My Take

The problem of strays is best dealt with by those who love animals

The way bureaucrats deal with the issue is cruel, to say the least. We should, instead, fund organisations that have the best interests of animals at heart

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 May, 2017, 1:11am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 May, 2017, 2:10am

If I were to use restraining poles to catch stray dogs and cats and then kill them, I would be jailed for cruelty. But if the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) does it, they get funded for millions of dollars – HK$22.7 million a year, to be exact.

There are better ways to use all that taxpayers’ money, not to mention the level of cruelty involved. A scared dog that has been caught in a restraining pole is often so scarred by the experience that it cannot be homed or adjust to family life; it can only be put down. Last year, 1,814 dogs and 449 cats were killed as a result.

The AFCD is neither killing nor neutering enough of them to put a lid on population growth. Its capture and kill policy has been ineffectual. That’s why pan-democrats Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, Claudia Mo Man-ching and Ray Chan Chi-chuen are doing something good by calling attention to the problem and putting the AFCD on the spot.

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The department boasts that it has been killing fewer animals each year. But the lawmakers have pointed out that’s mostly because animal welfare groups have been rescuing many strays from certain death in government kennels.

Our government loves the so-called private-public development model and outsourcing work to the private sector. Here is one area that it should actually do it. Start funding reputable groups such as the Society for Abandoned Animals (SAA) and Hong Kong Dog Rescue (HKDR) that have been doing excellent work caring for and finding new homes for strays.

Parcel out 2,000 stray cats and dogs to qualified animal groups and share facilities such as kennels and animal shelters with them. Give them the HK$22.7 million as annual funding. Expand the “trap, neuter and release (TNR)” programme, which has proved to be effective in controlling stray populations. Granted, many neighbourhoods and district councils have rejected TNR for dogs, but it is at least more acceptable for cats.

My wife and I have reduced cat colonies in the Pok Fu Lam area by taking in several, rehoming others and hiring our own vets to neuter those too wild to be adopted. Imagine what dedicated groups like HKDR and SAA and their committed volunteers – some of them extremely wealthy tai-tais – could do with proper government support. We can humanely reduce the stray population – perhaps to near zero – with proper policy, funding and enforcement.