Therapy dog scheme a welcome initiative on animal welfare in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 5:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 10:47pm

We are grateful to the University of Hong Kong’s law library for launching the HKU Libraries resident therapy dog pilot programme this month, aiming to enrich students’ campus life and to relieve their stress during the examination period.

This programme has been well-received in our learning community and has also been widely reported in the local media. We also learned that other universities are launching similar programmes on their campuses. Our chief executive, in her Facebook page last month, stated that more could be done for animal welfare in Hong Kong.

We certainly agree that the animal welfare issue needs to be visited and revisited every now and then because our relationships with animals have changed rapidly in the past few decades due to intense urbanisation.

Having said that, the uniqueness of Hong Kong must be considered when discussing animal welfare. Compared with the world average of about 57 per cent of families with companion animals at home, the rate of 10 per cent to 12 per cent in Hong Kong is very low due to small living areas and long working hours. So, most citizens do not have an opportunity to interact with animals on a daily basis.

Many of us are becoming less familiar with our animals and might forget that human beings are only part of the animal kingdom. Because of this unfamiliarity with animals, some of us do not feel the need to even discuss the basic rights of non-human animals, regardless of whether they are companion or farm animals.

Before more Hong Kong people can appreciate that animal welfare is essential in a civilised society, more public places and buildings first need to become much more animal-friendly so that more residents can interact with animals.

Hopefully, the joy of interacting with animals will raise awareness of the importance of animal protection among those citizens who are not conscious of it.

HKU’s pilot programme is a great step forward for what still appears to be a trivial issue for many people in Hong Kong.

Paul W.C. Wong, associate professor; Rose W.M. Yu, senior research assistant, Department of Social Work and Social Administration, University of Hong Kong