It should come as no surprise that those paid by taxpayers to capture and take care of stray or abandoned animals are not usually those who care most about their welfare. Still, it was a bit of a shock to witness the cavalier or even callous attitude of workers from the SPCA and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. No wonder many welfare groups are up in arms about proposals to tighten regulations on pet sellers and breeders if these new, unenforceable rules are to be in the hands of the same AFCD people.
Last week, my wife and I spotted a three-month-old puppy trapped in a dirty and rusty cage in Pok Fu Lam. We called the SPCA. On arrival, the inspector phoned us to say there was nothing he could do other than calling the AFCD. The reason, he said, was that the cage was a dog trap and so could belong to the government department. It was clearly absurd. The terrible conditions of the cage would amount to animal cruelty to keep a young pup inside, let alone leaving it up on a hill where it was cold and raining.
After much futile arguing, he called back and said he was taking the puppy in after all but it would be handed to the AFCD where it would be kept four days for adoption, or else be put down. I guess this is how SPCA maintains its no-kill policy. The people at the SPCA office later told us the case was suspicious and that the owner could be prosecuted or, at the very least, be given a warning.
My wife decided to adopt it and called AFCD. But the owner beat us to it. Workers at the AFCD pound were more than happy to give it back, no questions asked, no warning given, so far as we could tell from the response of a particularly bored staff member who was terribly offended by my wife's questioning.
This same department is trying to introduce new regulations on pet sellers and breeders. All well and good, except the proposed licences set such a low bar that anyone could get one. One type provides for hobbyists to breed dogs at home. This effectively legalises the worst and most irresponsible breeding practice! And how do you check on someone's home unless you have a court order? Oh, never mind, as far as AFCD is concerned.
At AFCD, bureaucracy always trumps decency.