One of 17 crates containing more than 130 purebred kittens and puppies, smuggled from mainland China, that were confiscated in Hong Kong on May 18, 2022. Photo: SCMP
Kylie Knott
Kylie Knott

Buying purebred dogs and cats from pet shops and online is wrong, with animal cruelty rife throughout the business. When will people in Hong Kong wake up?

  • Two shocking recent animal-cruelty cases once again highlight the horrific conditions that purebred dogs, cats and other animals can endure in the pet industry
  • ‘Adopt don’t shop’ is one way people can help curtail the cruel trade

It’s been a distressing month for pet lovers in Hong Kong.

Last week more than 130 kittens and puppies were confiscated in the city’s largest seizure of smuggled pets. The traumatised animals were crammed inside 17 plastic crates on a speed boat intercepted in Tuen Mun. One crate contained 16 cats.

The haul of young and pedigree breeds was estimated to be worth more than HK$1.4 million (US$178,000).

According to Senior Inspector Tang Sau-yin, of Hong Kong customs’ marine enforcement group, the animals were either bought online by private buyers before being smuggled into Hong Kong from mainland China, or they were bound for the city’s pet shops.

Animal-rights activists were up in arms. “I’ve been told that someone paid 60,000 yuan [US$9,000] for one of the cats,” says Sally Andersen, founder of Hong Kong Dog Rescue. “The best thing about this case is that these people will lose their money.

“The animals, some of which are sick, will now have to go through four months of quarantine. The puppies will grow up knowing nothing in terms of training, just like all the breeder dogs we take in from time to time.”

Sally Andersen, founder of Hong Kong Dog Rescue, with rescued dogs in Ap Lei Chau. Photo: Winson Wong

A few days earlier, another shocking case made the rounds on social media.


About 30 dogs, mostly huskies, which were kept in crowded and unsanitary conditions, were rescued from the rooftop of a breeder in Tsuen Wan.

“This case is shocking, but let’s not forget these dogs are the lucky ones,” Anderson says. “As long as the demand for buying purebred puppies exists, this cruel business will continue to operate and dogs will suffer every day behind closed doors. Boycotting the breeding business is the only way to go.”

“Boycott the bad breeder” is a message that the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals) has long pushed in Hong Kong. So why are people not listening?

Some of the dogs rescued from a breeder in Tsuen Wan. Photo: Courtesy of Hong Kong Dog Rescue

How can someone who claims to be an animal-lover buy from a breeder knowing their pet might have started its life in a crammed smuggling cage, or an illegal puppy or kitten mill?

There are believed to be hundreds of these mills operating in the city, pet prisons where the animals are confined to tiny, filthy wire cages with minimal food and water to keep costs low.


To stop breeding dogs from barking, some undergo cruel debarking surgery while others have corrosive fluid poured down their throats.

“Adopt don’t shop” is a message that makes sense, especially considering the number of amazing shelters in Hong Kong that have rescued and rehomed thousands of stray and abandoned cats and dogs.