British vet Fiona Woodhouse has had her fair share of colourful experiences since arriving at the SPCA in 1992. The deputy director of animal welfare recalled seeing numerous cases during the early 1990s where pets were given a human rather than animal diet. 'On one occasion, a cat came in choking and we found a fish bone stuck in its throat,' she said. It turned out that the cat had been fed a fish head. There were also moments of frustration when she failed to convince a devout Buddhist to consider euthanasia for his dying pet. 'It was distressing to know that an animal was suffering, but I could only give it painkillers as I had to respect the owner's religious beliefs.' With only five vets in the SPCA when she first started, Dr Woodhouse said there was often a queue of more than 200 people waiting outside their office every morning. 'There was suddenly a big demand for pets in the early 1990s, as overseas students came back with knowledge of pet ownership. Pets were considered a luxury.' Once a month, she visited the outlying islands with her colleagues, taking a large bag of medicine. A garage on Lamma Island and an old food store in Pui O became makeshift animal hospitals. 'At that time, there was very little equipment available in Hong Kong for animal surgery. Animal blood samples had to be sent to a human laboratory for testing.' It was not uncommon for her to see people bringing in cats that had been treated by an unqualified vet 'with a piece of cotton sticking out of a hole in its abdomen'. There were also many tricky pet traders. 'Many mongrel puppies became 'panda dogs' after they were dyed in unusual colours, with a bleached circle around its eyes,' she said.