Young Hong Kong pet protection group goes extra mile to match animals with the right homes

Founder and core volunteers also seek to rectify city’s ‘abandonment culture’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 July, 2017, 6:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 July, 2017, 6:00pm

A pool of unfathomably adorable dogs and their foster parents greet visitors at local pet protection agency Love Adopt Animal Society’s bimonthly adoption day.

Some puppies nap in the shade, some give out kisses and clamour all over visitors, and some show off the tricks they know. They span ages and breeds, but share one thing in common: the dogs all wait patiently for a family to bring them home.

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Love Adopt Animal Society has been doing bottom-up volunteer work in Hong Kong since its founding in 2015, battling the abandonment and maltreatment of pets around town by liaising with organisations.

With the aim of ultimately changing the attitude and culture surrounding animal adoption in the city, the society and its seven key volunteers emphasise rehoming, training people and pets, and educating the public on how to properly care for their animals.

“I was a veterinary nurse for 15 years before this,” said founder Jacqueline Cheung Pui-ying. “Growing up, I would always feed and rescue strays. After a while, it became clear that housing dogs in my home was both unsustainable and not making a big enough impact, so I founded this society.”

The society has two core methods of ensuring the success of its mission.

Its ‘Take Me Home Animal Adoption Programme” collaborates with other local organisations and volunteers to rescue, rehabilitate physically and emotionally, foster and rehome the furry friends.

“We are a centre without a centre,” Cheung explained. “We have to support other agencies and contribute our part.”

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Jacqueline Cheung, Love Adopt Animal Society

Pet adoption days held twice a month play a significant role.

“Each event rehomes five to eight dogs, and through such days and social media, we’ve helped over 400 dogs find new families,” she said.

The second method, under the theme “Love Adoption Society”, strives to educate people on how to properly own a pet, as well as the responsibilities that come with taking a live animal into one’s home.

The objective also seeks to improve views on abandoning animals.

“Pets aren’t just cute toys to play with and then get rid of when you are bored,” Cheung said. “People need to realise adopting a pet is taking a live creature into your home, who, just like them, will experience emotions and desires, and is capable of loving unconditionally if treated right.”

The society works with volunteer trainers who assess the character of each animal and teach them to trust humans. The idea is to rehabilitate their behaviour and mental health.

“Fostering, which often has to be in our own homes, is important to us,” said social media manager Ive Wong Wing-hang. “It means the animals are already accustomed to being in a family when they move to their new homes.”

Aside from applying baseline criteria that their animals must live indoors, the society conducts background checks on potential families. Applicants fill out a comprehensive form, and the society analyses the home circumstances, including economic capabilities, building legality issues, and whether the owners can be hands-on enough to properly care for the animal.

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Cheung matches people with pets that are compatible with their lifestyle and personality. While people do not always end up with the dog they initially saw, she is careful to explain why a chosen animal fits best.

In fact, Cheung meets every potential owner face to face to fully assess his or her character.

She recalls a story involving two Rottweiler mixes, Ah Mui and Saam Ye, who were adopted at an Adoption Day in Sai Kung in June. When the cargo ship both dogs lived on stopped running, the captain wanted to throw the dogs into the ocean and abandon them. But Cheung was able to intervene.

Saam Ye was adopted by the owner of Eagle Pet, a pet shop. The dog now accompanies its owner daily to work, greeting customers and playing with other dogs. Eagle Pet has long collaborated with the society, taking in dogs when foster homes cannot be found, and making available to the group free grooming services and pet food.

As for Ah Mui, her new family bought a new car with the intention of being able to take her everywhere they go.

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“Both dogs are loved to bits by their new families,” Cheung said.

However, a day is only 24 hours, she noted, and a single organisation cannot rectify the city’s dog abandonment problem by itself.

“All of us working together, filling in when another agency cannot carry the burden, united and supporting one another, that’s how we can actually make a change.”