“To begin with, we direct the Registry to rename this writ petition as In Re: Bruno [Suo Moto Public Interest Litigation Proceedings initiated by the High Court in the matter of executive and legislative inaction of the State Government in the matter of Protection of Animal Rights]. We feel that this would be a fitting tribute to the hapless dog that succumbed to acts of human cruelty, and disturbed by which incident we had initiated these proceedings,” the Kerala High Court order read as it initiated suo moto proceedings renamed ‘In Re: Bruno’ (the deceased dog) for the protection of animal rights.

Bruno, a nine-year-old Black labrador, was beaten mercilessly to death by three persons to settle enmity against its owner. The dog’s neck was tied to the hook of a boat’s fishing bait and he was beaten with heavy sticks. The incident that took place in Adimalathura, Thiruvananthapuram, sparked nationwide outrage.

Endless Animal Abuse

India is not new to brutality against animals. Such videos frequently surface on social media, making it hard to instate our faith in humanity. Though many of these incidents are registered as FIRs, the accused either escape or face minimal punishments.

Scroll.in quoted one such incident from national capital Delhi, where a couple approached an animal shelter called All Creatures Great and Small after a neighbour killed their pet dog by throwing it from the eighth floor. Even after a formal complaint, the couple was convinced by the police and neighbours to settle with a token punishment, which was to feed 100 dogs in an animal shelter.

In Goa, a female dog was brutally abused by a person, who pushed a screwdriver in her private parts, in 2018. In Kolkata, two nursing students were arrested for killing 16 puppies in 2019. In Telangana, a monkey was hanged to death for entering a farmer’s field in Ammapalem village in 2020. The same year in Ludhiana, a canine was thrashed, thrown from the terrace and dragged by auto to avenge the dog bite.

Last year, a pregnant elephant died in Kerala after eating a fruit packed with firecrackers. The accused claimed that they had stuffed firecrackers in the fruits to scare wild boars, who caused damage to the corps. Incidents like these are innumerable and continue to appear from all parts of the county.

Animal Laws in India

We have anti-cruelty laws for animals, most prominent among which are the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. However, the question is are they strong? According to the law, injuring, killing or maiming an animal is a punishable offence under IPC Sections 428 and 429. Abandoning a pet is a punishable offence under Section 11(1)(i) and Section 11(1)(j), PCA Act, 1960. One could even face imprisonment for up to three months. Keeping animals chained or confined for long intervals is punishable under Section 11(1)(h) and PCA Act, 1960. No animal can be slaughtered in a place other than a slaughterhouse. The laws also prohibit the slaughtering of sick or pregnant animals. However, the law does not prohibit anyone from feeding stray animals but feeding poisonous food to stray animals is a criminal offence.

How Effective Are They?

The laws are highly misused by the authorities in India. There have been instances where the police used PCA to criminalise communities, which have been earning livelihoods from animal labour for generations such as Sapera (snake charmers) and Madari (street performers with monkeys). Adivasis have been termed “encroachers” and “poachers” by elite-class animal rights activists, even though their existence symbolises the symbiotic relationship of humans and wildlife.

#NoMore50

To tackle the increasing crime against animals, the government announced a draft to amend the 60-year-old PCA Act, 1960, in February. Earlier, even after killing the animal, the first time offender could get away by paying a meagre fine of Rs 50. The new draft proposes a hefty fine of up to Rs 75,000 or thrice the cost of the animal or imprisonment of up to five years or both in case of the animal’s death. Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and the Union ministry of fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying also invited suggestions for the draft.

Animal lovers across the nation want the legislation to be passed in the monsoon session, scheduled to begin from July 19, Monday. These latest amendments will not only bring us a step closer to end the horrendous crimes against animals but also ensure a dignified life for them.