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Hong Kong health care and hospitals

To solve Hong Kong’s rat problem, fine and jail the kind souls who feed animals in public places

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 5:23pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 10:15pm

I am writing with regard to the reports on a man in Hong Kong who became the first person to be diagnosed with a strain of hepatitis E previously only found in animals such as rats (“Rat Hepatitis E: a ‘wake-up call’ for Hong Kong”, September 28). The case highlights the rodent problem in public housing estates, including Choi Wan Estate, where the man lived (“Rats ‘as big as kittens’ walk up staircases at Hong Kong housing estate”, September 28).

Government officials have conducted a joint cleaning operation in Choi Wan while the Food and Environmental Hygiene and Home Affairs departments have planned a roadshow on the subject. Officials have also reminded the public to maintain good hygiene at home and around the estate. However, this show of action being taken may not be helpful in tackling rodent infestation in public estates.

The TVB programme Scoop reported in August that the rodent problem near Lam Tin Service Reservoir Playground could have been caused by kind people depositing food in public places to feed animals and birds. The show also noted that public estates in Ma On Shan, Ho Man Tin and Kwun Tong faced rat problems. 

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At present, there is no legislation to specifically target the irresponsible feeding of animals in public places. The Public Cleansing and Prevention of Nuisances Regulation (Cap 132BK) and Fixed Penalty (Public Cleanliness and Obstruction) Ordinance (Cap 570) could be used to regulate the feeding of birds.

Under section 4(1) of Cap 132BK, any person who deposits litter or waste in any street or public place is liable to a fixed penalty. The fine is HK$1,500 (US$190) as set out in Schedule 1 of Cap 570. But is this paltry penalty an effective deterrent to people who leave food for animals and birds in public places?

Section 23 of Cap 132BK also states that any person who contravenes section 4(1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine at level 4 (HK$25,000) and to imprisonment for six months. I doubt that anyone has been prosecuted under this law, but it could be an effective solution to the rodent problem.

Also, such feeders of animals and birds could be acting on the basis of religious beliefs, and might not be aware of the hygiene and environmental problems they are causing. So, religious leaders should educate their communities about the need to avoid causing public nuisances in practising their religious beliefs.

Felix Mak Hoi-kuoh, Kowloon Bay