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A three-month jail term handed out yesterday for strangling a cat is "disgracefully light" and should be appealed, animal rights activists say.
The sentence was criticised as unfit punishment for construction worker An Haizhou's actions - he tied a string around the cat's neck in Tsuen Wan in May, dragged it around and beat it with a stick until it died.
The offence warrants up to three years in jail and a HK$200,000 fine under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, revised in 2006.
Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching asked the Department of Justice to launch an appeal against the sentence by Tsuen Wan Court. She said she would also write to Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung to request an appeal.
Magistrate Raymond Wong Kwok-fai, in passing sentence, said the jail term reflected the severity of the offence and An's not-guilty plea. Asked about the possibility of an appeal, the department said: "We will study the reasons for [the] sentence and the case report of the prosecutor to determine whether any follow-up action is called for."
An, 48, worked in Zhaoqing , Guangdong, as a government officer before relocating to Hong Kong in 2009 and taking up a construction job.
On May 30, he tied a nylon string around the neck of a 1½-year-old cat at Yi Pei Square Playground, the court heard earlier. He then dragged the cat back and forth using the string and hit it with a wooden stick when it tried to run towards him.
A witness called the police. He saw An stand beside the dying cat, pick it up and put it into a plastic bag, the court heard. The witness described An as folding the bag "like an envelope" and putting it on a bench.
Police arrested An as he left the scene. He pleaded not guilty to one count of animal cruelty and was convicted after a trial.
Animal lovers lambasted what they called an inadequate sentence of three months' jail. Mo suggested a reason for the sentence could be that courts had to rule according to precedents dating back to legislation that was unrevised before 2006, which allowed for a maximum penalty of only half a year's jail.
Concern group Animal Protectors protested outside court yesterday. An activist who described the sentence as "disgracefully light" said: "How does our judiciary weigh the loss of a life?"