Kerala, India: High Court orders registration of companion animals

NEWS AND COMMENT: This is a strange news story coming out of India. There are several articles in Indian online newspapers talking about the Kerala High Court making an order which directs that all six municipal corporations in the state take steps to register/licence pet dogs. The first problem with this story is that some news media outlets say that companion animals i.e. pets meaning dogs and cats should be licenced. We don’t know what they mean, as it is unclear.

Kerala High Court makes law by ordering that local authorities initiate the registration of pets
Kerala High Court makes law by ordering that local authorities initiate the registration of pets. Image: MikeB
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The bigger issue with this court order is that it appears that the Kerala High Court is making law as if they are a local authority. In other words, the judges are behaving as if they are politicians. This is a complete breach of the demarcation of the institutions of state namely that the judiciary should be entirely separate and independent of political decision-making and the creation of laws through statute or statutory instruments. Judges cannot make laws laid down in statutes or other similar legal mechanisms. Judges can recommend that politicians take a look at the existing law and correct deficiencies but they can’t direct governments to create a certain law because they are not elected by the people.

Therefore, this new story totally baffles me. The registration of companion animals is useful but a court cannot make general law like this is if they are the government of the state. The judges’ order is invalid in my view and can be ignored by the local authorities. This bizarre court order arose out of the brutal killing of dogs in the state. It seems that the judges, Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice Gopinath P, lost their cool and became frustrated and perhaps upset by the brutality of the killing. I don’t have details of it and I don’t want to recite it.

The court also directed that signposts be erected at certain locations marking them as feeding points for community dogs. The idea is to stop people who feed dogs being harassed.

The registration and licensing of, I will presume cats and dogs, (but it may just be dogs) should be completed within six months, the court has said. And in future all animal owners need to register their animals with the local authority within three months of adopting the animal. I find it hard to believe that a court can make an order like that. It might be challenged. It should be challenged even if it is a good judgement.

The court also appears to have made orders that a person can keep a maximum of 10 dogs at home. And I have read that micro-chipping should be compulsory and the microchip can be placed in the ears of dogs! I’ve never heard of that before. I’m not sure that it is actually possible to do it. I don’t think that there is enough tissue in the ear flap in which to place a microchip which is quite a large object.

People can obtain a licence fee application from veterinary hospitals and the current licence fee at Thiruvananthapuram Corporation is Rs 125.

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