CHENNAI: When Soumya moved into a flat in a gated community at Thiruvanmiyur a week ago, she couldn’t have asked for a better residence to stay. The neighbours were friendly, her son had ample space to play and it was a safe locality too. But on Thursday morning, when she took her five-year-old Indian mongrel out for a walk, all hell broke loose. The very next day, she was asked to meet the residents association members of her apartment, who advised her to get rid of the dog.
“When I leave for work in the morning, I leave my dog at my mother’s house and bring her back only when I return in the evening. I’m scared of leaving my dog alone, as we were treated with such hostility after everyone came to know we had a pet. Other children are asked by their parents not to play with my son because we have a dog,” said Soumya Shankaraman, who faced similar problems when she stayed at a gated community in RA Puram previously.
Though there are no laws in place that ban residents from having pets in their houses, many residents welfare associations (RWA) in the city have framed bylaws as a part of their no pet policy that says no tenant or owner can have pets in their house.
Vidyashree, a resident of the IAS and IPS Housing Colony at Virugambakkam, has been facing the same problem, ever since she adopted a beagle. “One more resident in my block left his dog in his hometown last week because of this. Every time I take my dog for a walk, the watchman repeatedly tells me to leave my pet. Only the RWA in my block, which has 288 flats, has imposed such restrictions.”
The Animal Welfare Board of India, an advisory body of the Environment Ministry, in 2015 said that no RWA can ban pets or object to residents having pets. “According to the guidelines of the board, no RWA can impose fines or extra charges on residents for owning a pet. Nor can they create any internal law barring residents from having a pet at home. But at the same time, pet owners should take responsibility for their pets,” said Lakshmi Venkatraman, Campaign Manager of the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations.
On the other hand, this ‘no pet policy’ followed by landlords isn’t confined to only apartments. Tenants with multiple pets in individual houses are also asked to vacate on similar grounds.
As a result of this, pet owners, especially tenants, abandon their pets for fear of losing a roof over their head. The Blue Cross of India, which currently has 75-80 such abandoned dogs, gets 100 more every month, said its honorary joint secretary, Sathya Radhakrishnan.
“So many dogs are left outside our shelter. We have no idea about their health condition or even their name. Also, as most such abandoned dogs are pedigree breeds, they all have genetic health problems. These dogs are depressed and do not eat for days together,” he added.