I always tell people that my favorite breed is “stray.” I began feeding & caring for the stray dogs in my locality at the age of 16 after I spotted a group of kids harassing a puppy litter on the ground.
Their approach towards animals as toys & things shocked me, and I decided I’d spend whatever little pocket money I was getting on building a small warm cardboard shelter for the pups.
5 whole years have passed, and the pups are all grown up, vaccinated & sterilized by me. I feed around 20-30 woofers in the Kolshet road area (Thane) and have learned some valuable lessons on how to go about doing so in a responsible manner, so I’m going to share some of my lessons ahead.
Why bother with these guidelines? It’s because if we’re irresponsible in dealing with stray animals, it may cause nuisance or pose danger to other humans who will take out their frustration on the innocent animals, ultimately hurting our cause in the long run.
But if we manage both sides carefully, it’ll lead to lesser conflict and more appreciation or support by the community. Ultimately, examples like Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa show that being calm & non-confrontational is a more sustainable way to make a difference.
So let’s find out how we can be more mindful as animal lovers & community feeders.
Laws regarding Stray Animals & Feeding
The most pressing question is that is giving food to stray animals legal & ethical? The answer is a resounding yes.
You should know all your laws regarding animals by heart so that you can talk to people confidently without feeling guilty or ashamed of your service. This knowledge will also help you protect yourself if another citizen or police officer treats you improperly.
To start off, the Indian Constitution encourages peaceful coexistence among all animals and compassion for all living species as one of our Fundamental Duties [Article 51(g)]. Threatening dog feeders from carrying out their essential obligation is prohibited under the same law.
Stray dogs themselves are protected under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and rules established under Section 38 of the Act, including the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001; the Indian Penal Code, Sections 428 and 429; and Article 51A (g) of the Constitution.
Furthermore, Sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, make cruelty to animals a criminal offense. Under the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, injuring, poisoning, relocating, or removing the shelter of animals are all serious offenses.
There is also a provision to protect activists. Interfering with or harassing anyone who chooses to care for and feed community dogs is defined as criminal intimidation under Section 503 read with Section 506.
If you’re a woman, and someone harrases you, you can also raise the Section 354 IPC, which makes it a crime to use force against a woman, or even threaten to use force, if the intention is to “outrage her modesty.” It treats it more seriously than normal and criminal force by allowing the police to make arrests for such crimes without a warrant.
If someone tells you this activity is not allowed, remind them that there is no such rule prohibiting people from feeding street animals. In fact, citizens/animal welfare volunteers who want to help animals are fulfilling a constitutional duty imposed on them by the Indian Constitution: to demonstrate compassion for all living animals.
The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), a statutory organization within the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the Indian government has approved this act and issued guidelines for the same, which were upheld by the Delhi High Court in the case of Citizen for the welfare and protection of Animals and Anr. v. State and Anr – this basically means there is a legal precedent that allows you to go about your feeding.
AWBI’s guidelines can be found on their website, but here are the excerpts:
- No amount of pressure from a Residents Welfare Association (RWA) or society is adequate to induce someone to abandon a pet animal, and doing so is a punishable offense. RWAs, also known as Apartment Owners Associations (AOAs), do not have the authority to restrict pet owners’ access to elevators or other public amenities like parks. RWAs and AOAs also have no authority to enact bylaws prohibiting or restricting residents from getting pet dogs or to discriminate based on the size or breed of the dog.
- In the case of street animals, the AWBI rules state that feeding stray dogs is a legally protected activity and that caregivers and feeders should get these dogs vaccinated and sterilized to support animal welfare organizations in maintaining their health. It’s also worth noting that no sterilized dogs can be removed from their area as per the Government of India’s Animal Birth Control Rules, 2001.
- It is also against the law for vehicles to purposefully injure dogs, cats, or cows on the streets. A person who breaks these regulations can be reported to the local animal protection organization as well as the police. The above-mentioned sections can also be used to file a case. All of the foregoing actions are punishable by a fine and/or a five-year prison sentence.
- The Board also issues instructions for stray dog caregivers, instructing them to use hygienic feeding procedures when feeding strays in public and to avoid feeding strays near children’s playgrounds.
- It advises caregivers to feed their pets late at night or early in the morning when there is little traffic, both vehicular and human.
- Feeding should be done away from densely populated places and caretakers are recommended not to feed street dogs near their own homes or places immediately adjacent to locations where children play and areas where people walk.
- They should also maintain track of dog sterilization and communicate that information with residents. Imparting education to the neighbors should be a continuous effort.
Summing up the above content, below is a message you can forward in your WhatsApp group:
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
This is to bring to the notice of all AOAs, Building Societies and Residential Associations and all Community Dog Feeders, the prevailing Rules with regard to community dogs:
- The AWBI is the statutory nodal agency with regard to the framing and implementation of Rules/Guidelines with regard to animal welfare. This is clarified by SC in AWBI vs Nagaraja & Others as well as SC order dtd Nov 18, 2016 in SLP No 691/2009
- As per AWBI notification D.O AWBI/PCA/ dtd 3.3.08 , AWBI circular dtd 26.2.2015 , GOI Stray Dog Rules 2001 and Municipal ABC bye laws, community dogs may not be removed/relocated from any area. No organisation may do this either themselves or through anybody employed by them like security guards etc.
- As per AWBI circular dtd 26.2.2015 and AWBI letter dtd 3.3.21, every Residential Society , both gated and non-gated is required to create feeding sites for community dogs where those wishing to feed dogs may do so without hindrance.
- As per AWBI notification dtd 3.3.21 , dog feeding points are to be established inside the premises of the Society. This is further reiterated vide AWBI letter dtd: 27.1.2022 and AWBI letter dtd 16.6.2022 each of which specifically directs that feeding points are to be located within or inside the premises of the Society.
- As per AWBI circular dtd 3.3.21 and Court order dtd 24.02.2021, feeding points are to be selected by a team of three persons which includes one representative each of the Management Society, the feeding community, and AWBI or a local institutional agency like SPCA.
- As per AWBI letter dtd 16.6.2022, no Residential Society or Management Committee may levy fiscal fines on any dog feeder for feeding.
- As per UPERC regulations no society may misuse prepaid electricity meter for imposing fines / penalties against dog feeding or any-other reasons.
- All dog feeders are required to feed at the lawfully assigned dog feeding sites only. The use of bowls in encouraged towards hygiene and efficiency. The cleaning of the dog feeding sites remains the responsibility of the maintenance staff as for any other facility of the Society like playgrounds and parks.
- Any harassment of dog feeders is strictly forbidden by AWBI notification of 16.2.2015 , AWBI Circular 3.3.2021 , AWBI Circular dtd 26.08.2015 and notification of Ministry of Personnel Public Grievances and Pensions dtd 26.5.2006. This is been incorporated into Honrable Delhi high court judgment dtd 24.06.2021.Any harassment against feeders may be construed as the serious offence of Criminal Intimidation under Section 506 IPC.
- Any targeting, abuse, insult , ridicule or photographs of dog feeders on public forums like Society chat groups or Hate tweets will constitute ‘Hate Speech’ as it creates hostility against a particular community and may be reported to the Cyber Cell under Section 500 IPC. Complaints and discussion may be referred to the appropriate institutional agency or forum .
- Assault/Mobbing of dog feeders is a punishable offence under Section 149/34 IPC
- Treating feeding as a crime and asking security guards or residents to photograph and share pictures of those ‘caught’ feeding dogs will be treated as stalking, breach of privacy and violation of a woman’s modesty ( in the case of lady feeders) and punishable under the relevant law.
- Threats to remove tenants who feeds dogs through coercive action on landlord will be treated as criminal intimidation as will any attempt to embroil feeders in false cases.
- Feeders cannot be held responsible or blamed for any man- animal conflict that may occur anywhere in a Society. They are simply feeding dogs just as temples feed beggars. Those who do charity are not liable for the actions of the beneficiaries of that charity.
Feeding makes dogs human-friendly. Feeders are contributing towards the solution not adding to any problem.
- AOA should work with feeders to get all the community dogs sterilised and vaccinated by municipality as per Stray Dog Rules 2001.
What to feed/avoid
The second question is that what is something you can feed sustainably. First, let’s chuck out these harmful or unhealthy foods that you should not give to stray dogs:
- PARLE-G/GLUCOSE BISCUITS: These are fine once in a while if you don’t have anything else in that moment, but don’t make it your go-to option. Biscuits are loaded with sugar (duh), and have the same diabetic repercussions on animals. They also damage the skin & cause blindness due to glaucoma.
- CHOCOLATE: It’s extremely toxic & fatal to dogs/cats.
- COOKED BONES: Don’t feed boiled or cooked chicken bones because they can cause splinters in the tummy & lead to internal bleeding
- COFFEE: Again toxic to animals
- DAIRY ITEMS: Avoid milk for puppies as they cannot digest it properly, and it’ll lead to diarrhoea. Use cheese slices sparingly only when you’re trying to sneak in a pill (medication)
- BERRIES OR SEEDED FRUITS: These contain xylitol, which is harmful to animals
- ONIONS & GARLIC: They can cause stomach irritation and, in severe situations, red blood cell destruction.
Instead, you can go for the following options:
- A-PRO DRY DOG FOOD: Pedigree is a good storage-friendly & instantly usable dry food choice because it has the puppy variant, but it can be too costly for some people on a budget. So go for the A-PRO brand as it is cheaper (almost half the price).
- SOFT RICE, BOILED VEGETABLES & CHICKEN PIECES: This is the best combination to feed them if you have the time to cook. You can occasionally add chicken feet from your meat butcher, which they usually throw away, so they’ll be happy to pass it on to you. These are highly nutritious. Add a pinch of turmeric (haldi) & a small teaspoon of ghee/vegetable oil for their health benefits.
- WATER: As we’ll discuss ahead, always carry some filtered drinking water (along with a bowl) so that the animals can rehydrate themselves, especially when they need it the most during the summers. After all, we all like some water with our meals, don’t we?
- CHICKEN BROTH/STOCK: You can pour the boiled chicken broth in your rice mixture to make it pallatable & nutritious.
Now that we know what constitutes as the right food, let’s talk about some basic guidelines.
Rule 1: Raise funds for vaccination & sterilization
No matter how much we love our strays, we have to remember that we can’t let their populations grow anymore.
Metropolitan cities are getting more & more crowded by the day, and leaving these animals unchecked will only lead to more conflicts, abuse cases, and emotional trouble for all of us.
So instead of trying to feed them every day of the week, reduce the appetite to only 2-3 days, and transfer the funds to conduct a private sterilization campaign just for the dogs in your condominium (society).
Sterilization means that the vet will surgically take out the reproductive organs, which will prevent unwanted pregnancies. This procedure is completely safe, and with a few cups of ice cream after the operation, the animal will be back to normal.
Furthermore, sterilization has also been proven to make the animal less sexually active, which should reduce the aggressiveness & biting, barking, or howling caused during the mating season as males fight with each other for the female.
Generally, sterilization should be done by the local muncipal corporations, but many animal birth control programs all over the country have either stopped operations because of lack of funding, or don’t follow efficient procedures to curb the rising population in time.
So even though it’s costly, we have to take it upon ourselves if we want to resolve this problem once & for all. The procedure usually costs about ₹8000 per patient, so you can take it one at a time.
If sterilization feels impossible, then you can at least pay for the vaccination of the dogs & cats. Vaccinate them against common diseases such as:
- Canine distemper
A 7-1 or 5-1 booster dose once a year should tick all the boxes for you, and only costs ₹300-₹500 per head so this is much more sustainable.
A vaccination drive will not only protect the animals from falling sick & causing you emotional distress because of the arising need for medical care, but it will also prevent the cases of rabies due to dog bites in human beings.
Sick/injured animals often get defensive & therefore violent, so it’s in your best interests to keep them healthy.
Overall, understand that if you’re just feeding the animals without focusing on vaccination & sterilization (one dog per month, at least), then you’re actually causing more harm than good.
Rampant & rising stray animal populations will just lead to more animals getting abused, hurt, or killed in road accidents – so it’s your primary duty to help the authorities curb these populations in an ethical way.
On a related note, if you have a litter of puppies or young dogs, try to get them adopted by posting in your city’s adoption groups on Facebook, or sharing photos with your contact information on other social media platforms.
You may incentivise it by saying that you’ll pay for the vaccination, which will attract more potential adopters.
Rule 2: Use tupperware or containers
I have seen far too many people just throwing bits of rotis or biscuits onto the ground, and then moving away. The animal sometimes doesn’t even eat it, and then the discarded food attracts pests like cockroaches, ants, and insects.
This makes the area filthy & unhygenic, which can contribute to contractable diseases like malaria or dengue. Not only that, you can be heavily fined for causing damage to public property.
So please carry a reusable (eco-friendly) container with you, regardless of the food you’re taking. Wash this container after every feeding session so that it doesn’t contain any harmful germs that may be ingested by the poor animals.
At the very least, use a newspaper piece when leaving food on the ground, but always stick around the picking it up & throwing it in the bin.
Keeping the area clean is your #1 duty. If passerbys or joggers spot such food rotting on the footpath, they will complain to the guards, and ban you from the premises on the grounds of public health & safety.
In fact, if you see other feeders doing this, please use gloves & pick up the food, then throw it away in the nearest dustbin.
Rule 3: Fix a secluded area & quiet time
Where & when you feed makes a huge difference.
As for the location, do not feed in the middle of the road, at entry/exit gates, or in front of building lobbies where a lot of people are coming & going. This will just increase the chance of someone getting annoyed & starting an argument with you.
Instead, choose a secluded corner, prerably in soil/grass patches behind trees & always away from public property or walking pathways/crowded streets.
This should be the designated spot for all the feeders in your group, which we’ll talk more about later.
As for the timing, leave out the period between 6 AM – 2 PM & 5 – 10 PM. These are spots when most people are roaming downstairs or commuting to/from work so the crowd will be bigger.
The three best time slots for community feeders are:
- Early morning (4 – 5 AM)
- Late afternoon (3.30 – 4 PM)
- Late night (11 PM – Midnight)
During this time, the street is generally quiter, and you can go about your business without any interference from unwanted haters.
Going one step further, you should conduct a few personal checks on when your society or stree is the most quiet, and target those hours only.
Rule 4: Carry a water bowl & basic first aid
If you give dry food, the animals may also feel the need to wet their throats with a few sips of water. So be mindful of this & carry a tumbler with you.
Also carry a small first aid pouch, which contains this basic medical care items that will come in handy in case the animal, you, or any other person is hurt in an accident or confrontation:
- Cotton ball
- Betnovate cream (for cuts & wounds)
- Tiny travel-size bottle of dettol/savlon antiseptic
- Pair of scissors & bandaging, gauze, tape
- Rubber gloves
- Pack of Wet wipes
- Small cotton hand towel
- Portable flashlight (if you regularly feed at night time)
- Extra leash & collar [This is useful in case you have to restrain the animal & rush them to the vet using a rickshaw/taxi]
Rule 5: Form a local feeding group
There is certainly strength in numbers. You may feel alone & bullied if you go alone, but if you go in pairs, you will have another person to defend you in case someone becomes confrontational or violent.
Join the NGO in your city, if you aren’t a volunteer already. You can use our updated global directory to contact them. In these circles, you’ll definitely find someone who lives close by. Or make the effort to shake hands with a fellow feeder you see during your sessions/walks downstairs.
Get their number & form a WhatsApp group to constantly stay in touch & coordinate your feeding times.
Forming a group can also make it easier to raise funds for the sterilization or vaccination campaigns.
Lastly, if you’re moving away, or are too busy to continue feeding, you can transfer some funds to your partners in the group so that they can continue feeding at leisure.
This will help you stay active in the cause without putting too much pressure on your other time-consuming commitments.
You may also try you local city’s groups on Facebook. Just search “your city + dog adoption, animal lovers, or stray feeders)
Rule 6: Don’t engage in violence or physical confrontation
Not everybody likes dogs. But remember that most people also don’t outright hate them. The aunty & uncle who asks you to stop feeding is probably a mother or father who is concerned for their child’s safety.
Stray animals can sometimes misunderstand & misread a human’s intentions, causing them to leap onto toddlers or children. Actually, they may also be trying to just play but the size can make it too intimidating for the kids, who may misinterpret it as an attack, causing the animal to panic & react, too.
Either way, the people who are against dog feeding or stray dogs in general are mostly just normal good folks who may be concerned for their family’s wellbeing. They may have had unpleasant experiences with animals in their childhood, too.
If fear is not the case, they may be annoyed by the constant barking & howling of the dogs at night, which I have to admit, annoys me as well.
So it’s important to show empathy & maturity if anyone confront you. If this is the first instance, give them a smile, pick up your bowl/container, and quitely walk away.
If this has been happening regularly, politely assure them that you’re making efforts to vaccinate & sterilize the animals, too. Let them know that feeding will keep the animals more relaxed & prevent them from lashing out due to hunger.
If the person refuses to listen, you can show them a printout paper of AWBI’s guideline, or a screenshot of the laws I shared earlier in the blog post. In a mild tone, explain that what you’re doing is ethical & legal.
Above all, do not lose your cool, make verbal or physical threats, or use slur/curse words or offensive language. Don’t shout back loudly. Definitely don’t fight physically unless it’s for immediately needed self-defense.
You getting angry or emotional will only degrade the situation further.
If the other person uses their hands on you, or continuously intimidates/berates the women in your feeding group, call the police at 112 or 100 (hotlines for Indian residents). File an FIR under the laws mentioned in this blog post.
I would suggest immediately reaching out to your fellow animal lovers/activists on Facebook & Instagram to spread the news, so that you can gather support instantly. Call the local NGO, who will have lawyer contacts to help you, in case the situation get serious.
Always video record the confrontation if it starts getting heated beyond your control, so that you have proof of who started the altercation, and can also share it on social media, if push comes to shove.
Above all, remember that while being relaxed & cool-minded is necessary, you should also not let anyone walk over you, because doing so will only make them more impetus to continue treating other animal lovers in the same way.
Rule 7: Regularly randomize your routine
Pet dogs often benefit from a feeding routine because it teaches them discipline. This is not the case for strays. Once they get habituated to a routine feeding time, they will expect the food, and get cranky if it’s not present.
Say you’re moving away, have fallen sick, or are too caught up at work for a week. Then this might break the feeding routine you’ve set, and cause distress for the animals.
So it’s best to not feed them daily & make them depended on you. Ultimately, they’re on the streets, so their life is going to be a bit tough by default, and you have to let them search for food on their own, which will also keep them active & engaged.
Daily feeding might also result in overfeeding, making the dogs obese, lazy, and more prone to diseases. So it’s a no-no from all angles.
Choose only 2-3 days once a week, and always switch them around, so that the strays don’t figure out your calendar, and get their hopes unnecessarily high.
Rule 8: Avoid feeding a huge pack together
Food makes both dogs & cats very territorial or possessive so if you feed too many of them in one place, it may lead to barking, biting, and fights. The noise will also attract other people & cause trouble for you.
So try to carry seperate bowls for each dog, have a partner who can help you distribute them across different spots withint your designated area, and keep the dogs away from each other during the feeding time.
In this blog post, we’ve covered some basic guidelines for being a responsible stray dog/cat feeder for your community.
Remember that your ultimate goal is to help animals, so think of what would be best for them at all times. Keeping things low-key, quiet, and non-confrontational is the only right way to go if you consider the long-term benefits.
So follow these guidlines & share them with your fellow animal lovers. Let me know what you think of these ideas, and if I missed any important point. Eager to read your comments below.
- Feeding Stray Dogs: How to Be a Responsible Feeder via VOSD
- What are the prevalent stray dog feeding rules existing in India via iPleaders