The Killing Of Stray Dogs – Analyzed Under The Constitution, Islam And Law

The Killing Of Stray Dogs – Analyzed Under The Constitution, Islam And Law

The recent “Dog Killing Campaign” as initiated by the government has gathered a lot of national as well as international criticism by people raising voice for the rights of animals. Several bizarre clippings on the issue were uploaded on social media as well as circulated in the newspapers which became subject of immense censure.

Human being is a product of nature just like other living species on the planet and nature has remained a continuous illustrator of paradigm to development of human behavior over the ages since the very inception of life circle. Almost all sociological thinkers agree that there is a very close relation between a man and his surroundings. Nonetheless, the experts also believe that magnificent nature evolved around balanced growth of living species including animals and plants, who not only survive on each other but also survive due to each other. Human beings have had devastating effect on nature causing birth of serious fatal diseases and deadly natural calamities occuring as result of destructing trees and animals. Collapse of the Middle Mediterranean Civilizations is a fearful example that resulted from such degradation.

Regardless of the above, inhumane approach is being adopted by the government for the killing of stray dogs which seemingly has been motivated by Entry 9 of the Eighth Schedule emanating out of the Section 148 of The Local Government Act, 2013. Entry 9 of the Act ibid is reproduced verbatim:

9.    Registration and control of dogs.–

1) A local government may make by-laws to provide for the registration of all dogs kept in such area or areas within its local area as may be specified.

2) Such by-laws shall–

(a) require the registration, by the local government, of all dogs kept within the area or areas specified or any part thereof.

(b) require that every registered dog shall wear a collar to which shall be attached a metal token to be issued by the registration authority of the local government and fix the fee payable for the issue thereof;

(c) require that any dog which has not been registered or which is not wearing such token shall, if found in any public place, be detained at a place set apart for the purpose; and

(d) fix the fee which shall be charged for such detention and provide that any such dog shall be liable to be destroyed or otherwise disposed of unless it is claimed and the fee in respect thereof is paid within one week, and may provide for such other matters as the local government thinks fit.

3) A local government may–

 (a) cause to be destroyed or confined for such period as it may direct, any dog or other animal which is, or is reasonably suspected to be, suffering from rabies, or which has been bitten by any dog or other animal suffering or suspected to be suffering from rabies;

(b) by public notice direct that, after such date as may be specified in the notice, dogs which are without collars or without marks distinguishing them as private property and are found straying on the streets or beyond the enclosures of the houses of their owners if any may be destroyed, and cause them to be destroyed accordingly;

(c) require the owner or person in-charge of any dog – (i) to restrain it so that it is not set at large in any street without being muzzled, leashed or chained; and (ii) to provide immediate information, if the dog belonging to him has been bitten by any animal suffering or reasonably suspected to be suffering from rabies or any other infectious disease.

4) No damages shall be payable in respect of any dog or other animal destroyed or otherwise disposed of under this paragraph.”

Holistically speaking, the aforesaid provision empowers the local government to register all dogs in an area from time to time. The word “dogs” implied in the context narrowly means pet dogs. Thus any dog which is not registered and do not possess a collar shall be killed/destructed unless the same appears to the government as a domestic dog, which otherwise shall be kept in shelter for a period of 30 days till its owner approaches to rescue the same. Conceivably, the registration process for pet dogs has not been implemented yet and the by-laws are still to be made for this purpose. Having said that, we are well aware of the important principle of law establishing the distinguished lives of the government and individuals as follows:

Government shall do acts prescribed by law whereas the Individual can do acts not barred by law”.

Thus the question arises, whether the Government is legally empowered to kill stray dogs in absence of any clear empowerment? Perhaps No!

Moreover, even if there was any provisional law that empowered the government to kill stray dogs, it would fall in derogation with the provisions of the federal statue; The Pakistan Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1890.

It is noteworthy that “dogs” are protected under the  Pakistan Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1890, promulgated under the British rule over the sub-continent to deal with the cruel treatment to animals. The preamble of The Pakistan Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1890 is reproduced below:

“WHEREAS it is expedient to make further provision for the prevention of cruelty to animals: It is hereby enacted as follows:“

Section 2 (1) defines “animal” as “any domestic or captured animal”

Literally speaking the word “domestic animal” or “captured animal” conveniently caters to the definition of a “dog” or a “stray dog”. Thus the action of the government for killing stray dogs on the streets of Lahore is not only an illegitimate exercise in the prevailing circumstances but is also against animal rights protected under Section 5 of the Pakistan Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1890 which is still in field. Section 5 of the Act of 1890 prescribes punishment of imprisonment of up to six months and fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, for any person who kills any animal in a cruel manner. Thus the very act of killing dogs is an offence despite which stray dogs in Pakistan have to meet ill-fated journey to miserable death.

Needless to mention that Article 9 of The Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 as has been observed by Honorable Lahore High Court in Syed Mansoor Ali Shah Case CLD 2007 SC 533 defined “Life” as:

“…Word ‘life’ had not been defined in Constitution but it did not mean nor could be restricted only to vegetative or animal life or mere existence from conception to death..”

The Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 was promulgated on 12th of April, 1973. Its preamble, inter-alia, provided that the Muslims would be enabled to order their lives individually and collectively in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam, as set out in the “Holy Quran” and “Sunnah”.

Article 2 of the Constitution ordained that the Islam shall be the State Religion of the Pakistan.

Supreme law of our country is the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 which is being controlled through its preamble which runs in the following manner:-

“Preamble—– Whereas sovereignty over the entire Universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust;

          And whereas it is the will of the people of Pakistan to establish and order—

          Wherein the State shall exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people;

          Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed;

          Wherein the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam asset out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah;

          Wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures;

          Wherein the territories now included in or in accession with Pakistan and such other territories as may hereafter be included in or accede to Pakistan shall form a Federation wherein the units will be autonomous with such boundaries and limitations on their powers and authority as may be prescribed;

          Wherein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expressions, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality;

          Wherein adequate provision shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities and backward and depressed classes;

          Wherein the independence of the judiciary shall be fully secured;

          Wherein the integrity of the territories of the Federation, its independence and all its rights, including its sovereign rights on land, sea and air, shall safeguarded;

          So that the people of Pakistan may prosper and attain their rightful honoured place amongst the nations of the World and make their full contribution towards international peace and progress and happiness of humanity;”

The Constitution is based on the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of our Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), which are the ideological basis and foundation of Pakistan. In Syed Zafar Shah case, PLD 2000 SC 860 at page 1211 the august Court has held that:

“the Constitution of Pakistan is the supreme law of the land and its basic features i.e. independence of judiciary, federalism and parliamentary form of government blended with Islamic provisions, cannot be altered even by the Parliaments.”

It is a matter of faith with the people of Pakistan that the supreme sovereign is almighty Allah and the Constitution and other laws are made by the representatives of the people under delegated authority. Article 2A of the Constitution, which is now a substantive part of the Constitution, can never be suspended nor is there a finding by any court to the contrary, therefore, every law, action and the proviso of constitution has to be in line with the Islamic Principles. Honorable Supreme Court keeping in view the said rule made relevant observations in case cited as 2016 SCMR 48 as follows:

“17. That amongst the constitutionally guaranteed Fundamental Rights is the right to “life” (Article 9), “dignity” (Article 14) and the right to “profess” and “practice” ones religion (Article 20). The Constitution of Pakistan starts with the bismillah – “In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful”, followed by the Preamble, which opens with the following words: “Whereas sovereignty over the entire Universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust.”

 Illuminating the Constitution the Preamble reminds us that Almighty Allah alone is the Sovereign, and the people of Pakistan are to exercise their authority as His trustees. This mirrors the Quranic concept of humans being vicegerents or stewards (khalifa fil ard – surah al-an’am 6, verse 165, surah an-naml 27, verse 62). Stewards, as opposed to absolute owners, cannot use or exploit natural resources with abandon, nor hunt a species till its status becomes vulnerable or extinct. If any specie for want of habitat or as a result of hunting or exploitation is endangered or becomes extinct the khalifah violates his/her trust.”

Relevant to the instant matter it was also observed in the case ibid as:

“18. We alone of all of the Almighty’s creation have been bestowed with the responsibility to maintain balance and not to rupture the order of nature; “Do not waste, verily, He [Allah] does not like those who waste (al-musrifun)” (surah al-anam 6, verse 141) “And do not do mischief on the earth, after it has been set in order” (surah al-araf 7, verse 56). Actions that destroy, devastate or impair “His Creation” (surah al-araf 8, verse 54) are prohibited. If a specie were to be hunted till it becomes extinct or vulnerable it would impair a Muslim’s ability to lead his/her life in accordance with religion and to practice it, thus violating Article 20. It is important to heed our duties as stewards of the earth for the preservation and conservation of natural resources and to take care of Allah’s creatures.

“Have you not seen that Allah is glorified by all in the heavens and on the earth such as birds with wings outspread? Each knows its worship and glorification.” (surah an-nur 24, verse 41)

“There is not a thing but hymneth His praise.” (surah al-isra 17, verse 44)

“So every time we destroy a species, we are destroying a prayerful being. It is like murdering someone while he is praying. It is as abominable as that” (Seyyed Hossein Nasr, The Spiritual and Religious Dimension of the Environmental Crisis, A Sacred Trust, Ecology and Spiritual Vision’ published by The Temenos Academy, 2002, page 134).”

In light of the above, it is highly recommended to the government to immediately stop killing and destructing stray dogs and make laws in consonance with Islamic values to protect the rights of animals and come up with nature friendly solution to deal with the problems of rapid growth of stray dogs in our locality.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of or any organization with which he might be associated.

Humza Rashid

Author: Humza Rashid

The writer is an advocate of the High Courts of Pakistan and holds an LLM degree from Northumbria University, Newcastle, England.