An 84-year-old who saved the lives of 1,500 cats, monkeys and snakes fired Jardines' Noonday Gun yesterday to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
When she was in her twenties, Mok Ching-lan envisioned an end to the 'miserable fate' of stray cats during an era when 'local Chinese didn't treat pets the way we do nowadays'. As a volunteer for the SPCA, she launched the Cat Box Programme in the 1960s, which encouraged people to drop off unwanted animals in nine green-wired cages located from Stanley to Sai Kung.
Thanks to recently amended animal cruelty laws, abuse penalties which have climbed from HK$5,000 to HK$200,000 and the availability of over 600 local veterinary hospitals, the SPCA no longer sees the problems of Mok's day - problems that included the live skinning of quails and the killing of dogs for meat.
Now retired like Mok, Hong Kong's first animal inspector - Graham Cheng, 75, known as 'Cheng Sir' - is a self-proclaimed animal-lover. The SPCA inspector's job is to conduct investigations in collaboration with the police on animal abuse cases. He sees a great improvement in animal welfare.
'Eating dogs and cats is illegal in Hong Kong. But 30 years ago, lots of people were eating dog meat, especially in the wintertime. Nowadays many more people are concerned about animals,' Cheng said. 'The most common problem is that people leave animals in the house and don't provide water and food. When the owner leaves on a vacation then the neighbour will call us. The other problem is people don't provide love.'
Cheng, who has talked at local schools about animal welfare, said education was necessary to prevent mistreatment. 'The New Territories is worse because there's a lower level of education than in urban areas.'
Retired police officer and senior SPCA officer Tony Ho said: 'I'm very proud of this organisation. It brought in the idea of humane treatment of animals and it started with nothing.'
Between 3,000 and 4,000 animals are adopted via the SPCA each year.