Most animal-lovers prefer buying from a pet shop to adopting from a charity, a survey has found, leaving many pets without a home.
The survey of 537 people by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found looking online or going to a pet shop to choose an animal was the first choice for 73 per cent of respondents.
The charity's two main adoption centres in Ho Man Tin and Wan Chai attract 90,000 visitors each year, but only 3,000 pets are taken. One reason, the survey shows, is that 13 per cent of respondents are put off by the stringent background checks the charity carries out.
Fiona Woodhouse, the SPCA's deputy director, said the checks were carried out for the sake of the animals, and done to ensure that a potential owner had given enough thought to the prospect of bringing an animal into their life.
New owners must submit documents to show that they are allowed to keep pets in their flat. They must also give details of their living conditions, including the size of their flat and the number of people living there.
'When you don't do these checks, you can end up with an impulse adoption, the same as an impulse purchase,' Woodhouse said.
But there are other reasons why pet lovers are against adoption. In all, 21 per cent of respondents said they believed the breeds available at charity centres were limited, while 18 per cent believed pets at those places were either old or had problems.
Woodhouse said animals offered for adoption were perfectly fine.
'We have a thorough screening programme in place to ensure all the animals are healthy before putting out for adoption,' she said.
To raise awareness, the SPCA is holding its annual Pet Adoptathon at its centres on May 5 and 6. It will also host a street carnival in Causeway Bay on Saturday, at which people who have pets from the centre will share their experiences.