Government must change the way it treats stray animals

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 September, 2010, 12:00am

Thousands of dogs are being put down every year in Hong Kong because there are not enough good homes for them.

They die because of short-sighted attitudes and bad decision-making.

Pet owners abandon these loyal servants and make them homeless.

I believe fewer dogs would have to be put down if the government tightened its regulation of pet shops and enforced compulsory desexing of pets.

Officials must look for alternatives to the indiscriminate killing of dogs and puppies at the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department's animal management centres.

Dogs or puppies which have not been microchipped are destroyed at the department's kennels after a few days, unless claimed by an owner or taken by a recognised animal welfare organisation for re-homing. This slaughter of thousands of perfectly healthy and friendly animals is simply not an acceptable method of dealing with the problem of too many dogs.

The fact that the number of dogs being destroyed is still at unacceptably high levels proves that killing simply does not work. Other methods should be adopted, and we have to look at the source of the problem and deal with it at that source.

Most of these pets come from pet shops in Hong Kong.

Under the law, for any sale of animals vendors must obtain a licence, but people who sell their pets or their offspring are exempted.

Action must be taken to control the breeding and sale of puppies.

Regulations governing pet shops must be tightened.

There must be compulsory sterilisation of animals before they can be handed over to pet owners.

This can end a vicious cycle as the animals are sterilised before they are old enough to reproduce.

The government must co-operate more with rescue centres and animal welfare organisations such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Hong Kong Dog Rescue.

There are better ways of dealing with the problem than putting down the animals. The Cat Colony Care programme has shown that by catching, neutering and returning feral or stray cats to where they came from it is possible to greatly reduce the number of kittens being born.

Also, 'trap, neuter and return' programmes in other countries have been very successful in reducing the stray dog population, which is particularly important where rabies is a real and ongoing threat.

We must urge the government to launch new trials to assess the effectiveness of desexing rather than killing.

Cheng Hoi-wah, Tsz Wan Shan