Groups condemn slow response to illegal dog farms
ANIMAL welfare organisations have condemned the Government for its slow response in raiding a network of unregistered dog farms, after officials turned up to find empty cages and locked, unmanned kennels last week.
The operators of the unregistered kennels on the outskirts of Yuen Long acted swiftly to remove the diseased animals before an Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD) squad raided the sites last Monday.
One week after the Sunday Morning Post revealed the plight of hundreds of diseased and dying purebred dogs, crammed into cages at Tin Sum village, dozens of the animals were missing and the kennel owners were nowhere to be seen.
Reporters visited dog farms in the Hung Shui Kiu area yesterday and discovered many dogs had been removed, leaving rows of empty cages.
A disease-ridden Old English sheepdog, pictured on the front of last week's Sunday Morning Post and discovered in kennels where Correctional Services Department (CSD) officer Ho Wing-fat was working, was among those gone.
The bodies of at least two more dogs were decaying last night in drainage ditches in the district where villagers said about 10 dog farms had been breeding Alsatians, sheepdogs and collies for Hong Kong and mainland buyers.
A CSD spokesman said an internal inquiry was under way to ascertain whether prison officer and former dog handler Mr Ho had breached civil service regulations which banned staff from accepting additional employment.
The Sunday Morning Post accompanied AFD officers on a raid of the dog farms last Monday, but Government veterinary officer Dr Peter Grandison said officers were unable to inspect the unmanned kennels without permission from the owners or evidence of wrongdoing.
International Fund for Animal Welfare spokesman Jill Robinson said the kennel owners might have destroyed the dogs immediately, rather than allow AFD officers to find them.
'These irresponsible dog owners are running a disgraceful and shameful business at the cost of animal lives. I hope the Government can work out stronger legislation and stronger fines to stop these tragedies,' she said.
Doreen Davies, executive director of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said dogs removed from the kennels could still be suffering.
'We contacted the AFD at once after reading your story. We asked the department if they needed extra manpower for undercover work to investigate the case. But they said it was not necessary,' she said.
Dr Grandison said his staff had been unable to find the kennels when tipped off by the Sunday Morning Post about two weeks ago, and human rights and privacy laws prevented his staff from entering to inspect or remove dogs last week.
'It's a shame that our staff couldn't find the place before your story went out last week,' Dr Grandison said.
'I could see many of the cages were already left empty when we raided them on Monday, so I couldn't see any evidence to prove they were living in cruel conditions. We couldn't take any action at that moment,' he said.
The AFD would continue investigating the case, he said.