Governor's answer dodged the pet problems

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 October, 1996, 12:00am

In his letter headlined 'No response' (South China Morning Post, October 17) John Yan asked about the Governor's response to the RSPCA's open letter on the issue of keeping dogs in public estates.

We did receive a reply, but we were bitterly disappointed by its evasion of the questions and concerns we had raised.

In his letter, Chris Patten expressed sympathy and said the Housing Authority had 'agonised over this matter . . . and attempted to address it through public education'.

How can this claim be taken seriously? What form did this 'agonising' take when there was no consultation with the Agriculture and Fisheries Department or the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)? Did they agonise over the possibility that their ultimatum would panic many owners into abandoning their dogs and move the problem from the estates into the streets? Did they agonise over the fact that the animals involved were living creatures and not disposable objects? Did they worry about the distress they would cause to owners and their families? Did they consider that they were depriving half the population of the pleasure of enjoying the companionship of a pet? The Governor should inquire into what form the 'public education' took. Did it extend further than a few notices displayed on the estates and ignored by residents and housing staff? Is it not understandable that new residents could honestly believe the rules against keeping pets were no longer enforced when so many dogs had been kept openly for years? Because a policy has been in place for a long time does not mean it cannot be modified or relaxed.

The RSPCA agrees that dogs and, no doubt, their owners would be happier in more spacious surroundings, but if owners are willing to share their limited living space with a dog and have the time to look after it properly, could they not be allowed to keep it for the rest of its natural life? Why punish all owners and their pets for the nuisance caused by an irresponsible few? It is obvious that the Housing Authority intends to adopt the same attitude to cats and other small pets as it has to dogs.

People are to be told to get rid of them if they cause a nuisance but they are refusing our request that they educate owners in how to avoid a nuisance being caused.

Mr Patten is hoping Britain will relax its quarantine laws and save his dogs six months in kennels.

Thousands of owners in Hong Kong were hoping in vain that they might help persuade the Housing Authority to relax its rules and save their dogs' lives.

DOREEN DAVIES Executive Director RSPCA