To curb violence and cruelty against domestic, stray and wild animals in the province, the Punjab Police has joined hands with the Punjab Wildlife Department and an animal welfare organization. Experts claim that enhancing departmental collaboration with the government will ensure more effective outcomes.
For the past several weeks, Punjab Police has been actively taking legal action against anyone involved in mistreating animals in a violent or brutal manner. Cases pertaining to wild animals and birds are handled under the Punjab Wildlife Act during these operations and the relevant Punjab Wildlife Officer is consulted. However, no consultation was held with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) on taking action against aggressive and cruel animal abusers of pets and stray animals.
Honorary Secretary for the Institute for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Prof. Dr Masood Rabbani said it is admirable that so many NGOs and organizations are working to prevent animal cruelty. According to him, the purpose of the SPCA is to prosecute those who commit acts of violence and cruelty against animals, both pets and strays.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1890 gives SPCA inspectors the authority to prosecute animal abusers. In spite of only having eight inspectors in Punjab, the Society has performed exceptionally well.
SPCA data shows that 3,037 challans were issued in 17 districts of Punjab from 2021 to 2022 and offenders were fined Rs178,750. Meanwhile, challans were issued against 4,495 accused between 2022 and September 2023, with fines totalling Rs267,300. From January 2022 to September 2023, 1084 injured animals were reportedly rescued, per the report, while 27,757 animals received treatment and 30,463 animals received vaccinations.
Punjab Wildlife Deputy Director Lahore Tanveer Ahmed Janjua told the Express Tribune that animal cruelty and wildlife act provisions have also been included in the FIRs police have registered thus far. The court however, must determine how to prosecute the accused in these cases.
On the other hand, the Wildlife Department takes action on its own behalf, issuing challans to the accused, taking departmental compensation from them and referring the case to court if the accused fails to pay the fine.
Additional Inspector General (Admin Security) Punjab Police Amara Athar said that the Punjab Wildlife Department’s team works collaboratively with the Police Animal Rescue Center (PARC).
The department was facing problems due to a lack of staff and minimal communication with the public, a gap which is being filled by PARC, which is playing a major role in their facilitation and in rescuing wild animals. Athar added that as far as other animals are concerned, PARC and the Punjab police have the legal authority to take action against cruelty to animals.
Speaking to Express Tribune, Izzat Fatima Advocate, a woman who fought legal battles for the rights and welfare of animals, said that the establishment of the Police Animal Rescue Center is commendable.
The police are doing very well, but all this is happening at the wish of the police chief. This initiative needs to be given legal and constitutional status because if an accused challenges police action in court, it will become a problem for the police.
Regular gazette notifications should be issued so that this work continues, she added. Apart from this, instructions should be given to the police to take action wherever they see any mistreatment of animals and birds, such as against those selling birds in the name of charity. Fatima concluded by saying that coordination between the police and wildlife and livestock departments needs to be improved.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th2023.