Anger at traps for dogs in Sai Kung parks
Alex Lo and Ng Kang-chung
Cruelty row over snaring of strays
Government workers are using spring-loaded steel traps to capture stray dogs in country parks despite passage of legislation last year that increased the penalties for animal cruelty to three years in jail and a HK$200,000 fine.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said its patrols often used the traps, which are about the same size and shape as a tennis racket but deemed safe.
The steel jaws snap shut, most often on the leg, when a dog steps into the trap, which is set into scuffed-up dirt and leaves. Food is left around the trap to attract dogs.
A four-man patrol laid traps in a barbecue area on the road to Yung Shue O village on Thursday but removed them after complaints from passers-by.
A Mr Wu at the department's animal centre in Kowloon City - the main kennels for strays - said on Friday that the traps had been used for a long time. He said dogs were 'only rarely' badly injured.
'Usually our officers get to the dog within a few minutes and they are caged and put in the back of one of the vans. They are fed and given water,' he said.
An angry Sai Kung resident who walks his dogs regularly in the area criticised the trapping policy, saying it was cruel and unnecessary.
'Any spring-loaded steel trap that can hold a 15kg or 20kg dog must inflict a lot of pain and damage to the animal when it snaps shut,' he said.
'If AFCD staff say it doesn't hurt and injure, ask them to step into the trap to prove their point. They won't, of course, because they will suffer a lot of pain.
'If a private person was using these traps, they would be charged under Hong Kong's very tough animal cruelty laws, so why is a government department getting away with it?'
Mr Wu said he was aware of the animal cruelty laws but did not indicate whether operations had been reviewed in the light of the tougher legislation. 'Our officers continually review operations to see how things can be done better,' he said.
In a statement, the department insisted the traps were safe and were closely monitored.
'The snares were laid near Yung Shue O village, Sai Kung, in response to a complaint of stray dog nuisance,' it said.
'Two snaring traps were used in this operation. The device will not cause injury to animals if used properly. After laying the snare, our staff will monitor the area to prevent any intrusion by the public.
'If a dog is snared, our staff will release it immediately to avoid any injury caused by struggling. AFCD has been using the device to capture stray dogs for almost seven years and it has been presented to our animal welfare advisory group before use.'
Animal rights activists condemned the department's use of the traps.
David Wong Kai-yan of Animal Earth said: 'The trapped dog will unavoidably get hurt. A better way to control the increase in the number of stray dogs is to neuter them.'
Carmen Chan Wai-man, executive officer of animal rights group Happy Animal, said she was shocked. 'We seldom hear of the department using traps. Usually they send dog catchers.'
Law given bite
The government sharply increased penalties for animal cruelty last year
Offences carry jail terms of up to three years and/or a fine (in HK dollars) of $200,000