Dog Rescue homes in on Ap Lei Chau and Tai Po following traumatic period

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 September, 2010, 12:00am

Hong Kong Dog Rescue's (HKDR) new homing centre and retail outlet in Ap Lei Chau allows the public to see and adopt pets more easily. Opened on September 11, it also offers the charity new hope after a stressful year.

In January, HKDR faced government red tape and a looming April 30 eviction date to move 200 dogs from its original Pok Fu Lam kennels. Swire Properties owned the kennel's site and wanted it back, but HKDR's future initially seemed assured when the developer offered it one of its properties in Tung Chung instead.

'We expected to have Tung Chung as our site,' says HKDR founder Sally Andersen. But she soon learned that the move could be costly and take 'nearly a year'. To use the Tung Chung site, the HKDR would have to spend about HK$10 million on developing the land so that it would meet all licenses and requirements from the lands, environmental protection and other government departments.

'We had to install drainage for rain water and build a sewage treatment plant to ensure water going back into the stream [isn't polluted],' Andersen says. 'We worked it out and it would be too expensive.' Worse, local villagers opposed the kennel's move to the new site.

But help was at hand. Just two weeks before HKDR's eviction deadline, a dog lover offered the kennel an 80,000 sqft plot of land in Tai Po as a temporary home.

'It was a huge relief,' Andersen says. 'It was a real last-minute thing and the Tai Po site is a house with terraced gardens. So it was a rush to contain all the dogs inside, and even now we haven't finished providing shelter for the dogs.

'We are picking up temporary houses and people have been knocking together dog houses for us. We absolutely don't want to spend more than we have to.'

The Ap Lei Chau centre is used as an extension of the main kennel in Tai Po. The 1,000 sqft mini-branch has two floors: the retail shop on the ground floor sells HKDR merchandise, such as T-shirts, books, diaries, calendars and mugs, while the upper floor has facilities for 10 dogs, Andersen says. 'We needed a homing centre, so we'll keep a selection of dogs there and, as they are adopted, we'll bring others in [from the Tai Po site].

'We're going to send the dogs we think have a good chance of finding a home; most will be small. But if they are not moving, [we'll] give some of the bigger dogs a try,' she says.

Meanwhile, the HKDR is still raising funds and assessing requirements for a permanent primary site, Andersen says. 'We don't have a definite time limit at Tai Po, but the owner said around a year,' she says. 'And that's how long it would take [to get a new site].'

The HKDR has been looking at new locations, but Anderson admits she's 'trying not to get too excited' about them. A major problem in finding a suitable place, she says, is changing a location's specific land use status to a kennel, and then having everyone - government departments and surrounding neighbours - agree to this change.

'Most people who have these types of places [kennels], do it illegally. But we don't want to be in a situation or do anything illegal, and [be forced to] move out.'

Her team is working with architects, environmental engineers and landscapers to formulate necessary requirements such as an environmental impact assessment, floor plans, drains and water-treatment facilities.

'We're going through the full process, so when we put in the application [to the various governmental departments], all the requirements will be there and we won't get knocked back to the beginning,' Andersen says.

The Tai Po site's remoteness in the New Territories has restricted the number of visitors, she says.

'It was always busy in Pok Fu Lam,' Andersen says. 'You'd get whole families coming to see the dogs - about 20 potential owners every weekend. We haven't seen that number at Tai Po.' Adoptions have therefore slowed, she says, 'but summer is always a slow time and people are not thinking about dogs'. Even so, the HKDR has been active, with 40-50 dogs adopted per month this summer, she says.

Andersen has noticed how the charity's selection of dogs has changed since it started in 2002, from the common Hong Kong mutt to more mixed breeds, such as Golden Retriever-crosses and Husky-crosses. 'We've grown and got more dogs,' she says. 'Now we see a lot of pure breeds, puppies and small breeds. As the [popularity] of dogs seems to grow and more people buy them, more people abandon these sorts of dogs.'

Andersen remains optimistic for HKDR's future.

'I have to [be optimistic], or it would be impossible and I would just give up,' she says. 'Even the Ap Lei Chau shop was just an idea at first and now it's become reality. You have to be flexible, be open to ideas and just keep going.'

Adopt a Dog

Hong Kong Dog Rescue

Ap Lei Chau Homing Centre and Retail Outlet

21 Main Street, Ap Lei Chau,

Tel: 3480 0061

Tai Po Kennels

6 Shek Lin Road, Tai Po

Tel:2875 2132