Beware the pitfalls and dangers of buying animals from unscrupulous dealers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 October, 2011, 12:00am


Animal lovers are advised to do their homework before buying a pet. There have been numerous reports of animals dying suddenly after being purchased at a pet store.

Some unscrupulous pet stores claim that the animals are healthy and vaccinated, but this may not be the case.

Jonathan Lam says he 'bought a rabbit in Mong Kok, but it died three days later. It may have been suffering from the flu.

'My advice to potential owners is to be cautious when buying from pet shops,' says Lam, who also advises pet lovers to learn about the dietary habits of the animals they want to keep.

Some pet owners believe rabbits are no more work than hamsters and guinea pigs. In fact, the amount of care rabbits require resembles that of dogs and cats.

Before succumbing to the temptation of taking a rabbit home, you should understand its requirements, such as cleaning the cage regularly, its bedding, litter box and accessories.

People are urged not to buy on a whim and think twice about making the commitment.

Relying on pet shop staff for advice may not be the right thing to do, says Dr Jane Gray, chief veterinary surgeon at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

'Some pet shops are unscrupulous. They sell young pets, but they are not vaccinated and too young to be sold. Dogs should have a microchip embedded under their skin [as a location finder and proof of ownership], but most of them sold at pet shops don't have one.'

According to a Pet Shop Puppy Survey by the SPCA, 32 per cent of puppies don't have microchips embedded under their skin and 13 per cent are not vaccinated.

The survey also found that 72 per cent of puppies became sick within a week of being bought at a pet shop.

Animal rights activists in Hong Kong have claimed that there are hundreds or possibly thousands of pedigree cats and dogs kept in pet shops in cramped conditions, making it possible for disease to spread quickly.

Veterinarian Dr Pauline Taylor said in a South China Morning Post report that caging animals in isolation for long periods risked not only their physical health but also their mental state.

'For animals which have been kept in isolation for too long, their psychological problems are huge. It is not easy to rehabilitate them,' Taylor was quoted as saying.

For dogs, a sleeping area has to be no less than between 1.1 and 1.4 square metres, depending on the size of the animal. The legal requirement for an adjoining exercise area for dogs is more generous: no less than 3.7 square metres for small dogs, 5.5 square metres for medium-size dogs, and 7.4 square metres for large dogs.

Adopting a pet from animal shelters, such as the SPCA and Hong Kong Animal Adoption Centre, means that you save a life, and animals from these organisations are looked after well in an hygienic environment. The animals are also vaccinated. 'Animal shelters will check the health of pets and have them vaccinated.

'They also provide you the most suitable pet to adopt,' Gray says.

She adds that buying a pet from a reputable breeder is also an option to consider.