15 dogs killed in blaze at shelter
Jackie Yin and Amy Nip
Animal shelter owner May Chow faces a HK$200,000 bill to rebuild a kennel block destroyed in a blaze that killed 15 dogs on Wednesday night.
'I don't have much money at hand now. I have no idea where I can get the funds,' said Chow, who set up the Yuen Long shelter three years ago and cares for about 200 animals, mainly abandoned or stray dogs and cats.
The fire, caused by an electrical short circuit, occuwhile staff were away having dinner. A neighbour raised the alarm after seeing thick smoke rising from the kennel block that housed dozens of individual cages.
Part of the block was destroyed before the blaze was brought under control. Apart from the 15 dogs that died, two more suffered serious burns and are in intensive care.
'Some of the dogs need to be put in separate cages, otherwise they get into fights and it is dangerous if no one is around,' Chow said.
However, most of the dogs were tame and obedient, she said. 'I leave the gates open at night so they are free to move around the place or go into the kennel when it rains,' said Chow, who runs the Hope House Organisation, a registered charity.
'The most important thing now is to set up a temporary electricity supply so that the air-conditioning in the cattery can work.'
Chow relies entirely on donations to run the shelter, which costs about HK$70,000 a month. 'We don't have regular donors. The money we get is random,' she said.
Chow said few people went to the shelter to adopt animals. 'Chinese people don't like mongrels,' she said.
Shelter volunteer Leung Yi-yen blamed the irresponsible attitude of some Hong Kong people for the high number of homeless animals. She said the government should introduce laws to protect animals.
'There was once a craze for owning a poodle. Boys would buy the dog as a gift for their girlfriends. But the girls would just throw it out when they broke up. We found lots of poodles on the street in those days,' she said.
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals spokeswoman Rebecca Ngan reminded kennel owners to keep fans clean during the summer. 'Animal hairs can get stuck inside the electric appliances causing a short circuit,' she warned.
SPCA staff have visited Chow to discuss care for the animals.