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Every Dog doesn’t have its Day- on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act

In India right now, we are in the middle of a dilemma: there is a strong animal rights movement which advocates for the Right To Life of dogs and companion animals; at the same time, dogs and cats are wreaking havoc on wildlife.

Simultaneously, cruelty towards animals is also outraging people more, as is the case of this little brown dog, later called Bhadra, who was videographed being thrown off a roof. By a medical student! A strong protest followed, but our Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960) is toothless.

A thin, shivering dog, the colour of light cocoa powder, was recently picked up by a grinning man, and thrown off a roof. The man is reportedly a medical student in Chennai.

The “activity” appears to have been part of planned group leisure – another person, also a student at the same institute, documented this, and the fruit of his labour is a slow-motion video carefully showing the man’s smile, the dog’s scared whimpers, and its thudding fall onto the ground.

The video has enraged people, particularly on social media. Others have come forward and filed a complaint against the men. Kind-hearted people have come forward to foster the injured dog. They have poignantly pointed out that the dog was “still wagging her tail” when they found her.

This follows close on the heels of a man caught on camera, killing puppies in Delhi.

In both instances, a small but enraged (and perhaps, growing?) community has rallied together to snatch justice for the animals and get the perpetrators behind bars.

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The dog fractured one of her legs after being thrown off a building in Chennai.

In a country where every second news headline is a crime story, news of what is done to a single stray dog, or dead puppies with no lineage or “pedigree” parents, are finally hitting the headlines.

But what will the punishment be for these acts, described as nasty, evil, barbaric, and spineless?

Prepare yourself – if convicted under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (PCA), the accused would be fined 50 rupees. Many are even fined ten rupees.

Yes, you read that right. What do you get for fifty rupees?

A notebook. A pen. A cup of tea (not coffee) at a Café Coffee Day. A couple of packets of cola candy. A single rose stem. A dab of rat poison. Not even a litre of petrol.

So while I am so indebted to all those people who take the time to share news stories, to collect themselves online and rally for “indie” dogs and nameless animals from all corners of our massive country, I urge you: ask for changes in the law.

Also read: How India can pay the perfect tribute to Shaktiman

The Supreme Court has recently asked for upgradation in the PCA Act. This is the right time to form a constituency – not just to shame people who behave in bullying and terrifying ways, but also to ask for common sense in our laws.

People’s outrage towards puppy killers and animal torturers has had many responses. There have been those with schadenfreude, making the jaded argument that there are too many human rights violations for us to care about animals.

This is such a tired and cynical argument that I have stopped responding to it.

Caring about animals does not preclude caring for people. Asking for a better way to treat animals does not mean that activists are misanthropes or wonky in the head.

The second is the more complicated argument that people who call for vigilante or mob justice are wrong – “kill the b*stard” “throw him off the roof”. I want to add to this thought.

People feel the need for vigilante justice, at least in most instances, when other options are exhausted. It’s really important to take this energy and channelise it towards stricter, and, appropriate punishments.

For starters, I would want penalties proportionate to a person’s ability to pay, and punishments for perverse and deliberate cruelty to an animal. A fine is meant to be a deterrent.

Would fifty bucks and a bunch of internet forwards constitute a deterrent? What of the animals who don’t get videographed? What about convictions that never happen because cops don’t consider them important?

One doesn’t even need to ask a friend for fifty bucks.

Even if one is a raving maniac who kills puppies because a relationship didn’t work out with a girl, one can escape shaming by going offline, or one can pay up.

Dear internet, you have come a long way – enough for police to make special search teams to find animal killers, in a country where even people’s lives are cheap. A few years ago, these would not even have been issues.

But please don’t stop. Please take the fight to your members of Parliament, to newspaper columns, to letters to the environment ministry.

No one can ever hope that the stricter laws would stop crime. We can hope though, that when convicted for crime against the voiceless – be it a child, a whimpering animal, a senior citizen – the perpetrator can experience a deterrent that is more than a fifty-rupee joke.

This first appeared in DailyO.

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