A 36-year-old clerk broke down in tears yesterday after being convicted of animal cruelty for keeping 23 dogs and cats in filthy conditions in a Sham Shui Po flat. Wong Sze-chun was fined HK$6,000 for failing to provide clean and ventilated cages for the animals, kept in an 800 sq ft flat in Ki Lung Street. Most of the flat windows were kept shut. Magistrate Gary Lam Kar-yan yesterday told the defendant that he understood she had kept the 10 stray cats and 13 stray dogs out of love, but she should have done so within her ability, because it was not acceptable to keep so many animals in a small flat. The strong smell of faeces had affected neighbours and their environment. 'You have to consider your ability,' he said. 'You cannot bear to see them live off the street, but the way you kept them doesn't make them live more happily.' The woman was acquitted for allowing one of the dogs to perch on an air conditioner outside the flat. A passerby on January 27 spotted the dog, which was on a lead, and reported it to the police. The magistrate ruled it was just an accident that the dog had jumped out of the flat, and the lead might have saved its life. He said a vet who examined the dog after the rescue found it to be in good health. The magistrate also acquitted Wong for failing to supply adequate water for the animals because there was no evidence that they had suffered from dehydration. Wong, who defended herself on four animal cruelty charges, broke down during mitigation, saying she had devoted her time and soul to the animals. She told the court she had found them a new home of 2,000 sq ft in Yuen Long and urged the court to release the 'innocent' pets to her care because she worried that they might get sick under the care of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. The court did not address her request yesterday.