Pets and the watchdogs

February 7, 2021

Gated communities in the city are waking up to the idea of registering pets, to a mixed response from the residents

In DHA, “you can’t keep a dog unless your neighbours allow you to do so.” — Photos by Rahat Dar

Early this year, in DHA, Lahore, a resident’s pit bull, named Chuck, was shot dead by an angry neighbour, said to be a lawyer by profession. This sparked outrage on social media, chiefly by animal rights activists. It also prompted noted TV actress Mishi Khan to comment on her Instagram profile: “parhay likhay jahil.”

People respond variously to domesticated animals in their neighbourhood. While few display affection for or may look after their neighbours’ pets, especially when their owners are away, there is a general apathy in Pakistan towards the idea of keeping pets in residential areas.

The complaints commonly range from the dogs disturbing the peace of the areas to deterring the kids to play freely outdoors, without fear of being bitten or hit by an animal that may or may not have been vaccinated. Another popular complaint is that the pets poop in your well-maintained lawns or gardens.

In order to address these issues, the administrations of several housing societies in the city have started regulating domestic animals. Asghar Nadeem, a resident of Defence Housing Authority (DHA), tells TNS about the authority’s rule that mandates acquiring a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the pet owner’s immediate neighbours. “You can’t keep a dog unless your neighbours allow you to do so,” he says, adding that the acquisition of the NOCs is the way to go.

Hammad Humayoun, a resident of Askari XI, owns a German shepherd. According to him, “The NOC is a silly idea. It’s the wild animals for which such regulations are needed.

“A [housing] society should only enforce rules regarding pets not being allowed on the road without a leash. As long as you handle your dog responsibly, no one should have an issue.”

More recently, in response to numerous complaints, Askari X’s Residents’ Executive Committee (REC) decided that every resident who owns a pet dog should register their pet with an annual fee of Rs 10,000. A circular was floated in this regard, on January 2, in a members-only Facebook group for the residents of Askari X. Apparently, the decision had followed an incident in which a couple of pets escaped their masters and attacked a bunch of children on their way out. In another incident, an Askari X resident threatened to kill the dog and hurt its owner if the animal pooped in their garden again.

The REC also directs the pet’s owner to seek “permission of his neighbours on all sides of his residence.” A permission letter, duly signed by all his neighbours, should then be presented before the committee. It should accompany the pet’s vaccination certificate and previous record sheet. The permission letter is valid for one year.

Recently, in response to numerous complaints, Askari X’s Resident’s Executive Committee (REC) decided that every resident who owned a pet dog would register their pet and submit its vaccination certificate with an annual fee of Rs 10,000.

The registration fee hasn’t found favour with most people. Shaheer Akbar, a resident, calls it “most pathetic.” In the words of Humayoun, “They may slap fines but they have no right to charge you the fee.”

The residents are seeking to put forward a petition to stop the authorities from charging the said fees.

When quizzed, Muhammad Ghufran, who is a member of Askari X’s REC, claims to have “received only a few complaints [to this effect].

“The rule has just come into effect. If some of the residents aren’t willing to pay the amount, then by the end of February they’ll be fined Rs 5,000,” he says.

Registration is deemed necessary also so that the animals are not caught by the municipal authorities and/or killed.

In most  developed countries of the world, laws require citizens to have their pets registered with the local authorities. The animals must have tags around their necks which bear their registration numbers. Vaccination is also a prerequisite.

Registration is also deemed necessary so that the animals are not caught by the municipal authorities and/or killed. According to a report, in Lahore, in the year so far, the city authorities have killed 171 stray dogs, out of which 93 were shot and 78 poisoned to death.

In Tollinton Market area, a Covid-induced lockdown led to the gross mistreatment of animals that were reportedly denied food and kept in cages for more than 20 hours at a stretch. It was only when the matter was flagged on social media that the authorities kicked into action and took many animals to shelter homes.

The attitude of the society in general is not animal-friendly. Despite an increasing number of awareness campaigns in the media, most people have yet to learn to behave with animals, let alone tend them. As Sarah Gandapur, a fashion celebrity and animal activist, puts it, “If people feed and care for one dog in their street, it will guard all the houses in that street. We need to change the way we view and treat animals.”

The writer is pursuing a degree in mass comunication and media studies from the University of Central Punjab

Pets and the watchdogs