500 Macau canidrome dogs to live in lap of canine luxury courtesy of unlikely partnership
Billionaire businesswoman Angela Leong On-kei and rights activist Albano Martins team up to build home for displaced animals after closure of Asia’s last legal dog racing track
The meteoric rise of Macau to the top of world gaming – in a fraction of the time it took Las Vegas to pull off the same trick – indicates it is a city where pretty much anything is possible.
But the former Portuguese enclave, which has seen its fair share of risky relationships and unlikely partnerships, on Friday witnessed the coming together of two public figures which only weeks ago no sane bookmaker would have offered you odds on.
At a well-heeled press conference in a five-star hotel on Taipa island, Angela Leong On-kei – one of Macau’s most powerful businesswomen and fourth wife of gaming tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun – joined hands with redoubtable animal rights activist Albano Martins to announce a bold plan to secure the future of more than 500 greyhound racing dogs.
The pair are set to build a new facility where – even if the animals fail to leave for an adoptive home – they will be able to live out their days in the lap of canine luxury.
Leong’s Macau (Yat Yuen) Canidrome Company, which has long been the target of animal maltreatment accusations by Anima – the rights group Martins heads – said the two organisations would create a new International Centre for the Rehoming of Greyhounds on a plot of land not far from the glitzy casino towers of the Cotai Strip.
They described the project as a “non-profit” partnership.
If given the go-ahead by the government, their plan, for which Leong said she would foot the entire bill, will see the down-at-heel dogs move into a facility with on-call vets, a medical centre, air-conditioned living quarters, toilets, and indoor and outdoor activity areas, all built to international standards.
The centre will carry the slogan “partners, protect, peace and paw power”.
Leong has long faced accusations she did not care about the canines, which in the past were killed by the hundreds when they lost the ability to compete at Asia’s last legal dog racing track, which is now closed.
But on Friday she said: “Love is the bridge between people, and love is also the bridge between people and animals. All along, I have said I would make sure the greyhounds were taken care of, and today I am simply living up to the promises I made. Whatever the cost, the Macau (Yat Yuen) Canidrome Company will meet the bill.”
Martins said the new facility would provide “the perfect solution”, and he thanked Leong, who is also a Macau lawmaker, for making it possible.
He said anyone who wanted to adopt a dog – including what is understood to be a significant number of people from Hong Kong – would have to pay 1,500 patacas (US$185) per month while their “suitability and capability” to care for the animal were evaluated.
“At one stage there was the prospect that the dogs might end up in mainland China,” Martins added. “This was not an acceptable outcome because there are no laws in place to protect animals there. I want to thank Angela Leong and the public here in Macau, in Hong Kong and places around the world for their support, which we hope will be ongoing.”
He also said the facility would be open to the public and prospective adopters so they could bond with and learn about the dogs. Discussions were ongoing with Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to come up with a workable plan for dogs adopted by Hongkongers to move to the bigger special administrative region, he added.
For Leong, who had earlier been threatened with a fine by the Macau government under animal protection laws, the planned facility is a lifelong commitment – at least for the greyhounds.
“Even those dogs for which we cannot find proper adoptive homes, they will be able to live out their natural lives in a happy, well-looked-after environment made to international standards,” she said.
No one from the Macau government was available for comment on Friday night.