With apartment complexes becoming the new housing means and more people opting to live in flats for many reasons like security, lack of space to build individual houses, etc. one of the most important matters of concern is the permissibility of pets in these complexes, which are not private property and are inhabited by many. It also becomes important for pet owners to understand their rights and responsibilities, for the welfare of their pets as well as their neighbours.
Most of the time residents are provided a letter on behalf of the Apartment Association stating pets are banned and that owners must either vacate or abandon their pets. The All-Kerala Apartment Owner’s Association has also come up with a verbal norm that pets should be either abandoned or looked after well by their owners so that nobody else in the society complaints about the same. The association has also made it clear that if anyone has any complaint with even one of the residents having a pet, it would be better not to bring them in the apartment complex.
V.S. Somanathan, general secretary of the association, says, “We completely acknowledge the fact that there is no law existing in our country that says pets are banned from apartment complexes. However, we have come up with the announcement in light of the insecurities other residents are having if any one resident in the housing society has a pet. Hygiene is one of the major concerns. The owners have no right to make these pets poop near the children’s play area. We are not against people having pets, provided they should strictly follow the guidelines that are mandatory while having one.”
He added that no rule has been implemented as that has many legal implications and moreover there are only some people who have pets in apartment complexes. He informed that many people have respected the decision and acted accordingly.
“A flat is not a private property and doing anything in a housing society that will cause distress and irritation among the majority needs to be regulated and that is exactly what we are trying to do. We are not trying to hurt any animal lover’s emotions,” he said.
Ideally, apartment owners’ associations and residents’ welfare associations cannot legislate and take it upon themselves to issue notices or take any decisions that are against the law. There is no law enacted by the Parliament or any State legislature that bans companion animals. Something that can be done in this regard is that municipalities and local authorities can regulate, or insist on the registration of pets. Asking people to abandon their pets is actually violating the law according to Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, which declares the same as being an offence.
Commenting on the issue, Sajith Shajan, an animal lover and project head at Mission Rabies, an NGO, said, “This is a serious concern and many of my friends are facing this issue. As far as the owners are concerned, nobody can stop them from having a pet. Most of the time flats and apartment associations make their own rules and stop the residents from having pets, which is unacceptable and restricts their freedom. At the same time pet owners should also take extreme care and make sure the surroundings are clean so that it doesn’t make other people unhappy or give them a chance to complaint against them.”
He added that most of the time, people buy a pet out of an enthusiasm to have one. He insists that they should educate themselves on how to maintain and train a pet properly before buying one.
People are mainly concerned about children and insist on banning pets from apartment complexes as there many kids in the complex, some of them who would be afraid of animals or are allergic to them.
Sajith says, “I don’t understand why people are scared of animals irrespective of the fact that they are pet animals. The name itself says that they can be tamed. It is the parent’s fear that they project on the child as well. It is very important to teach every kid to respect and care for other living beings and animals should not be an exception. Most of the time kids just go and grab the pets, because of which they get scared and bite or scratch these children. I work in Goa and here people have no issue having pets in apartments because they train their pets properly and at the same time also educate their kids on how to behave with animals.”
As the number of apartments complexes increase in the future, the number of pets can also increase and therefore, it is the responsibility of the authorities to come up with a solution that doesn’t harm the feelings of an animal lover, and is one that is safe for other people in the locality.
When asked about the same, V.K. Minimol, Chairperson, Standing Committee (Health), Cochin Corporation, says that this not a problem that needs to addressed in an immediate manner.
“There will definitely be different suggestions regarding having pets because some people like pets and some don’t. We will surely look into this with a serious approach as and when it is required,” she added.
Main photograph by moedym via Flickr.