The SPCA says the city risks its reputation by enforcing the rules against animals The government's ban on pets in public housing is drawing international attention, the new executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Pauline Taylor, says. 'The international media is focusing on how we handle this issue,' she said. 'The world is watching us.' The post-Sars demerit point system, announced in May, is scheduled to be put into action on October 1 after a two-month grace period given due to pressure from animal welfare groups and pet-owners. Pet owners will have to get rid of their animals or face eviction if they accrue too many demerit points for ignoring the ban. New rules allow for only a fish tank and one or two caged birds. SPCA spokeswoman Doris Yiu Wai-fun said the issue is gaining world attention because of the possibility that more than 300,000 animals could be put down. This was hardly fitting for a 'world city', she said. Dogs and cats have long been banned at public estates, but the issue has only become high-profile since the Sars outbreak, when the government declared it would tighten up hygiene regulations at the estates. In the meantime, pets have become part of the community in these estates and are deeply integrated into many families, animal rights activists and veterinarians say. Hong Kong Veterinary Association secretary John Teather said it would be difficult to enforce the ban. 'People become very emotionally attached to their pets - anyone who owns a pet knows that,' he said. This applied particularly to the elderly, children and those who had lost their families. 'There is no doubt that there are many people in Hong Kong, like the rest of the world, who live very lonely lives,' he said. 'The pets are very important to their wellbeing. 'As veterinarians, we are very aware that when we treat a dog, we're not just treating a dog but a family member. 'There is no doubt that some people are abusing the situation, that some pets may not be suitable for the living environments, but the Housing Authority needs to have some guidelines and look at different cases in its approach,' he said. The association had approached the Housing Authority and offered professional help but had received little feedback.