Law needs more bite in animal cases

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2011, 12:00am


There was a time when a complaint to the police about animal cruelty would likely elicit a yawn and a dismissive wave of the hand. Even when an animal abuser was convicted in court, he was likely to get no more than a slap on the wrist with a small fine.

No longer.

Police nowadays take such cases seriously. This is especially so when the abuse is particularly cruel and widely publicised.

In a recent case, officers acted with commendable speed in arresting a suspect accused of critically wounding a kitten with a powerful air gun. Judges now routinely impose jail sentences. But the changes are not enough for the kind of enlightened and humane place our city could, and should, become. A recent spate of abuse cases in Sham Shui Po and Yau Ma Tei has renewed a debate about whether the law and its enforcement are adequate. It sparked a mass protest on Sunday, with demonstrators calling for a special investigative task force by the police.

Unfortunately, police chief Andy Tsang Wai-hung rejected the idea.

It is true police resources are scarce, but the force needs to institute a policy so officers know when to investigate, besides when it is reported in the news. It is good that rising public awareness and the increasing visibility of advocacy groups are providing the kind of groundswell of support on which police community work can be built. But above all, the law needs to be amended. Currently, it aims at punishing the culprit when an offence has been committed. What is needed is to step in earlier - when there is evidence of abuse.

This has been the norm in dealing with abuse against children, women and the elderly. It is time we move in that direction for animal welfare.