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Traffic and road safety in Hong Kong

Horses, yes. Cows, pigs and goats too. But should Hong Kong traffic law cover cats and dogs?

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan says government is reviewing changes to current rules for accidents involving animals

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 October, 2017, 9:54am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 October, 2017, 11:53am

Horses are covered. Cows too, and even pigs and goats. And now, under the watchful eyes of animal welfare groups, the Hong Kong government is considering whether to include cats and dogs under a law that requires motorists to make a police report when they hit an animal on the road.

Section 56 of the city’s Road Traffic Ordinance currently stipulates that when an accident involving a vehicle has occurred on a road and caused injury to an animal, the driver must stop and report the accident to police as soon as possible. The penalty for not doing so is a $10,000 fine and a 12-month jail term.

But the provision does not apply to cats and dogs, as the only animals specified in the law are horses, cattle, asses, mules, sheep, pigs and goats.

In a written reply on Wednesday to an inquiry from lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen on amending the ordinance to include coverage for dogs and cats, Secretary for Food and Health professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said: “Regarding the suggestion to cover cats and dogs in Section 56 of the Road Traffic Ordinance, we are reviewing the matter with reference to overseas practices.

“We will, upon conclusion of the review, consider amending the relevant legislation, and consult the Legislative Council and listen to the views of stakeholders in due course.”

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Mak, of the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions, said she was disappointed that the government had stopped short of providing a timetable for amending the law.

She was unhappy to learn that officials did not have records on the number of cats and dogs injured or killed after being hit by vehicles, which she had asked for in her inquiry.

“We understand the amendment could be controversial because motorists might have worries about this. But no matter what, the government should let the public discuss it soon and make a decision. At least they should have some statistics to let the public know the gravity of the issue,” Mak said.

Gloria Li Suk-fun, cochairwoman of animal welfare and lobbying group STOP, also expressed her disappointment.

“Adding some more animals in the laws is not complicated. It’s just a matter of [whether they are] willing or not to do it.”

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In a reply to an earlier inquiry by another lawmaker on the same issue in June last year, then health minister Dr Ko Wing-man said the government had studied practices adopted in various overseas locations, including Britain and Singapore – which covered dogs in their relevant laws – and New York, which covered dogs and cats.

University of Hong Kong associate law professor Amanda Whitfort, also a voluntary legal consultant to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Hong Kong and a member of a legal advisory group to the Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department, said she believed the government understood the public concern about the issue, and they had a “momentum” to change the laws.