An expatriate driver was arrested on suspicion of cruelty to animals after the death of eight feral cows found lying on a Lantau roadside early yesterday.
The 49-year-old British woman, identified only as Sarah, was picked up at her home in Tong Fuk after an animal-rights activist was told by police initially that no crime element was suspected. She was later released on bail without charge and must report back to police next week.
The woman's damaged Mitsubishi SUV had been found in a car park a short distance from the crash site. "The vehicle was found with damage, animal hair and blood," a police investigator said, adding that he believed the cattle were lying on the road before a vehicle ran over them.
The deaths of the cattle were reported to police at about 3.30am yesterday, after a resident found the animals lying around the Upper Cheung Sha Beach section of South Lantau Road, where the speed limit is 70 km/h.
Veterinarians from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department arrived at the scene at about 9am. Five of the animals were certified dead and two, severely injured, were put down at the scene. A two-week-old calf was taken to the society's clinic in Mui Wo, but was later put down because of a broken spine.
"We believe the cows were hit very hard," the society's public relations manager, Rebecca Ngan Yee-ling, said. "Some had been dragged along the road."
Earlier, the activists had criticised the police who said when they received the report that "no crime element was involved".
"They reacted in a very uncaring manner," said Jacqui Green, spokeswoman for the Protection of Animals Lantau South. "I told them 'no'. No matter what happened, it has to be investigated."
Ho Loy, chairwoman of the Lantau Buffalo Association, said the case was the most serious of its kind in years. "It was especially saddening as the dead cows are all juvenile cattle, less than 18 months old," she said.
Ho said police should step up patrols in the area or speed humps should be installed. "The surface [the road] is very even for illegal car racing," she said.
A police spokeswoman said its Lantau district traffic team had conducted 16 anti-speeding operations on South Lantau Road in the past six months.
She explained that an officer had earlier said there was no crime element involved as the case had initially been classified as "animal carcass found".
The Lantau district crime squad is treating the case as animal cruelty, an offence with a penalty of up to three years' jail and a HK$200,000 fine.
Under the Road Traffic Ordinance, drivers who fail to stop after an accident causing damage - including injuries to "any horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig or goat" - could face a maximum of one year in prison and fines of up to HK$10,000.