Pet Food is ‘Essential’ Item in Lockdown

The Kerala High Court has specified that the essential list of food/ fodder for milch animals includes food for pets.

It’s been hard to get food for pets, especially during the pandemic. However, a recent court judgement made it easier for people to get pet food, as it is an essential item.

A self declaration is sufficient to procure food items for pets. The High Court judgement of one state is by law applicable to all states in the Union of India unless it is explicitly set aside by another High Court or the Supreme Court of India.

The petitioner filed the case after police authorities denied him a vehicle pass to buy special “Meo-Persian” biscuits for his three cats. The petitioner felt the decision was arbitrary as this was an essential food item for his pets.

A brief explanation of the judgement

Animals have rights, including the fundamental right to life (according to Article 21 of our Constitution). The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act further specifies the rights of animals and was crucial to the High Court judgement. The police authorities can therefore not deny anyone the right to buy food for their pets. Furthermore, in the guidelines issued by the Central Government in the Ministry of Home Affairs, “animal feed and fodder” have been included as “essential items”.

Article 51 A(g), in Part IVA of our Constitution contains an amendment mandating that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.

The enactment of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in 1960 that made express provisions for the welfare of animals. In the light of the Constitutional amendment that introduced Article 51 A (g), a further need was felt for a renewed interpretation of the provisions of the 1960 Act. The decision of the Supreme Court in Nagaraja (Supra), manifests this shift in judicial thinking, from one of merely safeguarding animal welfare, to recognizing a right and dignity in animals to live lives free from cruelty. Taking cue from the guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation of Animal Health (OIE), of which our Country is a member, it was held that the five internationally recognised freedoms for animals viz.

High Court safeguards basic dog rights

It is observed that the rights and freedoms guaranteed to the animals under Sections 3 and 11 of the PCA Act have to be read along with Articles 51 A (g) and (h) of the Constitution which is the magna carta of animal rights. These freedoms are

(i) freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition,
(ii) freedom from fear and distress,
(iii) freedom from physical and thermal discomfort,
(iv) freedom from pain, injury and disease and
(v) freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour, find a place in Sections 3 and 11 of the PCA Act specifically for animals.

The above points were enough for the petitioner to have just reason to file the petition.

The judgement ended on a hilarious note. The Judges wrote, “Before parting with this case, we might observe, in a lighter vein, that while we are happy to have come to the aid of the felines in this case, we are also certain that our directions will help avert a “CATastrophe” in the petitioner’s home.”

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