The Pet Peeve Of RWAs Is Against The Law
In most modern-day families, pets are a part of the arrangement. Now, imagine moving into a new apartment and being told by your Resident Welfare Association (RWA) that pets are not allowed in the premises. While such regulations are sure to disappoint you, many RWAs have been coming up with clauses in their bye-laws, banning pets.
While some RWAs resort to imposing a monthly penalty on people keeping pets, some restrict pets from using elevators. Imagine being in a multi-storey building with a pet in such a scenario.
In February 2015, the Animal Welfare Board of India issued a notice with a set of guidelines for the pet owners. Under the law, no RWA or any other society associate can discourage a resident from owning a pet. At the same time, the pet owner's role as a parent is also to ensure that they keep the pet clean and in good health and away from harming others. The guidelines issued in the notice include:
RWA cannot ask you to give up your pet
According to the guidelines, the residents need be careful about their pets and ensure that they don't harm others. While doing so, they must also distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable, lawful and unlawful claims of their pets creating trouble for others. However, such pressure should not let them abandon their pets as it is an offence under law.
In case an RWA asks a resident to give up on their pet, it will be considered an offence.
RWA cannot express ridicule against barking
There could be instances when a pet owner's dog barks, which might not be liked by the neigbhours. The guidelines put this noise as a way of expression and must be tolerated. However, pet parents are advised to help the situation as much as possible to avoid inconvenience to neighbours.
RWA cannot tell you which breed you can pet
A pet is your family member and the RWA cannot dictate the kind, the size or the breed of pets you can keep. It cannot ban any kind of pet stating 'large-sized dogs are not allowed'. Also, even if the majority in a general body meeting of the RWA decide against you keeping your pet, this is illegal.
RWA can put forth reasonable requests
Pet owners should discuss with their RWAs ways and means to dispose pet excreta etc. The RWA can also allot pet corners and designated areas for such use. It is also mentioned that pet owners and caregivers and dogwalkers must ensure that if the pet defecates in public premises, it is the owner's duty to ensure cleanliness. “It is clarified that it is for each residential community and complex to decide which method works best for them and solutions cannot be imposed on anybody,” the guidelines read.
No RWA can ask for a penalty or impose a rule or bye-law which says that pet owners must clean pet excreta etc. This is because there is no state or Central law which says so. However, pet owners must agree to lawful requests for a smooth community living. It is the responsibility of owners to keep their pets healthy and clean. Many neighbours might not like pets and animals, because they may pose to be health hazards if they aren't clean and tidy. Regular vaccinations and sterlisation are advisable.
RWAs cannot insist upon the leash
Do ensure to leash your pets in public to ensure others are comfortable around it and neither the pet nor others should be victims in an accident that was evitable. The RWAs, however, cannot insist upon the use of muzzles. There is strict penalty against negligent pet parents and aggrieved parties can avail of it.
RWA cannot discourage you from using lifts
No RWA has the right to debar pets from lifts though owners, if asked, could use alternate working lifts, if such a service is easily accessible and comfortable. Also, RWAs cannot insist on a fee from you for making your pets use these lifts.
RWA cannot discourage you from using parks
Exercise and outings in parks are important for pets. Hence, RWAs or associations cannot debar your pet from getting into the parks. However, keeping in mind everyone's convenience, you can mutually agree upon an acceptable timing to walk your dog. The timings can be intimated to the general body.
Free to pet
- You may approach the Animal Welfare Board of India in case the wellbeing of an animal is threatened
- You can also approach Registrar of Societies for any arbitrary functioning of an RWA. The RoS has the power to dissolve an RWA, if need be.
- A complaint can also be filed with the local police station having jurisdiction over your area. If the RWA forcibly hinders the entry of pets into the society premises that results in harm to the pet, a case under Section 428, 429 IPC (Indian Penal Code) can be registered against the RWA office bearers.
- You can also approach the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum in case of any complaints. Action can be initiated against RWA members under Section 2 (1)(g) of the Consumers Protection Act.
- The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, cast a duty upon the citizens of this country to safeguard the animals and environment. Many RWAs prohibit their residents from feeding and taking care of roadside stray animals. This prohibition cannot be upheld and is a limitation upon a persons' liberty.
- RWA resolutions that may harm animals violate Section 11 (3) of Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 1960. It is also against Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution which provides for protection and improvement of the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.
However, maintaining the peace and beauty of your housing society is your responsibility, too. So to ensure that your pets don't harm anyone or litter the society.
With inputs from Anshul Agarwal