Help for police tackling animal abuse

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2011, 12:00am

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Police are stepping up training to help officers deal effectively with animal abuse cases, including inviting an overseas veterinary forensic expert to hold a workshop, among other steps.

Police initiated the Animal Watch Scheme last month, in tandem with the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), because of a series of recent, high-profile cases of abuse.

A 38-year-old man was arrested in May for allegedly shooting a kitten with an air gun in Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei. A poisoner is still at large after killing several dogs last year in Bowen Road, Mid-Levels, and at least six dogs on Lamma Island were poisoned in September.

Police Superintendent Kong Man-keung, who is in charge of the scheme, said animal abuse cases posed difficulties for investigators.

'To a certain extent it is more difficult [than investigating a murder case] as animals cannot speak,' he said. 'Investigations often involve exhibits - witnesses and victims. But in animal abuse cases, you get no information from the victim. And many cases happen in remote areas at night, with no witnesses.'

The programme aims to improve officers' ability to determine if an animal was injured by a person, another animal or by accident, and how to investigate real cases of abuse.

A veterinary forensic expert from Britain will hold a one-week workshop in February on investigative skills including serology (the study of blood serum) and techniques involving microbiology. Officers will be involved in discussions on how to handle animal abuse cases.

There were 52 animal abuse cases in the first nine months of 2011, two more than in the same period last year, and eight people have been arrested. The figure was quite stable, Kong said, and there was no evidence the situation was deteriorating.

Kong denied that the programme was launched because police had performed poorly in combating animal abuse. Rather, it arose from a periodic review of police policies.

The programme will include an exchange of information between the police, the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department and the SPCA.

The public will be encouraged to report abuses to police. Officers from the department and SPCA will go to the scene of abuse cases, on request, to help police investigate them. The department could also provide facilities at its veterinary laboratory for examinations.