After 17 years as a resident on Lamma Island, John Wedderburn says he is fed up with the never-ending spate of dog poisonings. Next year, he will leave the island – and the city – for good.
The final straw was the death of his own 12-year-old dog, Coffee, who became one of two beloved pets to die after eating food laced with weedkiller over the Easter holiday.
“[The poisonings] have been going on Lamma for years. I’ve gone through this with friends so many times and I have always felt anger,” Wedderburn told the South China Morning Post.
“But this time, the fact that it has actually happened to me has saddened me more.”
Dog owners on the island say there have been over 100 canine deaths as a result of poisonings in the last decade.
Wedderburn, 73, a retired doctor and former vice-president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says most of the poisoned dogs had responsible and caring owners and were not feral dogs, which he believes are the culprit's intended targets.
He plans to leave the city, which he has called home for four decades, next year.
“Hong Kong is just not a good place for dogs. This is not what I wanted when I moved here,” he said.
He says “dog-hating” on the island is getting worse and hopes to see the poisoner arrested and punished.
Coffee, a brown mongrel born and bred on Lamma and adopted by Wedderburn in 2008, was described by his owner as a “gentle, loving dog, friendly to all, never any trouble and a great companion”.
Trey Menefee of the Lamma Dog Owners concern group said the bait used was likely fish laced with paraquat – a powerful and highly-toxic weedkiller.
“They’re clever. Paraquat is very hard to track and disappears in digestive systems very quickly,” he said.
Karen Mead’s 11-year-old terrier crossbreed Monty was also poisoned the same day as Coffee.
“Monty was on the lead when he ate the bait - he had a very, very small amount, and it was hidden in the vegetation which made it hard to see that he had eaten something,” Mead said. “He was smart and affectionate and certainly didn’t deserve to suffer.”
She added: “Lamma is a lovely place to have a dog but until the poisoner is caught, leads and muzzles are essential.”
Reports have surfaced on the island that police have identified at least one suspect and will make an arrest once poisoning is proven. A police spokesman would not confirm nor comment on the investigation.
Dog owners on the island say there have been more than 100 canine deaths as a result of poisonings in the last decade.
Similar dog poisonings have been reported elsewhere in the city - most notoriously on Bowen Road in Mid-Levels.
"The case has been classified as 'suspected dog poisoning' and investigations by the Cheung Chau division are under way," a police spokesman said.
The spokesman said officers received six reports of poisoning and five of poisoned bait being discovered on Lamma in 2012 and 2013, of which all but three were still under investigation. No arrests had been made.
A team had been assigned to investigate the reports, he said, and poisoning "black spots" were being patrolled.
Police have advised dog owners to keep their animals on a leash and to use a basket muzzle when in affected areas to stop pets from eating potentially poisoned food.
Cruelty to animals carries a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to HK$200,000.