THE RSPCA is concerned about the number of perfectly healthy dogs being destroyed under new rules laid down to protect the territory from rabies. Changes in the Rabies Ordinance in July due to the increasing number of dogs on the streets led to stricter controls on strays. They meant strays would be put down by Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD) veterinarians after four days, regardless of whether they appeared to be genuine strays or well-kept pets that had wandered off. Previously, many were given to the RSPCA, which would try to find them homes. The animal welfare group is concerned that many owners are not coming forward for fear they will be punished by fines of up to $10,000. Under the new regulations, the dogs are being put down even if prospective new owners come forward, as was the case this week with a healthy four-year-old German shepherd found lost in Fei Ngo Shan, Kowloon. Local residents have been incensed that the dog, which was found with a brand new collar still with the $89 price tag, is to be killed tomorrow. Despite one woman offering to become the legal owner of the dog, the department has little choice under the regulations but to destroy it. 'We couldn't believe that a beautiful dog that had obviously been cared for was going to be put down despite having a home to go to and that new owners were going to pay costs already incurred,' said Jane Lindsay, who found the dog. 'I can see the problem faced by [the department]. 'However, I do think the whole system needs to be revised.' She said it seemed ironic that a perfectly good dog had been condemned when packs of wild dogs roamed Hong Kong. Last year, 18,000 strays were picked off the streets and destroyed, more than twice the number handed to the RSPCA by owners no longer wanting their pets. The RSPCA tries to find homes for those handed in with rabies vaccination certificates, and until July was able to reprieve some healthy looking strays and find them owners. 'But now AFD is insisting that all stray dogs are sent to them and can only be saved if they are claimed by their owner with the rabies certificate,' said Doreen Davies, deputy executive director of the RSPCA.