I return, with no apologies, to the issue of pets in public housing. I do so partly because this raises the issue of governance, or lack of it, that now seems an entrenched pattern. Without getting misty-eyed over some cute puppy, let's cold-heartedly consider reality. Public housing means small flats with a high density of occupants. They are crowded. There's not much room. They are designed for people, not poodles. For years, the Housing Authority had strict regulations. The rules were simple. No pets. Craven and inefficient managers of housing estates, wishing to avoid confrontations with tenants, allowed tens of thousands of residents to totally ignore this rule. When Sars erupted, there were belated steps to enforce the law. Then bands of animal lovers, illegal pet owners and hordes of do-gooders of various persuasions came screaming out of the woodwork. The grandly named Subsidised Housing Committee of the Housing Authority promptly backed down and ran for cover, like a kitten being pursued by a pack of feral dogs. Although 70 per cent of estate residents plainly state they do not want animals living in their midst, the committee whimpered in submission to a barking minority. Some people could have some pets, it ruled in cowardly confusion. Work out this part of their official explanation: 'Members decided to uphold the conditions in its tenancy agreement to restrict dog keeping in public housing estates, while allowing small household pets to be kept without registration.' What this double-speak gibberish means is that people can't have pets legally but they can have 'small household pets'. The twisted logic displayed by this committee and apparently backed by the Housing Authority is inconsistent, incoherent, inexplicable and just plain dumb. It absolutely guarantees future arguments and demonstrations by the battalions of selfish pet owners. Under new rules, people who now own dogs weighing up to 20kg can keep them. Anyone want to guess when the first disputes start over a 21-kg husky? And this Committee of the Bizarre has also ruled that birds (except pigeons), hamsters, chinchillas, guinea-pigs, cats, rabbits, tortoises and fish which are 'normally kept in cages or aquarium and do not pose any heath hazard' should be allowed. In the next sentence, their statement says tenants who violate the pet-keeping restrictions under the scheme that aims to promote cleanliness in estates will be penalised. By whom? By the same managers who have studiously ignored these infractions for years? Get real. The entire shambles is laughable. But it's serious for the 70 per cent of sane people who don't want beasts in their block. SPCA chief veterinarian Hugh Stanley estimates about 250,000 animals will be put down if the no-pets rule is strictly enforced. This is a tragedy, of course. But who is directly to blame for this situation? First there are selfish and irresponsible owners who deliberately flout specific Housing Authority bans. Then there is senior housing management which doesn't have the backbone of a chihuahua; it allowed the regulations to be persistently ignored. Finally, there are managers of the various estates who either ignored tenants who broke the law or are so incompetent or dim they don't realise they are running a zoo. From statistics being bandied about by pooch smoochers, it would appear there are more animals in Hong Kong housing blocks than some African game parks. When Team Clean was set up during the Sars crisis, one of its aims was to ensure hygienic housing conditions. An important part of this must surely be to remove potential health hazards, including animals. Scientists know Sars can jump species. Can you get it from chinchillas? These scruffy rodents on the approved list can catch pneumonia. Can they get and spread Sars? I have no idea. Does the Subsidised Housing Committee? Another puzzling aspect is the attitude of the SPCA, which gets a healthy annual handout from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. There was an uproar when the SPCA announced a new policy under which it would not put down healthy but unwanted pets. There were mutterings this would mean hordes of abandoned animals wandering the streets. If the SPCA is going to sabotage government social programmes because it disagrees with laudable policies, then surely the answer is to immediately stop giving them $1.8 million of public money every year. You don't bite the hand that feeds you. Even a rabid mastiff can understand that.