Angela Leong handed ultimatum over future of greyhounds at Macau’s dog track

With contract to run the canidrome soon to expire, government turns up the heat on influential local figure, amid fears for safety of 650 greyhounds

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2018, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2018, 11:18pm

One of the most influential women in Macau has been handed a 48-hour deadline to secure the futures of hundreds of racing dogs, or face legal action.

Angela Leong On-kei – businesswoman, legislator and fourth wife of casino tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun – was handed the ultimatum on Wednesday at a press conference in the former Portuguese enclave, attended by seven government officials, including the city’s top gaming regulator, Paulo Martins Chan.

As the clock ticked on the soon-to-expire contract to run the city’s dog track – held by Leong’s company, Macau (Yat Yuen) Canidrome – Chan said: “The government cannot be expected to assume responsibility for the animals. It is up to the owners to come up with a solution to the problem. Their contract expires on July 20.”

The track staged its last race at the end of June.

It is the latest twist in a furore over what will happen to the 650 greyhounds still kennelled at Asia’s last canidrome, fuelled by fears that they will end up either running in illegal races in mainland China, or on the menus at restaurants serving people with exotic tastes.

Animal rights activists have fought – as yet in vain – to secure a regulated adoption programme and on Wednesday officials, under increasing pressure to find a solution, turned up the heat on Leong.

Earlier this month Leong said she had a plan to move the dogs to Hainan Island, a part of China mooted as a possible gaming centre for the mainland. Apart from in Macau and certain regulated parts of Hong Kong gambling is illegal in China.

Leong, who has not responded to repeated requests for comment on the issue from the Post, told lawmakers in the casino hub’s Legislative Assembly last week that her company “plans to go forward with its Hainan greyhound export, and will upload every plan update to its website” soon.

“I’m going to have the report, detailing all relevant information, on the canidrome’s website because I want to give a fair answer to the media and to the public,” Leong told a Legislative Assembly meeting last week.

Unconfirmed reports in Macau media said one dog from the track, adopted by a man from Taiwan, died before he was able to get it out of the city.

The pressure on Leong followed track bosses’ receipt of a formal list of potential adopters from around the world for the dogs.

The mass bid to adopt all 650 greyhounds at the track followed a protest over the way officials were handling the closure. Activists claimed some of the dogs had already been snapped up by unscrupulous middlemen seeking to profit from the value of the dogs’ blood for transfusions.

Dog found dead and four others malnourished as police hunt for owner

The plight of the dogs has brought in offers to adopt from people, charities and rescue organisations in Hong Kong, Europe and the United States, as well as Macau residents.