No ‘animal police’ division to be set up in Hong Kong despite recent spate of cruelty, including dog being thrown from roof
Police chief instead announces ‘specialised team’ to handle animal abuse after at least 14 dogs suspected to have been poisoned in city in past two weeks
After a spate of dogs being poisoned and pets thrown from a roof, calls had grown for a dedicated “animal police” squad in Hong Kong to combat the rise in cruel acts. Instead, a “specialised team” of officers will handle animal abuse cases, the city’s police chief said on Saturday.
Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung said he had appointed one district investigation team from nine more districts as “specialised teams” to handle animal abuse. Such teams previously existed in 13 precincts and each team would comprise five or six officers.
While these specialised teams would also handle other criminal investigations, such as break-ins and indecent assaults, Lo said they would be given special training in combating animal cruelty.
“Please don’t think they are unprofessional because they don’t carry the name of ‘animal police’,” Lo said.
At least 14 dogs were suspected to have been poisoned in the city in the past two weeks, 13 of them dying. A Japanese spitz was thrown from the roof of a residential building last Wednesday, after which two turtles where thrown from the same building the following day.
Sources said the teams would receive training from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, as well as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
The number of cases was considered too low to justify setting up a dedicated division of animal police, the sources added.
Other sources said all officers would get compulsory annual training on animal abuse in future. New recruits already have to go through a course on animal abuse in their foundation training, they added.
Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu said he was concerned about the workload for a specialised team if they had to handle other criminal investigations.
“In other cities, it would be an independent team,” he said.
The increased number was only a “small step” in the direction of providing more protection to animals, and the city should consider setting up an “animal protection law”, he added.
The SPCA said on Saturday it welcomed the decision.
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“We regularly organise training courses for police, so they learn knowledge related to animals, in the hope they can process animal abuse cases more effectively,” it said in a statement.
A spokeswoman elaborated that course content included sharing concepts of animal cruelty, as well as the experience and expertise of SPCA staff.
The society also urged the Hong Kong government to update laws to better protect animals in the city.
According to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, cruelty towards animals could lead to a maximum penalty of three years in jail and a HK$200,000 (US$25,400) fine.