Mak­ing room for pets in hearts and homes

An RWA can­not ban pets or in­sist that small dogs are ac­cept­able and large ones are not. Im­pos­ing fines on pet own­ers is also un­law­ful

HT Estates - - HTESTATES - Ritu Ghai

Apart­ments are now an in­trin­sic part of Delhi NCR ar­eas as bun­ga­lows and in­de­pen­dent hous­ing units are be­yond the reach of the mid­dle class. And as lakhs of fam­i­lies move into high­rises, many of them want to take their pets, dogs in most cases, along with them.

The ques­tion is, is this a wise thing to do? Sev­eral hous­ing so­ci­eties have re­ported prob­lems with some ban­ning pets and other res­i­dents ob­ject­ing to bark­ing or to pets in lifts Such bizarre restric­tions have evoked bit­ter bat­tles be­tween pet own­ers, other res­i­dents and res­i­dent wel­fare as­so­ci­a­tion (RWAs) of build­ings.

AWBI (An­i­mal Wel­fare Board of In­dia), a statu­tory body es­tab­lished un­der sec­tion 4 of the PCA Act, 1960, is­sued an ad­vi­sory by a Cir­cu­lar dated Fe­bru­ary 26, 2015. It said any RWA or an apart­ment own­ers as­so­ci­a­tion, co­op­er­a­tive group hous­ing so­ci­ety, etc. can­not ban pets even if the ma­jor­ity of the res­i­dents want it. They can­not in­sist that ‘small size’ dogs are ac­cept­able and ‘large size’ dogs are not. Dog bark­ing is not a valid and com­pelling rea­son for any ban. This means that RWAs can­not even com­pel the pet owner to muz­zle pets when walk­ing them. It can­not even im­pose any spe­cial charges or fines on pet own­ers.

Any as­so­ci­a­tion that urges pet own­ers to ei­ther aban­don their pet or va­cate the apart­ment is un­law­ful and is tan­ta­mount to harassment.

What RWAs and other res­i­dent bod­ies can do is in­sist on vac­ci­na­tion, reg­is­tra­tion or li­cens­ing of pets to en­sure the safety of other res­i­dents. Des­ig­nated cor­ners can be built in com­plexes or parks for pets to re­lieve them­selves and the waste can be used for com­post with saw­dust etc. RWAs also can­not ban dogs from parks though a con­sen­sus can be ar­rived at a tim­ing ac­cept­able to all res­i­dents, when pets can be walked with­out in­con­ve­nienc­ing other res­i­dents.

Own­ers are very emo­tion­ally at­tached to their pets and deny­ing them the right to use el­e­va­tors or com­mon ar­eas with their pets is not the right thing to do just be­cause they are stay­ing in high-rise apart­ments, say pet lovers. “It’s a known fact that many so­ci­eties, on the in­sis­tence of res­i­dents, have is­sued cir­cu­lars and im­posed restric­tions on al­low­ing pets in the premises. While do­ing so, they are in­ter­fer­ing with a fun­da­men­tal free­dom guar­an­teed to the cit­i­zens of In­dia”, says Su­nil Ghai, a pas­sion­ate dog lover and vice pres­i­dent of the Shep­herd Club, Delhi Chap­ter.

“I had a Ger­man shep­herd dog in my 13th floor apart­ment in Mil­lenia Build­ing, Ram­prastha Greens, Vaishali. He was eas­ier to han­dle as a pup but as he grew peo­ple were afraid to travel in the lift with him. Al­though he was an ex­tremely play­ful dog but his size and per­sona did lit­tle to con­vince peo­ple that he was ac­tu­ally friendly and harm­less. I had to even­tu­ally ask my friend, who lived in an in­de­pen­dent house, to adopt him as it was dif­fi­cult to give him the sort of ex­er­cise such dogs of this breed re­quire. My sons still miss him and have been in­sist­ing that I bring home a Ger­man shep­herd or labrador pup. I feel hav­ing a dog in the house has a ther­a­peu­tic ef­fect as it loves un­con­di­tion­ally. Dogs are ac­tu­ally stress re­liev­ers be­sides be­ing great com­pan­ions”, he adds.

CPS Verma is a happy man to­day af­ter shift­ing from Dil­shad Gar­den to a so­ci­ety flat in Ram­prastha Greens, Vaishali. “I have an eight-year-old Labrador and I live on the eleventh floor. So lift us­age is a manda­tory re­quire­ment for me and my dog. The build­ing author­i­ties and RWA have never im­posed any restric­tions or is­sued any no­tice or cir­cu­lars. This is my right but I also un­der­stand my duty to make sure my dog is held by a leash when­ever he is in the lift. More­over labradors are among the most lov­ing and friendly breeds and my dog does not dis­turb peo­ple in the lifts”, he ex­plains.

There is no rea­son why pets can’t be taken in el­e­va­tors when out­siders, in­clud­ing ser­vice providers such as milk­men and ven­dors, have ac­cess to the fa­cil­ity with­out any charges. Since all res­i­dents of so­ci­eties pay main­te­nance ev­ery month for clean­ing of sur­round­ing ar­eas, for guards’ salaries, etc, pet own­ers are not li­able to make any ex­tra pay­ment or pay fines.

In 2008, on the or­der passed by the Thane District Con­sumer Dis­putes Re­dres­sal Fo­rum, an 11-year-old Labrador won him­self the right to travel in the el­e­va­tor of his apart­ment com­plex in a Mum­bai sub­urb and his owner also re­ceived ₹ 5,000 as com­pen­sa­tion from the apart­ment’s anti-pet man­ag­ing com­mit­tee.

Courts are view­ing com­pan­ion an­i­mals as f am­ily. Courts and even po­lice can be ap­proached for help if RWA bars you from tak­ing your pet dog in the lifts.

Clockwise from top: CPS Verma is happy with his pet in Vaishali. Ger­man Shep­herd Ve­gas en­joys play­ing with a brick in his apart­ment and pos­ing as a puppy with his brother and mas­ter

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