In early August a young golden cocker spaniel was found abandoned in a remote part of Sai Kung, in Hong Kong’s New Territories, tied to a long metal fence with a short lead. Images of the dog were posted on social media, sparking sadness and anger among canine-lovers in the city. Luckily, a couple driving past at night spotted the dog and took her to Hong Kong Dog Rescue (HKDR), a no-kill rehabilitation and rehoming centre. Its founder, Sally Andersen, says leaving a dog like that was cruel and unnecessary. “There’s no excuse for abandoning a dog on the street or worse – especially a small pure breed. We have waiting lists for such dogs, as do other organisations.” The spaniel, since named Phaedra, is undergoing treatment for a large open wound on one paw that was infected with flesh-eating maggots. One of her toes was fractured and she tested positive for heartworm. She didn’t have a microchip, but a vet said she was about two years old. HKDR, like other animal shelters and rescue centres in Hong Kong, has many stories of pets being abandoned: some left in country parks, others on the side of the road or tied to posts without access to food or water. Puppies have even been found in refuse bins, thrown away like rubbish, says Andersen. ‘Heartbreaking’: Hong Kong dog shelters may not survive pandemic There has been a lot of media coverage recently about pet surrenders, the situation made worse by Hong Kong’s emigration wave – almost 90,000 residents left in the year after the national security law was introduced in June 2020, a 1.2 per cent drop in population. Pet owners leaving the city face skyrocketing relocation fees: for a UK-bound dog or cat, the cost of covering flights and customs clearance can be as high as HK$100,000 (US$13,000). With the complications of a global pandemic and local politics, the decision to bring a pet into a home requires extra consideration: is my job safe? Can I afford pet food and veterinary costs? Can I provide the long-term care and love a pet needs? Can I afford the relocation fees if I need to depart Hong Kong? While there are genuine reasons for animals to be surrendered, for the human trash who treat animals like trash – well, there is a special place in hell for them. Hong Kong’s woefully inadequate animal-protection laws need tightening to deal with the perpetrators. As for Phaedra, her future looks sunny – apt considering her name derives from the Greek word for “bright”. A potential adopter has visited her at a vet clinic. Sadly, there are hundreds more abandoned animals whose futures are not so bright.