Dog owners 'ignore rabies threat'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 August, 2007, 12:00am

An estimated 20,000 dog owners in Hong Kong have not vaccinated their pets against rabies, prompting fears of a possible outbreak, although no case of rabies has been reported in the city for 20 years.

The warning came as a poll showed about 14 per cent of dog owners did not have licences for their pets as required by law.

A total of 534 dog owners were interviewed late last month for the survey by My Pet magazine to review the effectiveness of the government's licensing system for pet dogs.

The Rabies Regulation states that dog owners must apply for a licence to keep any dog more than five months old. The licensing procedure includes microchipping the animal for identification, vaccinating it against rabies and the issuing of a dog licence and collar tag. The licence and rabies vaccination must be renewed every three years.

But of the owners polled, 74 said they had not microchipped their dogs, with 33.8 per cent saying there was no need to do so because the dog was only kept at home, 27 per cent saying dogs were not allowed where they lived, and 16.2 per cent saying it could hurt their pet.

Based on government figures in 2005 suggesting about 140,000 households kept dogs, the magazine estimated that almost 20,000 were in breach of the law.

The poll also found that about 34 per cent of dog owners had been attacked by dogs - and in half of these cases, owners were attacked by their own dogs. But almost 80 per cent said they had not gone to hospital, while 8.7 per cent said they had not bothered to treat the wounds.

The magazine's chief editor, Tang Kwai-sim, who released the findings yesterday, said they showed many dog owners had underestimated the seriousness of an outbreak of rabies.

The last reported case of rabies in Hong Kong was in 1987 but the disease is still common on the mainland.