It seems those with the task of destroying chickens in Hong Kong haven't been the only animal terminators with their hands full lately. We hear the people with the unenviable job of putting down unwanted pets at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have been working around the clock in recent weeks. The most recently released monthly society figures show a 470 per cent increase in the number of pets other than cats and dogs surrendered. We wondered whether it might be all down to the economic downturn - given that plenty of families around town might feel pets were an unnecessary luxury as they tightened their belts. The society's deputy director, Cynthia Smillie, said the real reasons for surrenders were not always clear - but that the downturn might just be a secondary factor this time around. The big problem, it turns out, appears to be what else but the dreaded bird flu. Roosters may be flooding back into the SAR - but worries about their health problems spreading linger on. While cats and dogs have escaped relatively unscathed, pets like hamsters, chinchillas, guinea pigs, rabbits and love birds are being abandoned at an alarming rate. 'People seem to be worried that these animals could also be the carriers of the bird flu,' she said. As you might imagine, there hasn't exactly been a rush of people to adopt these animals as pets - leaving the society's animal destroyers with their hands full. 'Things like the bird flu have a knock-on effect - it has just been a hard time for the staff,' Ms Smillie said. Centaline Property Agency boss Shih Wing-ching got into some baby talk yesterday when he was asked about the Government's commitment to build 85,000 new flats annually. After noting that it was an inflexible programme, he likened the plan to his wife's child-nursing abilities. 'We had a baby last year and my wife insisted on following the directions on the formula can precisely,' he said. The can said she should feed the baby every four hours, and each time there should be a certain amount of formula. 'The baby didn't want any more, but she would keep feeding it,' he said. The housing dilemma was a similar case in point - 'It's like the Government is following the directions on a can.' We're not sure who should feel more aggrieved: Mr Shih's wife, or the Government. Mr Shih also made time to take a pot shot at public sector technology. The Government is said to have developed a special computer program to determine the demand for private sector housing in the SAR. But the Centaline chief was patently unimpressed with the Government's software sorties. 'I don't need a computer program to know housing demand,' he said dismissively. The Rugby Sevens may be coming up next month, but folks at the Hong Kong Stadium have more than rugby on their minds. As the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union tries to work out exactly why early ticket sales for the Sevens jamboree were slow, the stadium's operator, Wembley International, is wrestling with the small problem of blank billboards at the venue. We spotted several advertising signs around the ground, with no actual ad material on them. There were also several hospitality boxes which did not feature the customary sponsors' names. Wembley marketing director Terrence Lee said the economic downturn appeared to have contributed to the significant number of blank advertising billboards. But the sponsors' boxes were nearly all taken, he maintained. 'Some of the sponsors just don't want their names publicised,' he said. These are the best of times and the worst of times, it seems, for Hong Kong's foreign domestic helper population. The good news is that the depreciation of Asian currencies has increased the amount helpers are sending home to the Philippines and other parts of the region in local currency terms - because of the Hong Kong dollar's stability. Only trouble is - an increasing number of domestic helpers no longer have jobs to earn some Hong Kong currency in the first place. What's more, now times are tough and maids are being laid off, it is being alleged that some less scrupulous bosses are using loopholes to avoid properly paying off their helpers when they are made redundant. Ah yes, the peg may be holding firm at the moment - but it's all not much use if you don't have a job.