Calls for a special police unit to be set up to investigate cruelty to animals after an air gun attack on a kitten were rejected yesterday by the force, which said enhanced co-operation with animal advocacy groups and government officials was the way forward.
The calls came as demonstrations were held against what activists say is a rising tide of animal cruelty cases.
Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung said the force was concerned about cruelty cases and pledged more co-operation. 'The police will co-operate with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in future to prevent such crimes. The public should report any case to the police,' Tsang said.
On Friday, a 38-year-old man was arrested for shooting a kitten with an air gun in Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei, several days earlier. Police are investigating whether the man is connected to other cruelty cases.
In one recent case, an employee of a pet clinic found the body of a cat with puncture wounds to its stomach in Ki Lung Street, Sham Shui Po. Another dead cat, which activists suspect was thrown from a building, was found in an alley in Yau Ma Tei.
The air gun suspect has been released on bail and must report back to police in the middle of next month.
Advocacy groups and animal lovers have called for the government to act against cruelty to animals.
Two political parties led petitions outside police stations yesterday, demanding thorough investigations into cases of cruelty and calling for the setting up of a special animal unit.
Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Chris Ip Ngo-tung said the police had special task forces for different types of crime, such as drug offences, and should set up one to clamp down on abuse of animals and step up public education on animal welfare.
His thoughts were echoed by the executive chairman of the Non-Profit making Veterinary Service Society, Mark Mak, whose staff discovered the Sham Shui Po cat carcass.
Mak saw one or two cases of cats with a broken pelvis or legs every month, but it was often hard to tell whether the injuries were caused by accidents or people, he said.
On Thursday he saw a cat covered in glue. 'I would say the chance a human did that was 90 per cent,' he said. 'Some may treat that as a joke. But one would never play with a child by spreading glue all over him.'
Setting up a police animal unit would act as a deterrent, he said.
SPCA officer Rebecca Ngan Yee-ning called on the government to amend laws to step up protection for pets. In many cases, police and advocacy groups could not prosecute abusers or confiscate animals unless harm had already been done. 'Even if we know from our experience that the situation looks bad for the animal, we have to provide proof to various bodies that it would constitute abuse,' she said.
A police spokesman said continuing the existing co-operation among different departments and organisations would be more effective in protecting animals than setting up a police animal unit.