A ruff guide to Hong Kong
With crowded flats and strict limits on owning pets, it's challenging to keep a dog in Hong Kong. Vanessa Yung finds fur-friendly hot spots where owners and their best friends can enjoy a breather
THERE'S NOTHING LIKE some wild off-leash time where dogs can run to their hearts' content and get the exercise they need: no pushing your dogs in prams or putting mittens on their paws, please.
"An ideal hangout place should welcome dogs and be safe so they don't run off and get lost. They should have good shade and a nice environment," says Rebecca Ngan of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). "There should be clean water and good air circulation."
Sai Kung Promenade is a great spot for dogs to meet new friends, especially at the weekend. Most restaurants nearby are dog-friendly, too.
There are 31 dog-friendly parks and pet gardens operated by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Ngan's suggestions include Tsuen Wan Park and Kwun Tong Ferry Pier Square.
With the spacious green lawn and harbour view, the Sheung Wan Pet Garden near the Central and Western District Promenade is a popular spot.
If you're looking for something different, try the newly opened Wan Po Road Pet Garden near LOHAS Park station. Connected with the Tseung Kwan O South Waterfront Promenade, the 1.2 hectare park is said to be the biggest in Hong Kong, and there's a nice walk along the trail to get there.
There are areas dedicated to large and small dogs, and a third for dogs of all sizes to mingle. Basic facilities include a car park, sand pits, collection bins and fresh water fountains. And between the male and female toilets is a room with pet shower facilities.
Despite complaints from dog owners about mosquitoes and the early closing time (7pm between May and August, and 6pm for the rest of the year), it's worth visiting before the word spreads and it gets too crowded.
"For those who don't drive, it can be hard to take their dogs around Hong Kong unless they take taxis or hire a minivan," says Kamric To, co-founder of 99bus.
"Some may smuggle their dogs onto trains or buses, but that means they have to hide inside a bag for a long time. It doesn't work for larger dogs."
The concept behind 99bus, launched in 2011, is to offer dog-friendly transport to owners who struggle to go beyond their own neighbourhoods.
The organisation is teaming up with Stanley Plaza, one of the few dog-friendly shopping areas to offer free transport for the public to attend the mall's annual canine carnival Paw by the Sea in September. Two routes with two stops each - Tai Po and Mong Kok as well as Yuen Long and Central Pier - will be available during the four-day event.
Into the third year of the carnival, the event includes everything from game booths to grooming classes, dog runway show and even a "beer" (apparently a nutritious equivalent for dogs) drinking contest.
The 99bus service is free, but a donation of HK$30 to the Society for Abandoned Animals (SAA) is encouraged.
Although 99bus is struggling to obtain a licence from the Transport Department for charging passengers, response has been positive with trial rides to places including Sai Kung, Nam Sang Wai in Yuen Long and Penfold Park in Sha Tin.
To says they tend to go for open, public spaces and the countryside, which pets love and there is no extra charge or expense required.
Mikiki Mall in San Po Kong is another retail area where owners and dogs can shop and dine freely together.
Water savvy dogs love a splash, but unfortunately dogs aren't officially allowed on gazetted beaches.
Luckily Smart Pet Club is organising a dog's beach trip on September 8 near Tung Ah, an outer island off Sai Kung. The day trip will include boat transfers to and from sandy beaches such as Long Ke Wan or Tai She Wan, where the owners can enjoy an inclusive seafood lunch.
Grand Dogaroo Pet Hotel in Mong Kok and Pets Park's flagship store in Tai Po are among the few indoor dog swimming pools across Hong Kong. The Dogaroo chain also expanded its paw print in August to Kowloon City, with a two-storey hotel.
It offers board, training and day care and features a cafe with freshly made doggy food, retail shop, grooming services and an indoor playground for all dogs. All the branches have also recently started offering a spa service.
Other one-stop destinations include Petworld Resort in Yuen Long, which has a spacious lawn complete with a canine obstacle course. It also sends owners photos of their boarding dogs when they are away.
If all your furry friend needs is a good place to eat and chill with you, SPCA's The Barking Lot Cafe in Stanley serves food for both dog and owner, and has outdoor seats facing the street. It also holds regular events such as animal drawing workshops.
Dogside Cafe in Causeway Bay and On Dog Dog Cafe in Kowloon are two more popular spots where pooch people hang out or hold birthday parties for their doggies.
And if none of the above seems to lift your pup's mood, you may want to seek help from telepathic animal communicator, Rosina Arquati, who holds "Shall We Talk" sessions at tea room AnotherFineDay in Mid-Levels. The next sessions are on September 13 and October 25.
"I teach the owners to relax a little bit with meditation so they realise that if they are calm, their animal will be calm. If there are problems we try to solve them. Sometimes animals take on your emotions and stress, " says Arquati.
Although it is an owner-only event but those who would like to learn more about their dogs can always book a private session or home visit with her. She also offers classes. "Animals have feelings and emotions. If you want to understand your animal you need to take these things into consideration - they're just like you and me."
Tsuen Wan Park
59 Wing Shun Street, Tsuen Wan, tel: 2408 9592
Kwun Tong Ferry Pier Square
Hoi Bun Road, Kwun Tong, tel: 2341 4755
Sheung Wan Pet Garden
Chung Kong Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2853 2566
Wan Po Road Pet Garden
Wan Po Road, Tseung Kwan O, tel: 2791 3100
For the list of 31 government-run dog-friendly parks and gardens, go to lcsd.gov.hk
Smart Pet Club
M/F, 140 Shui Wo Street, Kwun Tong, tel: 3487 6687
Their next beach party is on September 8
23 Carmel Road, Stanley, tel: 2234 9150, stanleyplaza.com
The annual canine carnival Paw by the Sea will be held on September 20, 21, 22 and 29
DOG HOTELS AND SHOPPING
638 Prince Edward Road East, San Po Kong, tel: 3980 9900, mikiki-mall.com.hk
66 Waterloo, Mong Kok, tel: 2768 7668
51-53, Fuk Lo Tsun Road, Kowloon City, tel: 2789 2708
Shop 1-9, 1/F Retail Complex, Deerhill Bay, Tai Po, tel: 2207 4632
351 Shui Mei Tsuen, Kam Tin, Yuen Long, tel: 2470 6928
The Barking Lot Cafe
G/F, 14 Stanley Main Street, Stanley, tel: 2164 8382
Diamond Mansion, 462-468 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 6553 3699
On Dog Dog Cafe
3 Soares Avenue, Ho Man Tin, tel: 9045 2766
tel: 6089 4727, rosina.wordpress.com
Her next "Shall We Talk" sessions at AnotherFineDay (G/F, 13A Prince's Terrace, Mid-Levels, tel: 2525 8256) are on September 13 and October 25