Another bust, another example of the sordid illegal pet trade in Hong Kong. Early this month, police rescued 36 dogs kept in filthy small cages in a rented Pat Heung village house. The tenant, a male nurse, was arrested for animal cruelty. The house is believed to be used as an illegal dog farm. Among those rescued are breeds popular with local pet lovers: 32 Malteses, two Bernese mountain dogs and two golden retrievers. Police described the conditions as appalling. Some dogs were kept inside tiny cages with three-centimetre thick excrement. Such underground and inhumane farms exist across the New Territories and many shops sell their pets for thousands of dollars. Cases like this one on December 2 should serve as a reminder of the urgent need to pass laws to regulate pet breeders. To their credit, the Food and Health Bureau and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department have been busy consulting and drafting new laws since 2012 to address the problem. It is definitely a big step in the right direction. But the draft law has been criticised by some animal welfare groups for its lenient licensing conditions as well as penalties. Some critics have also pointed to problems with monitoring and supervision of the trade, which they fear would be lax or minimal. As a result, the draft has still not been finalised and tabling to the Legislative Council for scrutiny and passage has been delayed. This is unfortunate. Some of the valid criticism could be addressed with extra manpower and resources. The question is whether officials have the will to make the commitment. It would be impossible for the draft law to satisfy all stakeholders. But enhancing safeguards to regulate this unruly and often cruel pet trade, which has remained under-supervised for too long, should be a legislative priority.