenders who kill, maim, poison or render useless any animal of the value of 10 rupees with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or both. Section 429171 of IPC punishes the offenders who commit mischief on any elephant, camel, horse, mule, buffalo, bull, cow or ox, whatever may be the value thereof, or any other animal of the value of fifty rupees or upwards, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.

As the ownerless animals do not fall within the purview of this section, they are left unprotected to the whims and fancies of the people. One of the ingredients of the section is that the person who committed an offense under Section 428 should have committed such an act intentionally or should have been aware of the fact that it is likely to kill, maim or render useless an animal gets attracted only when the animal is subjected to ownership.

In the case of A.P. Arya v State of Jharkhand, an application was filed for the quashing of the criminal proceedings, which was pending in the court of magistrate. The facts of the case are that Jamshedpur Animal welfare society had sent a notice to the Vice President of Tata Motors informing them that in pursuance of the direction given by the Tata Motors, the local authority had been killing the stray dogs. The President of the Animal Welfare Organization, saw the dogs being caught by the employees of Tata motors through iron hands tongs.

It has been alleged that the company has a history of feeding poisonous meat to these defenseless stray dogs. The summons was issued to the petitioners to face the trial for the offense committed under S.11 of PCA and S. 429 of IPC. The court held that as there is no one has the right over the stray dogs which were alleged to be caught at the instance of petitioners, the killing of such animals does not constitute an offense under S.425 of IPC.

The court also reasoned out that as the dogs were not maimed, poisoned or rendered useless, hence the section 429 shall not be applied.172

For the purpose of the section, while ascertaining the value of an animal, the market value shall be taken into consideration. The value with which the owner holds his pet animal will not be taken into consideration. 173 By making the section inapplicable in the cases of mere disfigurement, the penal code of India has left the animals unprotected and has allowed people with malice to go unabated.

Slitting of the ear does not amount to maiming as the animal is not subjected to permanent injury. 174 The nature of the offense is that it is cognizable, bailable and compoundable. By providing a provision which allows compounding of such offense, the lawmakers have animals to mere disposable items.175


Recent advances in Jurisprudence are in the direction of recognizing the rights of nature. Juridical thinking in India is exhibiting its inclination towards ecocentrism and animal rights, drawing inspiration from the traditions of India. Non-Violence which constitutes an important part of our rich culture has found its place in our judgments. The shift in the paradigm can be brought out by perusing the judgments dealing with matters like vaccinating and releasing stray dogs.176

The Shimla Corporation when failed to discharge duties, as a result of which, when there was an increase in stray dog population, the court took the matter Suo moto. The Honourable court pointed out that the increased population of dogs is a threat to human population and court iterated in its judgment that besides being a nuisance to the people, dogs with skin diseases are eyesores, destroying the ambiance of the city. Such an opinion by the judge gracing an apex court might have an effect of influencing the people, who might start considering dogs as a disposable item.

The court during the ad judgment of the case looked at the responsibilities of the state government to defray the expenses incurred by the municipal corporation in discharging their duties. The court disposed of the petition after laying down specific mandatory directions which include the direction to the state government to make the stray city dogs free within the stipulated period of six months and the failure of which would make the Commissioner of Municipal Corporation liable. The corporation was directed to sterilize all dogs of the town and to establish dog pounds/ shelters/ kennels within a period of six months.177

The FIR was filed by the complainant who had come across an eco van carrying dogs tied up brutally by a metal binding wire. By emphasizing the fact that all dogs in the van were adult, the complainant made the allegation that they were transported for meat. When the accused pleaded guilty, CJM imposed a fine of 50 and directed them to pay 5000 towards expenses incurred for looking after the dogs.

When the Principal Secretary, Veterinary and Animal Husbandry did not take the custody of the dogs from PFA, Manipur, citing the reasons of non-availability of temporary or permanent shelters. PFA approached the court seeking them to direct the state government to assist the Department of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry in constructing animal shelters in all states, in providing night OPD and IPD facilities and to direct the Department of Veterinary to take custody of the dogs and to compensate PFA.

They further prayed the court to direct the state to provide facilities and fund for feeding, breeding, providing medical care for a pony and direct the state to ensure that the animals especially pony and cattle are not abandoned by their owners. The court held that if the corporation discharges its sacrosanct duties enshrined in the Animal Birth Control Rules, then the balance between compassion of dogs and lives of human beings can be successfully achieved.

The honourable judge, who condemned the callous attitude of the government towards animals, left the parties at liberty to file affidavit furnishing information about the steps taken by them in this regard. 178 The efforts made by the judiciary to hold the local authorities and the state government accountable are indeed noteworthy.

The petitioner pleaded the court in order;

  • to direct the Principal Secretary of Urban Development, Government of Uttarakhand, to come up with a regular budgetary allocation and to create campus for feral dogs in each urban area,
  • to direct Uttarakhand Animal Welfare Board and Animal Welfare Board of India to monitor and ensure that the SPCAs of the state participate in the implementation of Animal Birth Control Rules,
  • to direct the Department of Urban Development to do its duty of ensuring the availability of adequate trained staff and vehicle,
  • to direct the department to be cautious enough to not allow any killing or relocation in any district or township,
  • to direct the department to make advertisements with an intention of spreading awareness to the resident welfare association that feeding stray dogs is a compassionate act.

The court which issued above prayers as guidelines directed the authorities to comply within 6 months.179 The judicial activism manifested by the judges in the recent past in this regard is laudable.


It is believed that a positive change in the laws can bring about a positive change in the outlook of citizens. Hence, by bringing a positive change in the animal laws of the country, we can expect a revolutionary change in the mindset of the citizens. Some of the solutions have been laid down in the paper. Providing the dogs with suitable environment and diet, protecting the dogs from pain, suffering, and disease, allowing them to exhibit normal behaviour patterns, housing it apart from or with other animals is some of the responsibilities which an owner has to discharge successfully.

It becomes his primary duty to ensure that the dog is not undergoing any behavioural problems.180 Though the owner of the dogs has been vested with the legal duty to care for their pets, a broader outlook has to be employed in this regard. If the owner fails in his duty to take the pet to the veterinary or if the pets are housed in such condition that it causes physical/ mental pain, the owner should be held liable. The laws of the land should be amended in such a way that one who is guilty of not looking after their pets should be disqualified from having a pet for a particular period which may extend to lifetime.

It is need of the hour for the lawmakers to lay down guidelines to help the owners to comply with the duties laid down under S.3 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.181 This guidance has to be looked into by the judges while dealing with cases where the owner is alleged to have failed to carry on his duties.182The time has finally come for us to rectify our mistakes by adopting the virtue of compassion towards animals.