Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dogs are family,can use lifts for free,rules court

Mahim society asked to stop charging residents for letting pets use elevators.Consumer forum says if milkmen can use it,so can dogs


MUMBAI : The status of dogs in housing societies have been elevated.In a judgment that will set a precedent for housing societies on how to treat pets,the Central Mumbai Consumer Redressal Forum has rapped a Mahim society for charging one of its member Rs 500 for each of his two dogs using the elevator.Noting that pets are members of the modern,urban family,the forum ruled there is no reason why pets cant use elevators when outsiders,including service providers such as milkmen and vendors,have access to the facility without any charges.

The family in question,the D'Souzas,58-year-old Allwyn and Eleanor,52,were shocked by the resolution passed during the societys general body on August 10,2008,charging Rs 500 per month for each pet using the lifts.The move hit the couple hard as they would use the elevator to take their pet dogs Barney,a labrador,and Dash,a mongrel,for a daily walk.

When the family protested,the society management justified the decision by saying the pets cause nuisance due to the stench and threat,causing inconvenience to the members and that extra electricity (was) consumed due to unnecessary trips by the lift because of the dogs, among other factors.The DSouzas were left to fend for themselves as the other family in their building that had a pet stayed on the third floor and took to stairs after the diktat.Challenging the societys decision,Allwyn D - Souza moved the consumer forum while continuing to pay Rs 1,000 every month under protest,along with maintenance bills.

DSouzas lawyers Udav Wavikar and Rashmi Manne contended before the forum that pets are pampered and loved as much as any other family member,and hence,should be considered part of the family.Invoking religion and mythology,the lawyers said a dog is considered an incarnation of a deity in Maharashtrian culture.The lawyers further argued that forcing dogs up and down 10 floors amounts to sheer cruelty.To bolster his case,Allwyn collected signatures of society residents to attest that they had no complaints against his dogs.The society,however,said the dogs dirtied lifts by either urinating in them or soiling them,and there was the danger of them biting other residents.The society also argued that dogs are not members of the DSouza family,and the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act doesnt include them in the bracket of family members.It claimed the forum had no jurisdiction to hear the complaint.

However,the bench of Nalin Majithia and Bhavna Pisaal observed last week,We dont find the societys view correct. The forum noted that no resident had ever taken any objection to DSouzas pets.Several outsiders such as milkmen,newspaper and vegetable vendors,laundrymen,sweepers,etc,use the building lifts on a daily basis.In such a scenario,the societys decision to levy charges on residents pets for lifts usage is inappropriate, the forum held.

Ordering the society to return the entire amount it has collected from the DSouzas along with nine per cent interest and Rs 5,500 towards mental and physical torture and legal costs,the forum held,The society has indulged in unfair trade practices and it is incorrect on their part to charge the DSouzas.

From October 2008 till September 2010,D - Souza paid dog fees to the society.Allwyn said,Our dogs were kept absolutely clean and healthy.We would take them out only twice a day and they never misbehaved with anybody,nor dirtied the lift or the society premises.Some members of the society passed this order only to harass us. Happy with the order,he said,This will come as a relief to many residents who are similarly harassed over their pets.

(Source: Pune Mirror 30th Dec 2010. Copyright © 2010 Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved.)

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