Responsible pet ownership in Mumbai: What the new BMC drive says

In a step towards encouraging responsible pet ownership, BMC has launched a drive for Mumbaikars to get their pet dogs licensed. Here are more details.

A population census is still far away. But the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) plans to do a dog census in Mumbai in March 2022. For a start, the BMC is doing an awareness drive towards responsible pet ownership in Mumbai by getting owners to license their pets. “As part of this campaign, BMC officials visited housing societies to create awareness and register more pet licences,” said Dr K.A. Pathan, general manager of BMC’s veterinary health department. “Since the process is entirely online and can be done over a mobile phone, our staffers would register the pets on the spot, and pet owners would receive their pet licence online within ten minutes on their mobile phones. Awareness is also being done through voluntary and social organisations”.

Mumbai has an estimated 2.75 lakh dog population. However, according to the official dog census conducted in 2014, the number was found to be just 95,172. The March dog census will hopefully give a more realistic figure.

Why is licensing important? 

“While the pet census focuses mainly on stray dogs, a head count of pet dogs helps us determine the actual dog population in the city, which helps us evolve a dog population management policy,” explains Dr Pathan. “This is to prevent any conflicts between humans and animals, by taking into consideration the human-canine ratio. If the dog population is higher, we could either decide to intensify our dog population restriction measures like sterilisation or increase our anti-rabies vaccination program”.

black and white image of a street dog against sunlight
An effective dog management policy can ensure a peaceful coexistence between humans and street dogs | Photo: Navaneeth Kishor, Flickr, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Section 191 BA of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888, explains that dogs be licensed for the purpose of placing accountability in case a pet dog is found to cause nuisance in a building society or if it bites someone. During such instances, the BMC is authorised to seize the dog and release it back to the owner only if he promises to ensure that his dog shall not be a source of nuisance to the general public in the locality.

The provision for annual renewal of licences has been kept to ensure that pet dogs receive their annual vaccinations regularly and dog owners display responsible pet ownership.

What does responsible pet dog ownership mean?

The World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE), in its Terrestrial Animal Health Code that sets global benchmarks for animal welfare and veterinary public health, has clearly defined and chalked out the roles and responsibilities of a pet dog owner. It defines responsible dog ownership as “the situation whereby a person accepts and commits to perform various duties in accordance with the legislation in place and focused on the satisfaction of the behavioural, environmental and physical needs of a dog and to the prevention of risks (aggression, disease transmission or injuries) that the dog may pose to the community, other animals or the environment.” 

Read more: How to deal with rabid dogs in your area

In Section 7.7.4, it goes on to say that a pet owner must assume responsibility at the time of ownership. The pet’s behavioural and healthcare needs are to be respected and tended to at all times. It also mentions that the promotion of responsible dog ownership through legislation and education is a necessary part of a dog population control program.

Population estimates are necessary for making realistic plans for dog population management and zoonosis control, and for monitoring the success of such interventions. However, for designing effective management plans, data on population sizes alone are insufficient. Additional information is required, such as degrees of supervision of owned dogs, the origin of ownerless dogs, accessibility, etc.

How does one get a licence for pet dogs?

You can visit the MCGM website here on the official website of the BMC to register. Alternatively, you can also visit the BMC’s four dog control offices in the city at Malad, Parel, Mulund and Crawford Market and get your pet licence on producing valid annual dog vaccination certificates.

Do we need to register our pet cats as well?

No, not as of now. But since the Animal Welfare Board of India has equated birth control programs for cats to the one being implemented for dogs, it’s a matter of time before cat licences become mandatory.

Can you be penalised if you fail to have a valid pet licence? 

Yes. Under section 191 (B) (3) of the MMC Act, the BMC can seize an unlicensed dog and the owner has to claim it within three days and pay the dues to get it back, failing which the dog could be killed. However, such provisions are rarely exercised due to various factors like shortage of staff and resources and the large number of unlicensed dogs in the city.

How does having a valid pet licence help?

“It’s always helpful to follow the law and have your pets’ basic paperwork in place, especially since people are so intolerant towards pets,” says grooming and personality coach Nicola Bhardwaj, who owns a German Shepherd. “They tend to have issues even if a pet barks or someone else fails to scoop their dog’s poop. And if you are a tenant, then you are more vulnerable to pressure from other residents for the slightest inconvenience caused by your pet. When any issue crops up with your housing society, having a valid pet licence puts you on a stronger footing because pet registration is given only if all the vaccines have been given”. 

How else does having a pet dog licence help?

Not having a pet licence could also prove to be a hurdle in case you wish to enrol your pet in any kind of commercial shooting, such as for advertisements, films etc. “Having a valid pet licence is a basic prerequisite for getting permission from the BMC to shoot,” said Mitesh Rathod, animal welfare officer.  “No permissions are granted for unlicensed animals”. 

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