Eighty dogs that were condemned to be put down have been given a stay of execution, after their animal shelter, in Sai Kung, received a six-month extension to its lease.
The kennel and adoption centre at Tai Lam Wu, in Ho Chung, had been facing the prospect of euthanising its animals if homes could not be found for them before the lease expired last week.
But with the six-month extension comes a jump in rent - from HK$20,000 to HK$50,000 a month.
Still, it buys time for the shelter to relocate. "I'm finally back to feeling happy again," Sai Kung Stray Friends Foundation chairwoman Narelle Pamuk said.
The dogs were not completely out of the woods, Pamuk said. The new premises the foundation secured in Ma On Shan, with a five-year lease, needs approval from the Town Planning Board to be used as an animal sanctuary. "We need lots of people supporting us," she said. "If we don't get approval in six months, we'll be back to where we are today."
The plans are available for public comment until July 2, after which town planners will make their decision and inform the shelter by the end of next month.
Then there is another hurdle - about HK$3 million is needed to build the new facilities, which will include a public education centre where schools can visit and learn about animal welfare.
Sai Kung Stray Friends is also looking to hire another full-time employee once it is able to raise funds for both the shelter and the job.
The foundation had expected Tai Lam Wu to be its permanent home, after the land owner at the time promised to sell it the site.
It spent HK$2 million on renovations and paid HK$950,000 to the previous kennel operator to leave - only to be caught out by the land owner's change of mind. The site was sold instead to the current owners, who had no plans to renew the lease.
The turn of events drove the foundation to hunt for a new site, scouring areas in Sheung Shui, Tai Po and Fanling, away from residential estates.
Fewer dogs have been euthanised each year since 2009, figures from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department show. Last year, 5,353 dogs were put to sleep, compared with 9,085 in 2009.
In April last year, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man informed the Legislative Council that it cost the government HK$138 to euthanise a dog.
The government gave the go-ahead to animal welfare groups early this year to run a "trap, neuter and release" programme to control the stray population.