Persistent animal abusers would be barred by the courts from keeping pets under government proposals disclosed yesterday.
But suggested amendments to pet-shop licensing conditions, such as restricting the supply of dogs to animals from reputable breeds, have been delayed after opposition from the pet trade.
Animal welfare groups welcomed the initiatives, which include drastically increased penalties for some offences, but urged the government to act quickly on the licensing revisions.
In the measures to be put to the Legislative Council, the Food and Health Bureau proposed raising the maximum penalty for the illegal trading of animals from HK$2,000 to HK$100,000, and for a breach of licensing conditions from HK$1,000 to HK$50,000.
The sale of sick animals and birds with infectious diseases would also be outlawed, but no penalty details were mentioned.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said giving magistrates the power to bar convicted abusers from keeping pets for a time would help safeguard the welfare of animals.
'Under the arrangements, animal abusers will be barred from harming or having contact with certain types of animals,' said SPCA public relations and communications manager Rebecca Ngan Yee-ling.
A woman who crammed 113 animals into a 400 sq ft flat in North Point was put on probation after being found guilty of animal abuse. She was not allowed to acquire any new pets without the permission of probation officers, but was allowed to keep 50 surviving animals.
Carmen Chan Wai-man, executive officer of animal rights group Happy Animals, said the initiatives did not go far enough. In particular, she noted the failure to establish a police animal abuse taskforce.
'There is no use raising the penalties for animal abuse offences without improving the effectiveness of catching the offenders,' she said. 'Many street animals were treated cruelly and the offenders are still at large.'
The Legco panel on food safety and environmental hygiene will discuss the topic on Tuesday.
The Food and Health Bureau argued that pet traders were concerned about a possible shortage of dogs if new licensing conditions were implemented.