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City Weekend

Woman’s labour of love to help Hong Kong’s old and ailing dogs

Ivy Tse Yuen-yee set up House of Joy and Mercy after her own dog died of cancer and now has about 50 animals in her care

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 April, 2018, 10:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 April, 2018, 10:00am

Every week, a hunched figure slowly makes her way to an animal shelter in Yuen Long to visit Chuck Chuck, a mixed breed dog.

The woman is Mrs Tang, who is in her 80s and has reluctantly given up her beloved pet dog because of old age and her husband’s recent stroke.

Her weekly trip takes about an hour and includes two bus transfers, but she insists on making it and voluntarily stays longer at the shelter to help tidy the area, sweeping the floor and taking out the trash.

“This is the least I can do,” Tang says, adding that it was lucky Chuck Chuck was accepted by House of Joy and Mercy, which provides free shelter for rescued dogs.

The shelter’s owner, Ivy Tse Yuen-yee, says Chuck Chuck suffers from a severe ear infection which causes her to tilt her head and she limps because of old age.

Tse has vowed to take care of any old and ill dogs that come her way, for as long as she can. There are now some 50 other rescued dogs under her care at no cost to the owners. The shelter runs solely on donations although Tse says she is prepared to pitch in from time to time if there is not enough cash but that has not been necessary so far.

“Most of these dogs only have two to three more years to live, it’s inhuman to leave them to die. All they need is a chance to be with their owners during the last few years of their lives,” Tse says.

“Their lives are no less valuable than a human’s, however, too often puppies are spur of the moment purchases and are bought without thinking whether you have the ability to take care of them. I believe what goes around comes around. We need to stop treating our four-legged furry friends as toys.”

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Tse’s dedication to helping ailing animals came after her own dog of eight years, Stick, died from breast cancer in 2015. After the heartbreaking incident, she and her husband established the NGO, providing a loving home for dogs to spend their last years.

Some of the animals suffer from serious health issues while others have behavioural problems, but Tse treats them all the same as other pet dogs.

“I really take the time to get to know each of them like they’re children of my own, their personalities, characteristics, their likings and dislikes.”

The former kindergarten teaching assistant’s usual day starts at 9am until 2am the following morning.

While the dogs are still curled up in their kennels, the first thing Tse does is make breakfast, and then picks up any mess the dogs have made overnight.

Then she refills snacks, and daily essentials, as well as clean up the more than 15,000 square foot shelter – that alone takes up the whole morning.

Afternoons are often used to take the dogs on walks, visits to the vet and other administrative work.

The dogs stand a chance of finding another owner, but anyone interested in rehousing one from Tse’s shelter has to undergo a very strict application and screening process.

“If an applicant shows an interest in adopting a dog, we ask that they come and visit the dog once a week for three weeks. If they can’t even bothered to come to Yuen Long then forget about owning a dog. Once they’ve passed, we’ll do home visits to make sure there’s enough space and the atmosphere is suitable for the dog.”

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The stringent process is to give both the potential owner and the dog an opportunity to establish a relationship before the pet is taken to a home.

Other than rescue work, Tse says the public needs to be better educated about responsible pet ownership, to avoid an increase in the number of abandoned dogs. She suggests that animal welfare should be taught to children at a young age.

The House of Joy and Mercy has since worked with five secondary schools, arranged tours for students to better understand the effort and responsibility needed for owning a pet.