Judge finds animals 'essential' to HK life Pet lovers scored a big win yesterday when the District Court ruled that a Kowloon apartment complex cannot prevent residents from keeping dogs in their flats. Deputy Judge Charles Wong also awarded dog owner Tsang Chi-ming HK$8,000 in damages stemming from allegations that security guards at his Mei Foo Sun Chuen building harassed his family so they would get rid of a beloved golden retriever. Since the legal dispute erupted in 2005, Mr Tsang has left the flat he had occupied for 20 years in Stage VII of the estate. But Judge Wong noted that the case was important for the city's pet lovers, including 50,000 residents of the sprawling housing estate, 600 of whom are believed to own dogs. It may also give impetus to protests by public housing tenants who are under a blanket ban - commonly flouted - on keeping all types of pets and who petitioned the government last month to have it lifted. In his decision released yesterday, Judge Wong wrote that keeping pets, 'be it goldfish, rabbits, cats or dogs, has become quite a common and essential element for some Hong Kong residents'. 'In my view, keeping a pet in one's premises is within the right and privilege of the owner/occupant in enjoying his premises,' he wrote. 'The fact that some dogs may cause nuisance to other residents is no justification for adopting a broad-brush approach in disallowing all owners to keep dogs.' Judge Wong had to decide whether management had the legal power to bar dogs from the building and whether Mr Tsang's 27kg retriever was enough of a nuisance to warrant its removal. He accepted that Mr Tsang and other residents were given ample warning about the dog ban by the defendants, the Incorporated Owners of Mei Foo Sun Chuen, Stage VII, and Broadway-Nassau Investments, which manages the estate. But a Deed of Mutual Covenant - which guaranteed residents the right to enjoy their flat - trumped any so-called house rules created by the defendants, Judge Wong ruled. A Mrs Wong, one of two residents who complained about the dog, had also refused to ride in the lift with site workers, Judge Wong noted. She called the police when a quarrel ensued about whether Mr Tsang could keep his dog in the flat, the ruling said. 'The dog played no part in the quarrel,' Judge Wong wrote. 'I find that had there been any disorder or breach of the peace in this occasion, it was solely caused by the homo sapiens. The limited number of complaints suggests that the dog was not much of a nuisance.' Sham Shui Po district councillor Shum Siu-hung, who has an office at Mei Foo Sun Chuen, said the managers had introduced the ban on dogs after numerous complaints, although they were not clearly banned in the covenant. The building owners and managers were unavailable for comment.