Civic Party embarks on a campaign to reform the pet trade

Lawmaker's best friend helps to inspire her party's campaign to reform the pet trade

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 November, 2012, 3:31am

Dogma is 13 years old and has difficulty walking - but this dog's problem is the result of neither disease nor an accident. It is from cross-breeding a basset and beagle. But his life has been lucky living with owner Claudia Mo Man-ching, a Civic Party lawmaker.

A veterinary surgeon told Mo that Dogma's disability - one front leg is longer than the other, making it difficult to walk - was probably due to careless breeding in Hong Kong, as the two species look similar.

Mo's dog is not the only one with difficulties. In another case, a puppy that got too big was sent to five different homes in two months before he was saved from being put down. That puppy was Harley, a black great dane, and few pet owners in Hong Kong would have realised how big he would grow.

Harley, now at three years old and 1.2 metres at the shoulders, ate eight cups of food a day, or four times the amount an average-sized dog would need, said owner Janice Jensen.

Had it not been for her spacious house in Shek O, Jensen might not have been able to take Harley, which she was given when a pet shop told her to collect him within 24 hours, or he would be put down by the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department. "It kept Harley in a cage so small that his spine was [affected]," she said. "It took a year to fix that."

It is this mistreatment that Mo hopes to stop and the lawmaker yesterday submitted a proposal to the department in response to a public consultation, which ends this month, on amendments to the legislation governing pet traders.

The government proposal includes increasing the maximum penalty for illegal trading of animals from HK$2,000 to HK$100,000, and for breaches of the animal trader licensing conditions from HK$1,000 to a fine of HK$50,000, for example.

It would also require any person who sells dogs, including his own pet or the offspring of his pet, to obtain a licence or permit.

The amendments the government had proposed were inadequate, Mo said.

For example, pet shop operators with a track record of inhumane treatment of animals were not barred from re-applying for breeder's licences. Cats were also not included in the bill.

"To have this legislation in place means pet sellers can be warned against hurting animals for the sake of doing business," Mo said. "The proposed amendments also did not restrict the number of times breeders can use the same animal for breeding, or the maximum age at which an animal should stop being used for breeding."

The Civic Party's submission also suggests prohibiting the breeding of species with hereditary illnesses and increasing fees for licence applications.