This ban on dogs really is a step too far

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 March, 2010, 12:00am

There's a reason dogs are called man's best friend. Their value to society is well documented. They provide companionship, social contact with others and a stimulus for healthy exercise; they keep us busy and make us feel safe. Yet the authorities do not seem to share that view; they have banned them from public housing and Home Ownership Scheme flats and all but a handful of city parks for being a potential health risk and nuisance.

The approach is clearly at odds with the aspirations of many of the city's residents and would seem to undermine efforts to improve lifestyles and community well-being. It also infringes on freedoms and rights. Flats and parks may be small but that doesn't mean we don't need or shouldn't have pets. People living in private housing are a good indicator of what people want - they have more than 200,000 dogs and there are tens of thousands more that are unregistered and being kept illegally. To be sure, dog ownership requires rules and obligations, particularly in such a cramped urban environment as ours. Pets that are noisy and disruptive have to be regulated. They should not be allowed to cause harm or annoyance to neighbours or passers-by. In any case, acquiring a dog is not a decision that can be taken lightly. The animals have to be properly cared for and exercised. Too many are neglected and abandoned by their unthinking owners each year. But such circumstances should not deny people with a genuine desire for a pet the right to have one.

Banning dogs altogether from government housing is simply a bureaucratic step too far. A judge's ruling in 2008 that a Mei Foo man had the right to keep a dog in his privately-owned flat was a sensible decision. The reasoning was that an owner's keeping of a pet was firmly in line with the right to enjoy his premises, as stated in deeds. Some government housing tenants are using the same argument in court cases that are under way. There is no good argument against assuring them the same right. Dog owners have to abide by the law and ensure that their pets are not a danger or nuisance to others. They should be given access to more parks for exercise and enjoyment. Responsible people shouldn't be prevented from keeping pets. But as long as the rules are followed and obligations understood, there is no reason to bar dogs from public or private housing.