With a week to go before the introduction of a new penalty-points system to promote hygiene, the government has been urged to let public housing estate tenants keep their pets until they die naturally. The post-Sars demerit-points system, announced in May, is scheduled to be put into action on October 1 after a two-month grace period. Under the scheme, public housing tenants will face eviction if they amass 16 penalty points over a two-year period. Pet ownership is one of 19 offences that would attract penalty points. It would be worth five points. But Hong Kong Polytechnic University researchers, who have conducted 1,151 phone interviews in the past two weeks on behalf of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), have revealed that more than 60 per cent of those interviewed support the relaxation of restrictions on pet ownership. Owning a pet is currently a breach of the public housing tenancy agreement, but had been largely ignored before the Sars outbreak. 'Most people accept pet-keeping in public housing estates, provided there is a comprehensive code of conduct for monitoring and enforcing responsible pet ownership,' Lisa Tsui, chairman of the SPCA said. 'We agree to penalise those whose pets cause a nuisance and damage to the environment,' she added. 'But we shouldn't abolish animals' right to live.' About 60 per cent of the respondents agreed that keeping pets would have a positive impact on families. The survey also showed that more than half of respondents who did not own pets said they had not been disturbed by the animals in their estates. Apart from adopting a code of conduct for pet owners, the SPCA also urged the government to introduce a registration system to monitor and enforce responsible pet ownership. However, there are still tenants supporting the ban of pets in public housing estates. 'The overall hygienic situation in public housing estate is not suitable for keeping pets, and it's stated at the very beginning [of the mutual covenant] that pets are not allowed,' tenant Diana Li Pak-ling said.