There are hundreds of laws for the protection of animals in India. The main laws are the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.and rules framed under these acts. Few people, and even fewer policemen, know the law; in the face of such ignorance the animals are helpless. There is a very strong law banning cattle from being taken from one state to another for slaughter. Since nobody in authority knows about this law, lakhs of cattle are thrown helplessly into trucks and taken to slaughterhouses in other states. Kerala alone kills 2.5 lakhs of cattle every year-every single one of these poor beasts is beaten and trucked hundreds of miles from Karnataka, Tamilnadu, or Maharashtra. Goa, too, kills cattle only from Karnataka, as it finished its own animal’s years ago. Al Kabeer, India’s main slaughter factory situated in Andhra Pradesh, takes cattle from all over Northern India in defiance of the law, and is secure in that no policeman anywhere knows enough about the law to take action.

One of our activist found a madari with four baskets of snakes. She took him to the police station and, after a great deal of arguing, managed to get the police to confiscate the snakes. Since the animals had to be rehabilitated she went to call for the ambulance to shift the animals to rehabilitation centre, when she returned, however, she found that the baskets had been returned to the madari who had vanished. The police informed her that they could not find the law which enabled them to keep the snakes.

We must stop hiding behind such ignorance!

The law of our land provides for protection and humane treatment of animals, as citizens of India it is our fundamental duty to enforce these laws to protect the helpless animals who suffers in name of Religion, Science, Health, Commerce etc.

Contact local humane societies, SPCA or animal shelters to investigate and take action in cases of cruelty seen. If not available, ask the local Police Station for help in enforcing the law – giving the officer a concise, factual, written statement of cruel acts seen, with dates and approximate time. Photographs (dated) are very useful. Keep a record of the names of people contacted, and photocopy all your evidence before handing papers to officials If they are uncooperative, after being informed that you wish to pursue the case and are willing to assist as required, present the documents to their supervisors, and if necessary to local government officials (e.g. MLA) and ask them to act. If you yourself have witnessed the cruel act, ask the local Police officer to get a warrant issued by the magistrate to summon the accused to court. Expert opinion from a veterinarian is vital in most cases; inform officers that you have expert support. If there is an SPCA branch in your area, lodge a written complaint with them, and take Inspectors to the site. Police of sub-Inspector rank and above have power to enter a place where animal crime is suspected – to collect evidence (Oral, documentary, or articles), provided they have a search warrant issued by one of the authorities mentioned in section 33 of Prevention of cruelty to Animals Act 1960.

A written order by an Authority to an Officer (Writ petition can be a powerful tool in righting animals’ wrongs. Article 226 of the Constitution confers on every High Court the power to issue writs, including that of mandamus (i.e. command) demanding action from the addressee. It applies to any authority, officer, or person who is duty bound by law to take certain action, but refuses to do so.

For example:-

(a) Direction to the Corporation to frame rules about transporting animals, slaughterhouses, butchers shops in colonies, etc.
(b) Direction to the State to set up proper animal shelters and provide medical help.
(c) Direction to the Police to initiate action against violators of the PCA.
(d) Direction to the Police to register FIRs if they have been unwilling to do so.

The Supreme Court has made it mandatory for the police to register First Information Reports (FIR). If a policeman refuses to take any notice of a complaint there are two options available:
(1) If somebody has committed a cognizable offence in your presence, arrest him (section 43 of Cr. P.C.) provided that the offence is one for which the perpetrator may be arrested without a warrant. Any such arresting citizen may also search the culprit, and place any evidence found on him/her in safe custody. The citizen must hand over offender and articles to a police officer or Police Station without delay.

(2) Alternatively, in such cases, file a complaint against the offender before the Magistrate concerned, and request him/her to initiate proceedings against the wrongdoer.

Wild birds are often seen in markets. All those named in Schedules I, II, III, and IV of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 are protected species, whose capture is totally forbidden. Among often illegally sold wild birds are: Munias, Parakeets, Peacocks, Weaverbirds, Koel, Mynahs, and Owls.

Section 9 of Wild Life Protection Act 1972 (WPA) “Hunting” includes trapping without killing, too. Section 57 of WPA states that anyone in charge of captive wild animals or birds is guilty of the serious crime of “Hunting’, and liable to imprisonment up to three years (section 51 of WPA).

There are two options for the caring citizen in this situation:

(1) Lodge an FIR in the nearest Police Station; this does not necessarily cause the Police to act, so then oblige the deputed Senior Police Officer to accompany you immediately to the scene of the crime, lest trader and birds escape.

(2) The second option is citizen’s arrest (as detailed previously), for wild bird hunting is a cognizable offence. Similarly the felling of trees containing WPA protected wild birds’ nests is also a cognizable offence, as eggs are destroyed.

Draught animals – bullock, buffalo, horses, donkeys, and mules – are too often maltreated. Look for body sores and/or bleeding, abnormal gait (lameness, frothing at the mouth, very heavy or unbalanced loads) causing the animal stress. Has the driver/owner a stick with a nail at the end? Does he twist the animal’s tail, or poke it with a sharp instrument? Are the animal’s hooves correctly pared and shod? Make the driver/owner understand that a well- treated animal works much better (particularly if overloading is noticed). Warn extra passengers in tongas/carts that those above the legal limit will also be prosecuted under the PCA Act, and persuade them to dismount.

Harming Zoo animals in any way is an offence under Section 38J of the WPA, which prohibits teasing, molesting, injuring, or feeding any animal, or causing disturbance by noise or littering the zoo grounds. These offences carry imprisonment of up to six months and/or a fine up to Rs. 2000/-; they are cognizable, Citizens arrest is, therefore, appropriate in all cases. The Zoo Director should also be immediately informed as he/she is an Officer with powers to take necessary action under Wildlife Protection Act.

If, conversely, a Government Zoo is badly run, one can take legal action. Evidence – photographs, visual description of care such as feeding patterns, quality and suitability of food/water, protection from extremes of weather, and types of cleaners used – is essential. A writ petition may be filed in the High Court seeking directions against the Zoo which being registered under the WPA, is obliged to comply with all care conditions laid down in the Recognition of Zoos Rules. The Court can also issue directions to the Central Zoo Authority to ensure the violating Zoo’s future compliance with all rules, or alternatively the CZA can be directed to close the offending zoo, and relocate the animals.

Zoos, were all brought under the purview of the Central Zoo Authority (a statutory body which controls, regulates, and specifies the norms for all Zoos in the country) in the 1991 amendment to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. It was then ruled mandatory for all Zoos to apply for a license, and to keep specified rules on hygiene, feeding, upkeep, health, treatment, veterinary facilities, breeding of animals, and minimum enclosure sizes. The government now has banned all mobile Zoos.

It is illegal for all people, including tribal, to kill deer or wild boar for meat. Tribes have no separate rights regarding wild animals. Similarly the netting of any butterflies anywhere is illegal. Fishing without a valid permit/license is also illegal as is dynamiting, under Sub-clause (a) of Sub-section (1) of Section 11 of the PCA Act, prohibiting any person from subjecting any animal to unnecessary pain or suffering.

The government of India has further prohibited performance of Bares, Monkeys, Tigers, Panthers, and Lions. Therefore it is illegal to perform these Animals on streets or in circus. There is no dearth of animal laws in India, but what is required is awareness among the masses and law enforcing authorities.