IN the residential apartment complex that I live in, a resident clicked a photograph of a domestic help who was walking the dog of her employers. This was done without her consent. This photograph was circulated among WhatsApp groups, which the residents are members of. There was not a thought given to the rights or feelings of the domestic help or any mental trauma that she might have gone through. It was an attempt at “social shaming” as allegedly the dog was supposed to be walked outside. The sheer insensitivity of this act disturbed me.
The bone of contention between the non-dog owners and dog-owners is the former complaining that the latter do not clean up after their pets. Many owners do, but some do not and this causes all the problems.
As of now, there are no bins for disposal and the owners are expected to carry back the poop to their homes, and dispose it off by flushing it in the toilet. Since the apartment complex is very large, it means that the dog owners or dog walkers are expected to walk several blocks carrying it. The health hazards everybody is subject to, when excreta is carried in the lifts, is ignored.
In all western countries where it is mandatory to “scoop the poop”, they also have designated bins, at every corner of the street, and also several bins, at various locations. One does not have to walk even 50 steps to locate a bin. Also there are several parks, which are enclosed areas, where dogs are allowed to run free — something extremely essential for pets.
The case of dog-owners being targeted is not new in our country. In Bangalore last month, the news of a lady, an animal welfare activist, being served eviction notice by her landlord, allegedly because she chose to walk her dog on the lawn, made front page news in the local newspapers.
Housing societies all over India are war-fields, the battles unfolding mostly in closed society portals or online groups or over phones. Anyone with access to a smartphone and fingers to type, dashes off replies, calling out the “distortion of facts” if the viewpoint is not one in alignment with their thoughts and beliefs on the same.
In 2010 in Mumbai, in what was considered a historic ruling, a consumer redressal forum rapped a housing society that charged a pet owner for his dogs using the elevator. The family in question were the D’Sozas aged 58 and 52, who were residents on the 10th floor who lived with two dogs, a Labrador and an lndie. They were shocked when extra charges of Rs 1,000 per month were slapped upon them, the reason cited being that additional electricity was consumed in transporting the dogs up and down, nuisance, stench and inconvenience being caused to other members. It was a case that set precedent and created awareness about animal rights.
The Animal Welfare Board of India has issued a formal circular in 2015 which goes into great detail with different sections such as “guidelines for care-givers of street dogs,” “guidelines for resident apartment associations” and such.
The board says that no housing society or complex can ban a pet owner from keeping pets in the apartment. The board also clearly states that even if the majority of apartment owners want it, the society cannot ban the pet from using parks or common areas. The board recognises that a pet is akin to a perennial human toddler and deserves the same attention and care that a human toddler gets throughout its infancy.
In absence of a central policy on cleaning up the poop, the board states that the association cannot impose any rule, regulation or bye-law regarding the same, or impose any charges on the pet owner. However, the board advises the pet owners to do so, out of courtesy to fellow residents.
What is most interesting to me is the fact that all these societies make rules which state that pets can be walked “outside the apartment complex premises,” and as long as the pet doesn’t defecate within the premises, it is considered okay. Isn’t the area outside the residential premises a part of your country too? As responsible citizens, don’t we want clean roads? Why is there short-sightedness in this regard?
The need of the hour is more garbage bins, creating more awareness through cleanliness campaigns about proper eco-friendly waste disposal, taking an active part in keeping our community clean, whether or not it is a part of the residential complex you live in. To close your eyes to what is happening outside the gates of your gated community is an incapacious approach like the ostrich that sticks its head in the sand, ignoring the dangers outside.
(Preeti Shenoy is the author of eight bestselling books,the latest being a fiction titled It’s All In The Planets)