The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to issue a clear directive to the state police to ensure ambulances or other vehicles ferrying pets and sick animals to and from veterinary clinics are not stopped during the lockdown.
Justice S C Gupte in an order on Friday said the police administration must not obstruct or stop such vehicles. He also directed the state to clarify its stand on permitting residents across the state to take their dogs out for a walk during the coronavirus-enforced lockdown period.
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a Pune resident seeking permission to take her pet dogs outside for their daily walks. The PIL, filed through advocate Harshwardhan Bhende, claimed several police stations under the jurisdiction of Pune Police had issued "arbitrary directions" to housing societies to stop residents from taking their dogs outside for walks. Advocate Bhende also told the high court that several ambulances and pet taxis ferrying sick animals to vet clinics were being stopped by police.
He said the Pune Police were "refusing to issue passes" for such vehicles to ply during the lockdown. The plea claimed the Central Animal Welfare Board had asked the state police to permit taking dogs out for walk as prohibiting it would amount to causing cruelty to animals. Advocate Bhende said animal feeders must also be permitted to feed stray animals without any obstruction from police.
The plea alleged that the Pune Police often arbitrarily stopped pet owners from taking dogs for walks and in some cases, pet owners had been taken to police stations and detained there for over three-four hours".
However, the Maharashtra government counsels P B Kakde and M M Pable told the high court that citizens were permitted to their pets for walk inside their residential compounds. The state had only prohibited people from taking their pets outside the premises of their housing societies and individual homes.
They also said the state had "not asked its police administration to stop or obstruct ambulances or pet taxis". The high court accepted the state's submissions, but said if there existed any directives by the Animal Welfare Board of India to the state DGPs in the matter of taking dogs for walk, the state must take an appropriate decision on it and communicate the same to the court by the next date.
"In the meantime, the state is directed to issue a clear directive to the police administration not to stop or obstruct ambulances or pet taxis from ferrying sick animals to and from veterinary clinics," Justice Gupte said. As far as taking dogs for a walk and catering to their needs through animal feeders are concerned, the state should communicate its stand through an affidavit by May 15, the court said.