The recent government decision to ban commercial import and trading of dogs and dog market, including sale of dog meat, has caused many dog lovers in the state to heave a sigh of relief. The timing for this decision appears ideal against the backdrop of the latest barbaric shooting of a hapless dog which has been circulating all over social media. As we are all aware, this shooting was based on a ‘shoot on sight’ order by local bodies in the concerned village, which is a gross violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act) 1960. This incident of shocking brutality towards dogs based on dubious ‘shoot on sight’ orders is the latest of what has been happening time and again in our state. Many dog owners in Nagaland, myself included, have experienced the pain of losing a beloved pet in the most traumatic, senseless and violent manner. Dogs are the most loyal, loving and amongst the most intelligent of animals. They form an emotional bond with us and become part of the family.
In recent times, it is encouraging that local Animal Rights groups like Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SCPA) has taken initiatives in appealing the concerned authorities to take action against such merciless ‘shoot on sight’ orders which are being carried out indiscriminately. It was last year that the State Animal Welfare Advisory Board of Nagaland under the A. H. & Veterinary Services took measures to address these same inhumane orders. To my knowledge, most district administrations, if not all, have issued orders against illegal ‘shoot on sight’ notices by local bodies. Despite these efforts however, it is extremely upsetting that certain vigilantes are still carrying out such malicious and senseless acts of violence against dogs whilst cloaking it as ‘public service’. Unfortunately, it appears that despite government orders in place, attitudes don’t change overnight and certainly not with a piece of paper.
To be on the side of caution amidst the COVID 19 scare, the government has directed that dog owners should monitor their dogs and not allow them to roam freely to prevent dogs from going through trash and spread infected face masks, gloves etc. On our part, we dog owners should comply by being extra responsible in monitoring the activities of our pets during this COVID period. Nevertheless, shooting on sight, besides being an extreme step, is barbaric, inhumane and shouldn’t be the first solution in any civilized society.
We Nagas are a close knit community and we often choose to be the bigger person by denying ourselves legal recourse, which does not help in the grand scheme of things. But enough is enough. I am glad that a case has been filed in the latest dog shooting incident. It is high time we educate each other and realize that these heartless acts are punishable under the law. Conveniently espousing ‘customary practice/law’ is a specious argument and will not protect the offender. India has some of the finest provisions to safeguard animals. For example- To kill or maim any animal, including stray animals, is a punishable offence under IPC Section 428 and 429. There are animal protection laws in place under The Animal Welfare Board of India, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. This Board has been formed under the provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. Under these laws, legal action can be taken against any person guilty of cruelty to animals.
There appears to be an uneasy, fraught understanding between dog owners and enforcers of ‘shoot on sights’ that dogs must be chained at all times, the unspoken message being that unchained dogs, at any point of time, can be shot and consequently, the owner has only himself/herself to blame. In effect then, the owner has committed the violation of keeping his/her dog unchained. This logic is faulty on so many levels and further exposes lack of knowledge in basic animal psychology. First of all, chaining of dogs at all times is a blatant form of cruelty against animals. A dog chained for years or even months, suffers psychological damage and will become dangerously aggressive. This is because chained dogs become lonely, frustrated and suffers from stress. Furthermore, studies have revealed that chaining increases dog biting incidents. This is just one of many reasons why dogs shouldn’t be chained. Dogs are social animals and thrive on social interaction. They need lots of exercise to stay healthy and happy. Despite frequent evidences pointing to the contrary, we Nagas like to pride ourselves in being civilized and progressive. So then, let us also strive to emulate humane, ethical practices of advanced nations. A broad example- twenty two states and several hundred communities in the United States have laws banning or regulating chaining of dogs. How ludicrous that we on the other hand, have a ‘law’ enforcing chaining of dogs at all times!
We must also consider the potential danger in allowing individuals to freely roam about in public with guns, especially at night, on the prowl for loose dogs. There is high risk of shooting a fellow human being instead. What happens then? Will the affiliated NGO take responsibility? It is not good to generalize and in no way do I mean to imply that all members of the concerned local bodies condone the shooting of dogs. It is therefore imperative that the mature and sensitized members make effort to keep check on the activities of a reckless few who give a bad name to the entire organization through their ignorance. Just because a practice is in place does not mean that it is right or that it must always be so. We humans create rules and it is we who can amend it, according to the changing times. My intention in writing this article is not to belittle anyone but with the hope that a change in mindset will come about and that we evolve as better human beings.
Being a dog lover and non dog meat enthusiast, I personally feel gratified with the latest cabinet decision banning the dog market, including sale of dog meat. But this is a dicey issue as I do believe that the majority shouldn’t be allowed to infringe upon minority culture which includes eating habits. It would be more realistic to propagate humane and ethical slaughter of all animals in slaughter houses. In this context, I must also stress that dogs are a breed superior and cannot be compared with other farm animals.
Regardless, it is good that the government has taken proactive steps to protect dogs. We can only hope and appeal that the concerned authorities implement these orders in letter and spirit. In the meantime, there are enough dog lovers in Nagaland. It is high time we who care support each other, strengthen our local animal rights groups and make a united stand to ensure that laws in place for the protection of animals are enforced. Animals are the voiceless and it only we humans who can speak for them.
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