As we go about our daily activities, it is easy to forget what it means to make small differences that significantly impact the lives of animals with whom we share our planet. But, our animals need us - now more than ever, and it is time we came forth and learned what it is to be kind, generous, humane, and compassionate. If you look beyond the concrete jungle, you'll find loyalty in unconditional love, humility in trust, and hope in difficulty - animals teach us the very essence of our existence.
That said, there is one animal who we like to call - four-legged, fearless, and absolutely fabulous! Regardless of where they live - in a house or on the road, dogs represent genuine love, irreplaceable trust, and unconditional loyalty. Despite all they represent, stray dogs in India are considered a 'menace' by the ignorant and by those who lack accurate information on the rights of these innocent animals. To begin with, feeding stray dogs is not a crime, and feeders can move the court in case of assault from feeding. They might never understand why you're feeding dogs that live on the road, probably because they don't understand that what keeps humanity alive in a 'human' is most often 'a dog'. Under section 11 of the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, it is illegal to poison stray dogs. Unfortunately, the very government that passed this rule did nothing for the poisoning of stray dogs in Kerala. Our stray dogs guard our homes and streets with no condition; they take away our worries for the few moments we spend with them, and above all, they teach each the pure joy of being grateful for the small things in life. Then why must they be harmed for being themselves - fearless, friendly, and free! Under sections 428 and 429 of the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, you can report any person or people who inflict harm on a stray dog. Although this happens every day and at every nook and corner, it is up to us to rise for the strays and stop being helpless bystanders.
Are you an active feeder who is questioned about your act and looked down upon for doing something generous? Well, there are a lot of us out there, and when you get tired of fighting with people who just do not get the emotion behind feeding strays, an ID might help to put their minds to rest. The Animal Welfare Board of India issues IDs for those who feed stray dogs. These IDs act as a support and validate the feeders' actions as being 'lawful' and not illegal. How unfortunate is it that we now need IDs to be kind and compassionate? IDs issued by the AWBI seek to prevent unnecessary assault/harassment - verbal or physical of the feeders. We're all witness to the havoc that is created when people try to relocate stray dogs, and the only way to stop it is to make people aware of the law - under section 11 (i and j) of the PFA Act, it is illegal to relocate stray animals. Lastly, for all the people who think that it is right to capture animals, under section 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the capture of stray animals with the intention of inflicting harm is illegal.
Animals that live on the road fall under what is called a 'social responsibility'. They live off of people's kindness and responsibility towards a better society. As citizens of a country known to be rich in biodiversity, we must ensure that our animals are healthy, safe, and entitled to justice. They should be allowed to express natural behavior without fear, distress, or pain, and as Justice Sharma said, "we need to speak on their behalf". Sometimes, making a difference is just about being selfless towards animals that cannot speak up for themselves. Let's start with immunizing the stray dogs (that live in our locality) against rabies. Since rabies is fatal, people are always scared of getting it from a dog's bite. Next, as a community, pool in to feed as many strays as possible - two square meals a day is quite sufficient for their tummies. Further, if you happen to see any cruelty against stray dogs, be sure to report it. The more reports that people file, the more aware the government becomes towards the issue of animal cruelty.
We believe that it is the tiny efforts that go a long way in bringing hope and joy to the four-legged friends who protect our homes and streets. As a part of PetSutra's #riseforthestray initiative, thousands of pet parents fed stray dogs in their locality and otherwise. Over 20,000 bags of food filled the tummies of homeless, hungry strays over three months – because when it comes to compassion, you never have enough of it! What started off as a small effort to help dogs in need grew into a campaign that brought much-needed awareness and empathy to the homeless dog population in India.
They are our pillar of strength in sickness and health, our motivation to look longingly into the future, and our silence amid the inescapable cacophony. They bring out what's best in us and teach us to be not just a 'human' but to be humane - to be grateful in every sense of the word, to be kind no matter, and to be brave even when the going gets tough, and if you look back, some of our fondest memories and proudest moments were spent in the presence of a dog. 'Stray' dogs, as they are often called, have taught us that there will always be a reason to overcome the hard day and for that, as citizens of a better tomorrow, let us #RiseForTheStrays every hour of every day.