Vets are being called in to work part-time for $292 an hour in the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, which has been overwhelmed by work to seek and destroy backyard poultry. It is the first time part-time vets have been hired. Such a decision was not taken during the four previous outbreaks of deadly H5N1 in Hong Kong. Sources said last night the department had issued an urgent appeal to vets in the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to apply for the part-time posts. The part-timers' work will include animal control, rabies prevention, putting down abandoned animals, and rescuing injured ones. If the internal appeal fails to attract enough vets, the agricultural department is also understood to be planning open recruitment. There are about 300 private vets in Hong Kong, all of them overseas-trained, as there is no veterinary school in the city. Most of them work in private clinics. There are six vets in the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. 'It is quite an interesting twist. It shows how the [AFCD] is mismanaged in terms of vets,' a source said. 'As soon as you have any kind of crisis, they are in trouble.' Vets were also concerned that the agricultural department's director, Stella Hung Kwok Wai-ching, was in Beijing yesterday for a bird flu meeting, along with Thomas Sit Hon-chung, the assistant director in charge of the department's bird flu operations.