Rights & Responsibilities of Animal Feeders
What can an animal feeder do if stopped by an RWA or local community person?
Many feeders have been a victim to harassment by Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) or people in their local communities - for just the act of feeding their community animals. It can be an immensely frustrating experience to encounter such opposition, especially when you are helping our animal neighbours and providing care for those in need. Therefore, it’s important to consider your responsibilities and know your rights as an animal feeder, so you can resolve such situations if and when they arise.
Feeding stray animals is one of the first ways in which an animal lover starts contributing to the cause of welfare. We have previously written a guide on how to feed stray dogs. Here are some suggestions for feeding animals responsibly in your community:
- Firstly, when you are feeding animals in or around a residential colony, choose a regular feeding location that is away from the entry of any houses or apartment buildings.
- Make it a point to avoid causing inconvenience to others, as fights and confrontations may cause problems for the animals in your care. Remember that whilst you may be able to go back to your home, the animals will likely face the consequences!
- Feed the dogs once a day. KAW believes that if you feed multiple times in a day, community animals’ natural instinct of scavenging food becomes disrupted and their survival skills decline. The dog can become entirely dependent on you, which can be difficult if you are not around even for a few days. (However, there are exceptions to this, such as pregnant dogs, orphaned pups, sick, old, or paralyzed dogs that need food servings as per a vet’s instruction. These dogs are unable to properly scavenge for food and require a little more support.)
- Dogs can be territorial and live in packs, so feed dogs of different packs in separate areas to avoid fights! Dog fights can lead to injuries among those in your care and can create problems for residents of the area.
- Allot a time for feeding - ideally one when others are not around, in order to cause the least disturbance. Early morning, mid-afternoon, or late night work best.
If you are confronted by an RWA or community member who challenges your right to feed and exhibits hostility towards you or the dogs, you can rely on your legal rights!
- RWAs are not government-recognised bodies. There are certain laws that secure the safety of animals.
- As per our laws, dogs cannot be driven away, dumped in other areas, or harmed in any way. They can be vaccinated and sterilised as per the rules in the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, and must be returned to their original habitat afterwards. Dogs tend to fight off other dogs and keep them from entering their territories, so returning them to their original area stabilises the dog population in each territory.
- There are no laws that prohibit the feeding of street animals. Citizens who choose to do so are in fact performing a duty in the Constitution of showing compassion to all living creatures.
- Section 503 & 506 of the Indian Penal Code cover criminal intimidation. Indeed, it is a criminal offence to threaten, abuse, or harass neighbours who feed homeless animals. The punishment can result in imprisonment or fine depending on the severity of the problem.
With these responsibilities and legal rights in mind, it’s also important to consider other ways through which you can promote animal welfare and influence others in your community.
- One of the best ways to stop animals from being treated as secondary in any community is by raising awareness and educating people. Documents on the rights of animal feeders should be shared with RWAs, and seminars can be held within the society about how to best coexist with community animals.
- In fact, one potentially effective way to manage problems with resident welfare associations is to join them! If animal lovers become a part of these organisations, they will naturally become more understanding and the perspective of those who care for community animals will be put forward.
- It is also crucial to understand and express to others that by treating animals well, we will have fewer conflicts between people and animals. Dogs that have been looked after by humans are much less likely to show aggression towards them.
- Another line of reasoning which you can use involves challenging the widespread belief that animals are disposable or “worth” less than people. No living being should experience starvation - would any of us deny food or water to a starving human being? There are laws and regulations that support the work you are doing for animals, but we need to make sure to the best of our efforts that we are responsible and respectful at the same time. Appealing to people’s compassion for other people may help you persuade them to extend such compassion towards community animals.
It’s a fact that not everyone will love dogs or animals, and you can’t always convince them to do so. If someone dislikes animals, try to turn their mindset into one that is neutral. By creating a neutral environment for everyone, you can continue to do good work for animals with minimal interference.
Remember your main goal: attempt to resolve problems so that everyone can coexist. KAW promotes coexistence of humans and animals, and we want the same for our society!