Animal-rights volunteers in Sai Kung slam lame way of catching strays

Hound trapped by the agriculture department chewed off part of paw to escape a snare, Sai Kung volunteers say

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 July, 2013, 5:28am

Dog traps set by the government to catch strays should be banned because they inflict too much pain, campaigners of animal rights say.

One dog had to chew off part of its paw to escape a trap in Sai Kung, they say.

The dog, now in a kennel on Tai Lam Wu Road near Ho Chung, was first seen limping around with a trap and metal chain near the Clearwater Bay Equestrian Centre in March, according to the Sai Kung Stray Friends group.

It then stepped into a second snare set up by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department a few weeks ago.

A volunteer who found the dog criticised the department for aiming at "easy targets". She tried to catch the dog to remove the snare, but failed.

"Obviously the dog was in pain," she said. "He disappeared for a few days, and then he came and part of his leg was missing."

She said the dog had probably not eaten when it went missing, because she was usually the one who fed the pack of six to which it belonged.

"[The dog] looks big and ferocious, but actually he's very quiet," she said. "They catch the dogs that are not even a nuisance; they catch the easy ones."

She said she had known the dog, which was the alpha male of the pack, for two years.

After the department took away the dog, another volunteer, Sue Bradley, reclaimed it, saying she was the owner. Bradley said the dog had another owner before, but it was thrown out of a car and became a stray.

"Now I will be prosecuted again [for animal cruelty]," Bradley said. The law requires owners to put a dog on a leash and to ensure it is vaccinated against rabies and carries a microchip that identifies its owner.

Society chairwoman Narelle Pamuk said it would be more difficult to find the dog a home since it was handicapped.

"[This is] the result of the bad practices of the department," she said.

Pamuk said the government should adopt a programme to trap, neuter and release strays, instead of getting rid of them one by one.

She said such a programme - which animal-welfare groups have been pressing the government to adopt for years - could bring about a dramatic drop in the number of stray dogs and inflict minimal pain on the animals.

Volunteer Poh Kim-keow said the department's use of traps could contravene the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, which has a broad definition of animal cruelty. It says anyone who terrifies or causes any unnecessary suffering to an animal can be penalised.

Sai Kung Stray Friends is also concerned that a person walking on Clearwater Bay's popular Lung Ha Wan hiking trail, where the dog that chewed off its paw was trapped the second time, could easily step into such traps.

A department spokeswoman said every time a snare was in use, an official would stand by the trap the whole time and a warning sign would be erected. It installed a trap, which held fresh meat, when it received complaints.

The traps were introduced from Australia 10 years ago. The department did not agree that it would inflict great pain on an animal, she said.