Docking the tail or cropping the ears of your pet dog does not amount to mutilation and cannot be treated as cruelty to the animal, the Madras High Court has ruled.
The court also ruled that neither the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) nor the Veterinary Council of India has any authority to prohibit registered veterinarians from performing tail docking and ear cropping of certain breeds of pet dogs such as Doberman, Cocker Spaniel, Great Danes and Boxer at the request of their owners.
Allowing a writ petition filed by Kennel Club of India (KCI), Justice D. Hariparanthaman quashed a notice issued by the veterinary council on November 11, 2011, directing all registered veterinarians in the country to stop forthwith the practice of performing the two surgical procedures on pups. The notice had warned the veterinarians of stringent action if they were found to be continuing the practice.
It was issued on the basis of a letter written to the council by the AWBI Chairman who had opined that the surgical procedures cause mutilation and therefore amount to violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act 1960.
The chairman had also claimed that many countries including the United Kingdom had banned the two surgical procedures.
Assailing the notice, KCI contended that the two surgical procedures actually make the dogs look good and stay alert besides preventing ear infection and injuries on the tails.
Further, drawing an analogy, the petitioner club said that the chairman’s view was akin to declaring as illegal the act of people choosing to perform circumcision and piercing the ears and noses of their newborn children.
After recording submissions made by both sides, the judge said that tail docking and ear cropping would not amount to mutilating the pets and therefore dog lovers or owners could not be accused of such an offence.
Though the term ‘mutilation’ had not been defined under the PCA Act, the judge relied on the meanings found in various dictionaries to arrive at the conclusion.
Not wanting to go into the correctness of articles and books written about the two surgical procedures, Mr. Justice Hariparanthaman pointed out that the procedures were only regulated and not prohibited in the UK. The AWBI and the veterinary council had not disputed the fact that dogs belonging to the police department were also subjected to ear cropping and tail docking.
He stated that the notice under challenge was bad in law as the AWBI’s statutory role was restricted to advising the Centre. It was up to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to give effect to the advice by invoking its rule making power under Section 38 of the PCA Act. But no such rule had been framed with regard to the present issue.
To make things worse, the veterinary council had issued the notice on the basis of a letter written by the AWBI’s chairman alone and not the Board as such.
“In my view, the AWBI is different from chairman… Section 9 of the Act contemplates providing of advice by AWBI and not by the chairman… Hence, the advisory of the chairman cannot be treated as the decision of AWBI,” the judge added.