Outdated law is a barrier to developing an animal-friendly Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 May, 2017, 9:02am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 May, 2017, 10:28pm

The Veterinary Surgeons Board of Hong Kong has released findings from 2,514 household phone interviews about companion animal ownership in Hong Kong. The study estimated that the numbers of households which kept dogs and cats will increase from 249,000 in 2010 to around 281,000 in 2019.

Overseas studies have found that companion animal ownership is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and better social and psychological well-being in children and the elderly. Our survey conducted last year with 986 owners and non-owners of companion animals found that owners score better in their mental health measure and are happier than non-owners. Overseas studies have found that companion animal owners are generally a physically healthier cohort.

More evidence has demonstrated that our relationship with companion animals is a mutually beneficial one and many animals are not kept for merely utilitarian purposes. Of course people must always be responsible and caring pet owners. They should see pets as family members. In comparison with other developed cities, Hong Kong is an interesting place to discuss companion animal ownership for many reasons. The most obvious one is that most of us live in small flats and space is limited for humans and their pets. Also, the outdated Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance is a barrier to the development of an animal-friendly society.

For the sake of the wellness and welfare of our companion animals, we need to be aware of the problems posed by small flats. They present a challenge for owners wanting to ensure their pets get enough physical exercise, which is necessary to maintain their well-being and prevent obesity. Secondly, animals are barred from most forms of public transport and many public spaces. Also, many owners may not know when their dog has to be on a leash and this can lead to disputes with other citizens in a public space.

We live in a very affluent city, but it is embarrassing for us to tell friends visiting from overseas that so many pets have to be surrendered for adoption or euthanasia because of animal-unfriendly policies in Hong Kong. We sincerely believe that how a city treats animals should be considered an indicator of how civilised that city’s people are.

Paul W.C. Wong, clinical psychologist, associate professor,

Rose W. M. Yu, PhD candidate, Department of Social Work

and Social Administration, University of Hong Kong