PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 2008, 12:00am

Should the pet cafe be allowed to serve coffee?

I read with great interest Connie Lim's letter (Talkback, March 19), which expresses her views about people bringing their pets to 'restaurants', not 'pet cafes', the subject of the Pets Central appeal. Ms Lim, like many people, does not differentiate between a pet cafe and a restaurant.

Pet cafes are very popular in many world-class cities. Many of these cities also allow owners to bring their pets into restaurants that serve the general public.

The two types of eating establishment are different and must be differentiated for the purposes of the Pets Central appeal against the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department's decision not to process its application for a pet cafe licence.

The government's definition of food includes drink, but does not include 'fodder or feeding stuffs for animals, birds or fish'. Because drink is included, the department has to issue a licence if a pet cafe wants to serve a 'pupaccino'.

The fact that the pet cafe does not intend to sell human food or need a licence to serve dog biscuits and other treats is another point raised in the appeal. People who go to pet cafes are pet parents and those curious to learn more about pet care. They only go there with healthy animals. Pet parents don't take sick animals to pet cafes. They take them to veterinary clinics.

Most animals coming out of a veterinary clinic are happy to play with other animals and enjoy a treat while their parents chat about their pooches and watch them play.

The department refuses to process our application unless there is a floor-to-ceiling partition between the clinic and pet cafe. In other words, they cannot be connected even though more than 5,000 pet parents have signed petitions asking that a pet cafe be allowed next door to our veterinary clinic.

I hope this has clarified for your correspondent what the appeal is all about - processing an application for a pet cafe for pets and their parents, not allowing pets in restaurants.

The public discussions on whether to allow pets into restaurants, public parks and on public transport will be left for another day.

Peter de Krassel, Pets Central

How can sex workers be better protected?

Although some sex workers have set up a network that enables them to contact each other if they feel threatened, it is not foolproof, as has become clear with the recent murders.

What is needed is an effective and efficient alarm system, similar to the emergency link service for the elderly.

Of course, such a system requires funding and co-operation from people involved in the sex industry.

I am not sure if the government would be willing to provide the funds to establish such a system, and sex workers might be reluctant to provide personal details. This is because people still have very conservative attitudes towards sex.

Some sex workers may intend to work for only a short time so they can get out of financial difficulty.

In order to obtain the support from the sex industry, an NGO such as Zi Teng should take the initiative to set up the system, as it can get the necessary information.

It could also initially provide funds to get the project off the ground.

From the reports I have read, it is clear there are many sad stories of sex workers and what forced them to enter the industry.

Those who work alone face additional risks. They are vulnerable to attack from clients and they deserve better protection.

As we have an efficient police service, this kind of emergency alarm system will offer the sex workers better protection.

Some organisations might be able to offer the sex workers courses in martial arts. However, I am not sure how beneficial this would be if a female sex worker is attacked by a man.

K. L. Chau, Shau Kei Wan

The murder of four sex workers has raised public awareness on the risks sex workers face.

To most people in society being a sex worker is not acceptable. But prostitutes are still entitled to some sort of protection.

Some will say they have chosen to do this kind of work. Whatever we may think, they are still members of society and something should be done to protect them.

The women who work alone, often in flats in dilapidated buildings, are particularly vulnerable, therefore I think the government should allow more than one sex worker to operate from a flat.

Also there needs to be an alarm system with a central contact point so the sex workers can communicate with each other on a regular basis.

We have to be realistic. We cannot prevent women from doing these jobs and we should not discriminate against them.

Sandy Cheung, Sau Mau Ping

On other matters ...

Further to my letter (Talkback, March 25) regarding the outlying island ferry services, we understand only too well that it is widely accepted that governments have proved to be incompetent at running anything at all, from railways to power generation. However, there is an interesting departure from the old 'tried and tested' formula that is worthy of consideration.

I refer to a situation where the people own and run a company rather than the state. You can see examples of this through the policies of Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia. The fact is, if a privately owned company can provide a quality service and make a profit, then so can a people-owned and run company.

In the old days, people put their heart and soul into things. They were excited at getting an opportunity to show their worth and this made governments more effective.

However, when the private sector wanted to take over those institutions, propaganda campaigns were mounted opposing the concept of government-run services. Sometimes these nationalised institutions were subjected to financial sabotage. Consequently, people lost pride working for these institutions and lost confidence in them.

It would be better to describe a market economy as a profit economy guided by pure market principles where the only principle is turning a profit.

We should, instead, be talking about an operation that provides a service.

Other factors such as schedules, amenities and new services for tourists can be considered, but there should be a No1 priority - providing a quality transport service for islanders and other people living in remote areas.

Tony Henderson, Humanist Association

Talkback The E-mail Forum

[Sex workers] need an effective, efficient alarm system, similar to the emergency link service for the elderly

K. L. Chau, Shau Kei Wan