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
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