... matched by laws full of holes, badly enforced

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 April, 2010, 12:00am

There is nothing difficult about enforcing laws ensuring that dog owners vaccinate and licence their pets. Reminder letters, phone calls and, as a last resort, a visit by an Agriculture and Fisheries Department officer would seem to be a straightforward strategy. This clearly isn't so in Hong Kong, as the auditor has found: more than half of the city's 317,000 licences have expired and not been renewed. Only a fraction of the offenders are being prosecuted and more than HK$30 million is being spent each year rounding up strays, most of which are destroyed.

The story is a familiar one to observers of our legislative process. Our laws generally take a long time to be formulated and enacted, but not all of them are adequately enforced. Bills tend to be watered down in response to objections from various interest groups. This sometimes creates loopholes or makes enforcement difficult for those given the responsibility of bringing offenders to book.

It is clearly not in Hong Kong's interests for legislation to be poorly enforced. Dogs have to be properly cared for; they can carry diseases like rabies and, if uncared for, can cause a nuisance. Licensing them to ensure that they have been vaccinated is necessary. The law that stipulates this is a good one - that is why it was enacted.

So, too, are rules that require building renovations to be carried out by authorised workers. Yet, these have also not being properly followed up. The law that bans smoking in bars and restaurants is inadequate in that it does not put the onus on proprietors, but it is being weakened further by a lack of officers to enforce it. Dozens of exemptions to the proposed legislation banning idling engines will make implementation difficult, if not impossible.

We go to a lot of trouble to pass legislation aimed at dealing with specific problems in society. Greater effort should be made to ensure our laws are effective - and are properly enforced.