ANIMAL WELFARE

Who let the dogs out? Public housing estate crackdown forcing owners to abandon pets

Stricter enforcement of ownership ban sees sharp rise in abandoned animals at shelters

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 October, 2015, 10:33pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 October, 2015, 4:05pm

A rising number of public housing tenants are being forced to abandon pet dogs due to stiffer enforcement of estate rules disallowing their ownership, contributing to a larger share of animals being given up, Hong Kong's leading animal welfare organisation warns.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said dogs abandoned at public housing estates comprised up to 20 per cent of all its recent cases of stray and surrendered canines.

SPCA deputy director of welfare Dr Fiona Woodhouse said strict rules relating to dog keeping had to be examined.

"Public housing is the major reason still for pet and dog abandonment," the veteran animal welfare expert said.

"There are still people who will go out and get dogs because they've kept dogs before or moved from private to public housing and are [forced] into a choice of giving up the dog or smuggling it."

The Housing Authority said unauthorised dog keeping adversely affected environmental hygiene and was a nuisance for tenants in densely populated public rental housing estates.

READ MORE: A sad end: more than half of stray dogs caught in Hong Kong are euthanised

Between 2003 and December last year, the number of dogs registered in public housing estates fell from 13,300 to about 4,200. Tenants found to be in breach of estate rules are slapped with five penalty points. If 16 points are accumulated within two years, households can be evicted.

The Housing Authority said there had been about 2,600 cases of pet owners being penalised in the last five years.

"It would be nice to allow people who have animals to move into the new abode" without having to choose between abandoning their pet or smuggling them in, Woodhouse added.

In fact, the total number of dogs and cats handed back to the government, including stray and surrendered animals, plummeted between 2005 and 2014 by almost two-thirds to record lows, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said.

The AFCD's statistics also showed that the number of euthanised cats and dogs over the same 10-year period declined by the same percentage. During that period, 83,175 dogs and 32,974 cats were put down.

With animal welfare groups trying to reduce the number of stray dogs being euthanised through adoption, the public housing quandary has reduced the pool of potential dog owners.

Woodhouse bemoaned the challenge of trying to place dogs as the SPCA tries not to match dogs with people who live in public housing. "But, there are fewer available homes for abandoned animals," she said.