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MUMBAI: In a relief to all dog lovers, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has instructed states to allow pet dogs to be taken for their daily walks.
The board, in a June 1 circular, said three time-slots of 20 minutes each be created in all zones in which pet owners can walk their dogs for their daily needs of nature’s call and exercise as it would otherwise amount to cruelty to animals under law.
The AWBI circular has been issued nation-wide to all directors of Animal Husbandry of all states and UTs.
The state advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni and pleader PP Kakade said that the state has on Friday issued circulars to adopt the AWBI guidelines and issued directions to local police and local administrations for compliance.
The AWBI circular, presented by Central government counsel, additional solicitor general Anil Singh, at a hearing via video-conferencing before a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Amjad Sayed also laid down guidelines for pet owners to follow. It requires pet owners to abide by all safety and precautionary measures including social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the last hearing the state had sought clarity from AWBI on the petdogs-walks issue as it said with Covid-19 infections still on the rise, a “granting permission as a policy measure’’ may be impractical since certain zones were declared as containment zones.
The HC had then sought such a clear stand from AWBI, which has now been declared in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Pune resident and animal activist Vineeta Tandon to permit dog owners take pets for daily walks, during the lockdown as otherwise it amounts to cruelty to animals. Her lawyer Harshvardhan Bhende submitted that with the AWBI and states’s action, her plea is worked out.
The AWBI circular said, it had been “receiving a number of representations from various organisations and pet owners informing that local administration was not allowing pets to be taken outside for their daily walks…and during the Covid-19 lockdown this was further aggravated with local administration and RWAs hindering pet owners…’’
The board clarified that stopping animals including pets from attending nature’s call is an offence, as in extreme cases animals may even die if body exreta is allowed to accumulate inside the body.
Besides keeping pets inside sans exercise also “creates metabolic disturbances’’. Not taking pets for walks is an offence under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and violation of Supreme Court orders which had directed states to take proactive steps to prevent pain and suffering to animals.
The board said it had already issued advisories March and April to allow pet animals to attend to nature’s calls and exercise.
And significantly pets “though domesticated still need minimum physical exercise likes walks’’ to keep them in good health.
Guidelines issued by AWBI for pet owners
· Buy pet food as required to avoid any unnecessary shortage of pet food to others
· Limit pet walks and take pets to answer nature’s call in time slots specified by local police or administration
· Strictly maintain social distancing and other directives issued by government
· Strictly avoid unnecessary contact of their pet with other humans and animals
· If Pet comes in contact with a Covid19 infected person, the pet should be isolated and advice of Veterinarian taken
· Vaccinate pets and keep record handy

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