Four villagers ordered to jail for killing two dogs in preparation for eating them did not deserve such harsh treatment, a court heard yesterday.
The villagers - Lau Lap-kei, Wong Yung-hung, Liu Wai-hong and Wong Chun-hung, all in their 40s - were arrested last November as they prepared the dogs for the pot.
They had put the two dogs, which belonged to Lau, in a plastic bag before drowning them, and were chopping and cleaning the carcasses when the police arrived.
The four pleaded guilty to a single count each of slaughtering a dog for food and were sentenced to 30 days in prison, making them the first people to be sentenced to jail for killing a dog for consumption. They have been granted bail pending the outcome of the appeal.
Counsel for the men, Ching Wan-fung, argued yesterday in the Court of First Instance that the sentence was excessive. He noted that another man arrested for exactly the same crime on exactly the same day, but in a different district, received only a HK$1,000 fine, a penalty that was increased on appeal to a suspended jail sentence.
Mr Ching argued that the first two defendants were eligible for community service orders and the other two should receive nothing more than a suspended sentence. There was no element of deliberate cruelty in what they did, he argued.
But senior government counsel David Leung Cheuk-yin said the men had caused unnecessary suffering to the dogs by drowning them. There was a significant difference between the quick death offered by slitting an animal's throat, as in the Fanling case, and the far slower process of drowning.
He noted that the suspects had not been charged with cruelty, but with the illegal slaughter of a dog for food.
The eating of dogs and cats is outlawed in Hong Kong, as is the slaughter or sale of either creature for consumption by people or other animals. The law provides for a maximum sentence of six months' jail and a HK$5,000 fine.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, which was amended last year to provide for stiffer penalties, stipulates that anyone caught causing unnecessary suffering to any animal can be fined up to HK$200,000 and jailed for up to three years.
Mr Justice Louis Tong Po-sun said he would announce his decision at a later date.