Lapses in Hong Kong's pet shop regulations are leading to unethical practices in the local pet trade, the Democratic Party and animal rights groups said yesterday. Pet shop regulations in many Asia-Pacific countries far outstrip Hong Kong's lax rules, said Democratic Party lawmaker Fred Li Wah-ming. Drawing references from pet shop laws in Singapore, Japan, Taiwan and New South Wales in Australia, he said: 'The parameters in these regions ... protect animal rights [far more] than Hong Kong does.' The lack of regulation over breeding animals with hereditary diseases and weaknesses has led to widespread breeding of Scottish Fold cats, a favourite with local owners although they are prone to ear infections. Pet shop workers in Hong Kong are undertrained because the industry has no entrance requirements, said Carmen Chan Wai-man of Happy Animals, a rights group. Mr Li said he would submit a description of regional practices as a reference to the Legislative Council's food safety and environmental hygiene panel, to speed up the development of pet shop regulations. Hong Kong should set up a grading system for pet shops, where ratings of a shop's management, environment and hygiene conditions are made public, Ms Chan said. The shop review system, which is based on Singapore's model, deducts points and downgrades shops violating government regulations. In a recent survey conducted by the Democratic Party, more than 80 per cent of 576 respondents supported a shop rating system. The government should restrict online sales of animals and 'hobby breeding' of pets for sale, said Cheung Yuen-man, an officer of welfare group Animal Earth. The animal rights groups called for the government to adopt other regulations, such as organising mandatory workshops for shop workers, keeping detailed records of where animals come from, and forbidding people under the age of 18 from purchasing cats or dogs. A government spokesman said the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department's Animal Welfare Advisory Group has consistently devised animal welfare measures suitable for the city and maintained communications with the pet industry. The government is seeking legal opinions about the feasibility of regulating the source of pets in pet stores, the spokesman said.