Inspectors set to raid dog farms
By ELISABETH TACEY
A CRACKDOWN on cruel dog breeding farms is to be carried out by the Government.
Inspectors will raid farms exposed in the Sunday Morning Post and take away animals in need of treatment under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, the Agriculture and Fisheries Department's veterinary officer, Dr Peter Grandison, said yesterday.
'There's been talk of places like this for a while, but this is the closest we've got to seeing where one is,' he said.
The RSPCA said it had been pushing the Government for three years to bring in rules for dog breeders.
RSPCA chairman Melvyn Bennett said he was 'horrified' by the Post report, which detailed terrible conditions of tiny wire cages and dogs with mange and infections at 10 New Territories farms.
'We've voiced deep concern [to the department] about the breeding that goes on in Hong Kong,' he said. 'This one case is probably just the tip of the iceberg.' The farms around the village of Tin Sum Tsuen, near Yuen Long, are thought to supply hundreds of fashionable, pure-bred pups to mainland buyers and local pet shops.
Post reporters visited the farm of Correctional Services Department (CSD) dog handler Ho Wing-fat, who had 14 dogs on the premises. Most had open sores and scabs, eye infections or mange. Dogs were crammed into kennels hardly big enough for them to turn round in. In the Hung Shui Kiu area nearby, a dog's body was decaying in a concrete ditch.
CSD Commissioner Eric McCosh said yesterday he was happy with Mr Ho's handling of the department's dogs. But Mr McCosh said he would look into Mr Ho's involvement with the farm, which might breach civil service rules on dual employment.
Officers from the Agriculture and Fisheries Department could remove dogs needing treatment under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, with owners liable to fines of $5,000 and six months in jail.
If dogs are being sold, a premises needs a licence under the Public Health (Animals and Birds) (Animal Traders) Ordinance.
Contravention of the ordinance would mean a fine of $2,000.
But getting a case to court was 'incredibly difficult', Dr Grandison said.
Mr Bennett said at least 20 pups a month were brought in sick to RSPCA centres and most died, usually with parvo virus. But the owners were reluctant to say where they had bought the animals.
The number of pure-bred dogs being abandoned or surrendered was also increasing steadily, with 98 surrendered and 18 abandoned last month compared with 335 mongrels surrendered and 116 abandoned.
The Hong Kong representative of the UK charity Puppy Watch, Neil McLaughlin, said microchipping of pups would help to determine whether they came from abroad or were locally bred.
The farms were 'a mirror image' of a huge operation in Wales that had produced up to 250,000 pups a year and made up to GBP12 million (HK$148 million) a year.
'Legislation needs to be reviewed now, urgently. I would call on the Government to take a very serious look at the situation,' Mr McLaughlin said.