Police have sought to forge a partnership with Lamma dog owners to combat poisonings on the island while promising to be more conscientious in recording complaints about such incidents.
They have handed a set of guidelines to residents that they hope will help bring arrests and prosecutions of culprits suspected of causing more than 100 canine deaths in the past decade.
The checklist includes advice on what the public should do on finding suspicious objects or witnessing suspicious persons dropping meat on roadsides or paths and how to handle security-camera evidence.
“The police are not the enemy,” Superintendent John Cameron told a public meeting on Wednesday night.
“We are part of the community and we seek to establish good community relations with all of you lot on Lamma. And to establish a partnership approach to deal with the problem.”
Referring to complaints that poisoning reports had not been properly recorded in the past, Cameron told the 80 dog-owners at the meeting: “Of course … I regret [such] incidents if they have happened. What I can assure you all tonight is that it won’t happen again.”
The police advice did little to placate owners frustrated by what they see as a lack of action on the poisonings and there were some tense exchanges.
“We don’t trust the local 999 police number to report a crime,” said one male resident.
“Local police don’t know how to respond to our reports,” commented another who said she lost five dogs in 1995.
Cameron said prevention and detection of crime was the police force’s statutory responsibility and “that extends to the prevention of cruelty ordinance”.
But he said dog poisonings were “a fact of life” pointing to the killing spree on Bowen Road that has left some 200 dogs dead.
He also said dog owners had their own responsibilities not to allow their pets to cause a nuisance that might lead to “criminal acts by some crazy person wishing to exact revenge”.
“We have dogs being let run around on Lamma without leads, we have dogs making messes on footpaths, we have sometimes dogs causing hygiene problems, perhaps some people might be frightened of them, or [there might be] some noise pollution with barking,” he said.
“This is nothing to do with the police until it starts causing noise conflicts or perhaps a breach of the peace.”
But a resident responded: “Everybody in here is a responsible resident.”
Police guidelines on suspected dog poisoning cases
Situation A: Suspicious objects found
Check if the object should be there. If not, report it and wait until the arrival of police officers. Do not touch it (but do cover/preserve it to prevent animals eating it in the meantime.
Situation B: Suspicious persons were seen dropping meat on roadside/other place
Confirm whether the suspicious person is leaving food for hungry stray animals. But look at the actions of the person, how does he/she drop the object. Are there any suspicious movements beforehand?
Report the incident to the police and provide a detailed description of the person when using a phone and to officers attending the scene. But do not confront the alleged person, as it puts members of the public at risk. Do not lose contact with meat (crucial evidence). Attempt to keep the person under observation, to try and identify the place of abode/route taken.
Police can subsequently access all circumstantial factors to determine if, how and when further action can be taken on that person.
Situation C: Handling CCTV evidence
Owners of close-circuit surveillance should properly maintain a machine. Investors can seize the CCTV console/storage or request a copy of the footage. The CCTV owner must provide a statement. Do not share the image/footage as it threatens further investigating/judicial proceedings. CCTV evidence is corroborative in supporting other evidence, and not a means of stand-alone evidence.