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PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 November, 2004, 12:00am

Q What should be done to protect animals from unscrupulous pet shops?

I read with great interest your article about Clare Bullen, who bought puppies from pet shops which were ill and died.

I also bought two puppy schnauzers from Furry Creatures, a pet shop in Causeway Bay, in July. Similarly, and unknown to me, both were ill. I was assured that they were both well and had been vaccinated against distemper and parvovirus and was promised a certificate of proof, which I never received.

Both puppies were treated by David Gething and his superb staff at his Shau Kei Wan animal hospital. I did not return them to the pet shop for replacement, as requested by the pet shop.

One puppy died within 24 hours and the second puppy died the following week after four days of intensive care in the animal hospital. Everything possible was done to save the poor little things.

I complained to the shop and even got staff to talk to the vet to confirm the diagnosis. I asked them to ensure disinfection of the cages as these viruses are rife and a danger to other dogs.

The puppies are moved from one cage to another without proper cleaning. I understand these viruses can lie dormant and then rear their ugly heads, all the more reason for the strictest cleaning.

I do think that these pet shops are only just barely keeping within regulation standards, if indeed there are any. Spot health checks of the animals and premises may help along with heavy fines for the owners if standards are not adhered to.

This also begs the question of the initial source of the puppies and the state of the breeding kennels before even being supplied to the shops.

I send my condolences to Ms Bullen and her family. However, at Hong Kong Dog Rescue, there are many abandoned puppies that need homes. I hope Ms Bullen will consider giving a home to one of these needy dogs.

Mary Thompson , The Peak

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Hong Kong Dog Rescue and others have many dogs, cats and other abandoned pets looking for good homes. It amazes me that animal lovers would want to encourage unscrupulous pet shops by handing over large sums of money for sickly 'pedigree' animals.

Especially with Christmas approaching, anyone wanting a cute puppy or kitten, please consider giving an abandoned animal the gift of a happy new life. You will gain a truly devoted friend which will, by definition, be a hardy survivor.

And if you really must spend $8,600 or more, the SPCA could feed and care for a lot of unloved animals this Christmas.

Paul Gardiner, Happy Valley

On other matters ...

In an otherwise admirable page of articles sponsored by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, the Post reported (November 19) that the Sinfonietta's coming performance of Arthur Honegger's Pastorale d'ete will be a Hong Kong premiere.

That might conceivably be an accurate statement if 'Hong Kong premiere' means the first performance on Hong Kong Island.

Pastorale d'ete was previously performed in Kowloon Tong, in February 1995, by the (then) Hong Kong Baptist College Orchestra, which I conducted.

Jerome Hoberman, Mid-Levels

Stephen McCarty's predicted demise of travel agents in the face of the threat from electronic airline tickets ('E-asy business', November 16) may come about, or it may not.

Emerging technologies of their time have prompted predictions of the demise of many institutions, including newspapers, cinemas, high-street banks, bookstores and the entire music industry, all of which are still around. There are two important reasons why travel agents will also survive.

First, airline tickets are only one product among the many that make up the entire travel experience.

Even for short journeys of a few days, the time and money spent on flying is often much less than that spent on other travel products; packaged tours, accommodation, other forms of transport, guiding services and specialist products such as entrance fees, local tours and so on.

Experienced and knowledgeable travel agents help their clients select with confidence products that will deliver the desired travel experience in its entirety, not just the flights.

Second, as airlines move into e-ticketing and even reduce agent commissions to zero, agents that wish to survive will adapt to the shifting commercial landscape. They will cease to be agents for the sellers of travel products and they will become agents for the buyers.

They will charge fees in the same way that other professionals such as doctors and lawyers do, and they will also use technology to provide individualised personal services that clients will be willing to pay for.

Our experience is that discerning travellers (whose numbers are increasing) appreciate and are prepared to pay a premium for high-quality and personalised services.

Astute and agile agents will adopt customer relationship management software and other technologies, such as personal private travel web pages, to enable them to address the market segment of one.

They will welcome e-ticketing as another service which they can put to good use themselves for their clients.

Certainly, information technologies challenge the traditional modes of operation for all information and knowledge workers, and some will be unable to cope, but as for consigning the travel agent to history's dustbin, don't hold your breath.

Roger Harris, Charlotte Travel, Tsim Sha Tsui