Pet owners in public flats should be allowed to keep their animals, a legislator says. In the long term, some estates should be set aside for pet owners, according to Albert Chan Wai-yip.
Yesterday, he discussed the proposals with Deputy Director of Housing Lau Kai-hung and other Housing Authority officials, who agreed to consider them.
Mr Chan, an independent, said that rather than threatening pets with eviction or death under its new penalty-points system to promote better hygiene, the authority should register tenants' pets. That would make it easier to crack down on tenants who brought new pets into estates.
'Those who live in public housing only have one landlord and they're not being given any choice, which isn't fair,' he said.
A solution would be to allow tenants to keep pets in pre-selected estates but not others, so that when pet owners - and those not wishing to live next to them - apply for housing, they would have a choice.
The post-Sars demerit-points system, announced in May, is scheduled to be put into action on October 1 after a two-month grace period.
Pet-owners will be penalised for keeping animals - a breach of their tenancy agreement, but one which had been widely ignored before the Sars outbreak. If they do not get rid of their pets, tenants will eventually face eviction if they accrue enough demerit points. Under the new system, tenants may keep only fish or a pair of caged birds.
The authority estimated 2 to 3 per cent of those who lived in public housing owned pets, Mr Chan said. If they were forced to abandon their pets, tens of thousands of animals would likely be put down, he said, which would be bad for Hong Kong's international image.
The legislator has received 400 requests for help from tenants wishing to keep their pets.
'Many of them have very strong bonds with their pets,' he said.
'There's this one elderly man, for example. He is on his own - his wife has passed away and he has had his dog for 14 years. He was close to tears. It is very sad.'
The authority said Mr Chan's suggestions were worth considering and the subcommittee responsible would be holding a meeting on Thursday, during which a decision, even if only a temporary one, would be reached.