Police hunt dog poisoner while Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam pledges better protection for animals
Six dogs reported dead of suspected poisoning near Wah Ming Estate in Fanling
Police have stepped up patrols at a public housing estate in northern Hong Kong following a spate of suspected dog poisoning cases, as the city’s leader vowed on Wednesday that more work would be done to protect animals.
The increased police presence came after at least six dogs died of suspected poisoning within a fortnight after their owners walked them at Wah Ming Estate in Fanling.
The latest two police reports were filed by two women, aged 28 and 54, on Tuesday.
“They reported that their dogs died on March 20 and April 10, and they suspected they had been poisoned near Wah Ming Estate,” a police spokesman said.
The previous four reports of suspected dog poisoning were made by three men and a woman on Friday. The four owners, aged between 52 and 70, told police that their pets died on Thursday.
“The [six] owners told police they walked their pets at the [same] housing estate, and the dogs fell ill after returning home,” a police source said. “The dogs suffered similar symptoms such as vomiting and trembling before they died.”
Officers searched the area but no poisoned bait was found, he added.
Police said the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department would carry out postmortem examinations and toxicology tests to establish the cause of death.
The cases have been temporarily classified as cruelty to animals. Detectives from Tai Po police district are investigating.
As pet owners said on social media platforms that there had been several other suspected dog poisonings at the same estate, the source appealed for other victims to come forward and make police reports.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said their inspectors had been making daily inspections around the estate to look for poisoned bait and suspicious people since last Friday.
An SPCA spokeswoman said posters had been put up at the estate to warn pet owners about the suspected poisonings. She urged residents to keep their dogs on a leash and use muzzles if necessary.
The spate of animal deaths sparked outrage in the city, with the topic surfacing in the Legislative Council on Wednesday.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, in response to a question from pro-establishment lawmaker Edward Lau Kwok-fun on the issue, said she had noticed that more Hongkongers were concerned about animal welfare and rights in recent years.
“I have noticed that animals are not [just] pets,” Lam added, noting the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and police would strengthen their work in this area.
The department would look into amending the current animal protection ordinance to increase penalties, while the force would enhance training for police officers so as to conduct better investigations, she said.
Lam was non-committal when Lau pressed her on whether a dedicated police squad could be set up to deal with animal abusers.
“The most important [thing] is that the government first has the awareness … and places emphasis on the work with resources,” she replied.
Before the question and answer session, Lam received a petition from Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu, who gathered more than 50,000 online signatures calling on the government to compile a comprehensive animal protection ordinance and set up a special police team to handle animal cruelty cases.
Last Tuesday, three mongrels died of suspected poisoning at Wai Tau Tsuen in Tai Po, about 4km from Wah Ming Estate. The owner told police his other two dogs appeared to have been poisoned as well, with symptoms such as vomiting and trembling. A vet managed to save those animals.
Several dogs were also reported to have been found dead in Tai Wo Village near the upscale Hong Lok Yuen estate off Fanling Highway in Tai Po during the Easter holidays. However, neither police nor the SPCA received any reports about the village incident.
On Saturday, two dogs belonging to a woman in Cha Kwo Ling, East Kowloon, vomited and suffered cramps. One of the dogs died, but the other was treated and survived.
In Hong Kong, cruelty to animals carries a maximum penalty of three years in jail and a fine of up to HK$200,000 (US$25,400).