Axe poised over cats in public flats

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 July, 1996, 12:00am

Cats could be the next target of a Housing Department crackdown that has forced dog-owning tenants to send their pets to their deaths.

The department said it would not review the policy - which requires tenants to get rid of dogs within two weeks of notification or lose their flat - because of 'overwhelming support from most law-abiding tenants, Legislative Councillors and district board members'.

Assistant director for regional management Alex Fung Ho-tong said cats were also illegal, but nothing would be done about them 'for the time being'.

The department sent out 2,781 warnings between April and June, compared with 2,280 from April 1994 to December 1995.

Mr Fung said this comprised only 0.5 per cent of public tenants and 'we have to safeguard the law-abiding tenants'.

But the RSPCA yesterday hit out in a newspaper advertisement at government policy which it said had encouraged pet ownership but was now killing dogs.

'This wholesale eradication of companion animals must not be allowed to happen and someone in Government must act to make sure it doesn't,' the advertisement said.

The society's executive director, Doreen Davies, said 2,068 dogs were brought to the RSPCA between April and June - 30 per cent more than in the same months last year. Nearly all had to be put down.

The Agriculture and Fisheries Department estimates there are 170,000 dogs territory-wide, up to double the number 10 years ago.

'We tried to get them to cut down the supply but all they've done is get someone else to kill these dogs,' Mrs Davies said.

'About 40 to 50 per cent of the population live in public housing and are not allowed to keep dogs but no one's asked where all these dogs are going.' She urged the Housing Department and Housing Society - which brought in a similar policy on July 1 - to allow the dogs to end their lives at home under strict management conditions.

But Agriculture and Fisheries Department senior vet Dr Barry Bousfield said the RSPCA was wrong and misleading the public.

'We do not have legal powers to encourage or discourage pet ownership. Our concern is public health and safety, animal health and welfare,' he said.

'We have quite rightly and responsibly controlled import and trade of pets. We inform people that many housing estates do not allow dogs. They are responsible for their own actions.' Frisky seven-month-old Sai Lo, or Little Brother, and four-month-old Bobo, both male Shih Tzus , cavorted around their older pal, the white poodle Bobby, at RSPCA headquarters yesterday.

They made the most of a temporary escape from their dull cages, where they have been waiting for new homes that may never come. The RSPCA says tearful children cannot understand why their companions have been taken away.

'If the Housing Department gets rid of all these companion animals you are going to get a whole generation of kids who don't learn compassion and respect for animals,' executive director Doreen Davies said.