What are the animals that can be pets in India?

pets in India

“The love for all living creatures is the noblest attribute of man” said Charles Darwin. Animals have always been good companions for human beings from times immemorial. We have civilizations that have had even wild animals as pets. However, multiple reasons like poaching for ornamental and medicinal purposes, illegal trading etc. have resulted in the extinction of several species, while some are critically endangered. Hence, animal laws became more stringent. There is a specific list of animals under various statutes that cannot be had as pets or be reared in home. The remaining animals can very well be domesticated. This submission discusses about the animals that can be pets in India.

Laws governing pet animals in India:

There is no specific legislation that provides any regulation for pet animals in India. However, there are certain legislations which put down a negative list i.e., animals that cannot be pets in India. This has to be first considered following which the rights available to domestic animals in India is brought in by a few statutes along with judicial interpretations. A conjoint reading of all these would frame the pet laws in India.

The following are some of the statutes to be looked into –

  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species,
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and Rules made thereunder.
  • Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species:

Parakeets may be thought of as common pets. However the African grey parrot, Blue-throated Macaw and Yellow-crested Cockatoo are protected from international commercial trade under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union). The text of the Convention was finally agreed at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington, D.C., the United States of America, on 3 March 1973, and on 1 July 1975 CITES entered in force. 

India ratified CITES on 20th July 1976 and is therefore a party to this Convention.  CITES is not binding law as such, however the State has a constitutional obligation to foster respect to international instruments under Art.51(c) of the Constitution of India. The authorities responsible for enforcing CITES in India are provided as a list in the CITES website itself.[i]

Roughly 5,800 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants are protected by CITES against over-exploitation through international trade and are listed in Appendices I, II and III to the Convention are lists of species afforded different levels or types of protection from over-exploitation.[ii]

  • Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants (Article II, paragraph 1). They are threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial (Article III), for instance for scientific research. In these exceptional cases, trade may take place provided it is authorized by the granting of both an import permit and an export permit (or re-export certificate). Article VII of the Convention provides for a number of exemptions to this general prohibition.
  • Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. It also includes so-called “look-alike species”, i.e. species whose specimens in trade look like those of species listed for conservation reasons (Article II, paragraph 2). International trades in specimens of Appendix-II species may be authorized by the granting of an export permit or re-export certificate. No import permit is necessary for these species under CITES. Permits or certificates should only be granted if the relevant authorities are satisfied that certain conditions are met, above all that trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. (Article IV of the Convention)
  • Appendix III is a list of species included at the request of a Party that already regulates trade in the species and that needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation (Article II, paragraph 3, of the Convention). International trade in specimens of species listed in this Appendix is allowed only on presentation of the appropriate permits or certificates. (Article V of the Convention)

Hence, the appendices of CITES along with the relevant procedural permits has to be looked into before having the idea of whether you can pet the said animal or not.

Wildlife Protection Act, 1972:

Aquariums may seem very normal and soothing. However, Cetaceans (dolphin or porpoise), penguins, otters and manatees are banned according to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. It is also prohibited to keep or sell a few species of endangered fish.

Birds like Rose Ringed Parakeet, Alexandrine Parakeet, Red Munia and Jungle Maina are also protected under the Wildlife Protection Act.

Section 2(37) of the Act defines ‘wildlife’ as wildlife includes any animal, bees butterflies, crustacean, fish and moths; and aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat. So the meaning of the wildlife in this Act is very wide and inclusive of all kinds of flora and fauna.

This Act has flora and fauna listed under six schedules as follows –

The animals under Schedule I and Schedule II are rare, so they get absolute protection from the government and penalties in their case are highest as prescribed under the law. 

Schedule III and Schedule IV offer protection to animals & plants that are not in the list of endangered species, but they do need protection, so the penalties for crime against these animals are low.

Animals under Schedule V can be hunted and it includes commonly seen animals such as Crow, Fruit Bats, and Mice & Rats ONLY. 

Schedule VI includes plants, which are prohibited from cultivation and planting, such as, Beddomes’ Cycad, Blue Vanda, Kuth, Ladies Slipper Orchids, Pitcher Plant, and Red Vanda.

Hence, a cross verification with the schedules is an imperative before deciding on which animal to pet.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960:

Monkeys are revered to be an incarnation of Hanuman, the devout of Lord Shri Ramchandra in Hinduism and many pious Hindus often feed them. However monkeys can’t be kept and trained for entertainment purposes in India under Section 22 (ii), PCA Act 1960.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act was enacted in 1960 to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to amend the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals. After the enactment of this Act, the Animal Board of India was formed for the promotion of animal welfare. Ss.2(c) and (d) define Captive Animal and Domestic Animal.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released four new Gazette notifications under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 to regulate dog breeders , animal markets, and aquarium and “pet” fish shop owners.

The rules are the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rules, 2017; Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017; the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Aquarium and Fish Tank Animals Shop) Rules, 2017; and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017.

According to these new rules, dog breeders, aquarium and fish “pet” shop owners must register themselves with the state Animal welfare Board of the respective states. The sale of all types of cattle, including buffaloes, and camels for slaughter via animal markets is not allowed.  The sale of cattle and camels can be made only to a person who carries valid documents proving he or she is an “agriculturist”. No aquarium can keep, house or display: “any cetaceans, penguins, otters, manatees, sea turtles and marine turtles, artificially colored fish, any species of fish tank animals listed in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (53 of 1972), or any species listed under the Appendix I of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species”.

With much more stricter laws in place, it is important to choose a particular animal as your pet, see if it is banned or not as per any law in India and then proceed.

Indian Penal Code, 1860:

The Indian Penal Code, 1860, though it has no specific provision relating to wildlife, defines the term animal in Section 47 and declares maiming, killing of animals as an offence and punishable under Sections 428 and 429.

Conclusion:

Enshrined in the Indian constitution, Article 51 (g) states the following:

“It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.”

Hence, it is important to be more compassionate towards animals by abiding by the law. The approach about legal pets is a reverse process. There is no direct list about what pets are legal in India. The list contains the animals that cannot be had as pets. Hence, it is suggested to first choose the animal, identify whether it can be kept as a pet or not and then to proceed with buying the pet and growing it.

Edited by Pragash Boopal

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference

[i] https://www.cites.org/eng/cms/index.php/component/cp/country/IN

[ii] https://www.cites.org/eng/app/appendices.php

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I'm AISHWARYA LAKSHMI VM, pursuing B.B.A., LL.B (Hons) at School of Excellence in Law, the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University and the Professional program of the Company Secretaryship course. My area of interest not only includes corporate, taxation, commercial and economic laws but also environmental law and human rights. I've participated in several national and international moots and won several accolades. I'm also the Secretary of the Moot Court Association of my college. A firm believer in team work, time management and commitment, I always endeavor to be unique and to carve out a space for myself in whatever I undertake. During my free time, I read fiction, listen to music and experiment my culinary skills