Illegal dog traders face crackdown

Proposed action against pet smuggling and 'hobby breeders' will require permits, with fines for illegal trading rising to HK$100,000

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2012, 4:26am

The government plans to clamp down on unlicensed dog dealers, dog smugglers and puppy farms.

It wants to make it compulsory for anyone trading in dogs or their puppies to hold a permit.

Public consultations on the move started yesterday and will end on November 30.

The suggestion comes after years of discussion on how to plug loopholes in the pet trade, in which commercial breeders evade government controls by disguising themselves as private pet owners, or hobby breeders.

As the current legislation does not require hobby breeders to be licensed, dog dealers often flout welfare and hygiene regulations by keeping animals in extremely small cages.

Others buy smuggled dogs from the mainland for resale.

According to the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department, 74 per cent of the 11,542 dogs sold in pet shops from February 2010 to July last year came from self-proclaimed private owners.

It was estimated each owner owned five bitches and sold two dogs a month to pet traders, indicating they were breeding for business rather than as a hobby.

The department proposes two types of breeder licences - one for those who have up to four bitches for breeding, and one for people who have more than four.

The latter would be subject to more stringent rules. Pet owners who want to sell just one of their own dogs will be able to get a one-off licence for the transaction.

To prevent abuse, only two such permits will be issued to an applicant each year.

The department also wants to increase the maximum penalty for illegal trading of animals from HK$2,000 to HK$100,000.

Animal groups welcomed the plan. Sandy Macalister, of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said: "We welcome these proposals because they will help prevent animal cruelty and exploitation, they will improve animal welfare and help address the problem of sickness and disease in puppies."

But pet shop veteran Howard Cheung doubted it would stop pet smuggling unless authorities tested the dogs' DNA.

Others proposed a stiffer fine. "Breeders earn HK$100,000 by selling just a few dogs which they claim to be 'pure breeds'," said Sally Anderson, of Dog Rescue.