Pet owners dogged by difficulties when it comes to travelling around Hong Kong with their furry companions

  • An overwhelming 82.8 per cent of Hongkongers endorse pet carriages on the MTR, according to survey conducted by lawmaker Jeremy Tam
  • But rail giant says various lines are saturated or almost saturated during peak hours and maintains it cannot adopt such carriages
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 January, 2019, 10:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 January, 2019, 10:25am

Lam Ming-kuen, a 48-year-old housewife is all dressed up and ready to leave the house. But when she says goodbye to Mon Mon, a five-year-old Pomeranian, the dog clings to her leg, not wanting to be left behind.

“He does that every time I leave – I can still hear him whimper after I close the door,” Lam, who lives with her husband and two daughters, says.

As much as Lam wants to bring her pet along more often, living in Hong Kong makes it difficult to travel anywhere with the animal.

“He has brought so much joy to our family and he always wags his tail and runs around in circles when we take him out because he loves going out,” Lam says.

“But most of the time I have to leave him at home, I cannot bring him with me on the MTR.”

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Her family adopted Mon Mon from a friend who left Hong Kong for Canada 4½ years ago and see him as a family member.

A similar episode is shared by Roy Leung, a 27-year-old violin repairer, who owns a two-year-old mongrel in Sai Kung.

He complains about the difficulties of taking his furry friend out because of limited transport for animal carriages in Hong Kong.

“I can only call a taxi or a van when I want to take my dog out and it’s very inconvenient.

“One time I was trying to hail a taxi by the road, and four drivers turned me down because they saw I was with my dog. It’s common in Hong Kong drivers will reject you because they don’t want dogs in their car,” Leung says.

Lam and Leung are among a group of pet owners renewing calls for the city’s largest transport system to put an animal friendly policy, such as setting aside a carriages for dogs and cats, in place.

An overwhelming 82.8 per cent of Hongkongers endorsed the implementation of pet carriages on the MTR, according to a survey conducted by Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, which polled more than 26,000 Hongkongers from October to December last year.

Around 64 per cent of the respondents had dogs and about 14 per cent had cats.

“The MTR Corporation can be more animal friendly by setting up pet carriages on either the first or last carriage on weekends and public holidays,” Tam says.

“But the MTR say they will not make any changes to current policies due to high passenger flow.”

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Pro-Beijing lawmaker Chan Hak-kan suggests the MTR trial a scheme that allows pet carriages to be taken on board on weekends and public holidays.

Some 681,600 pets – with the exception of fish – were kept in Hong Kong in 2017, according to a study by the Veterinary Surgeons Board of Hong Kong, among them more than half a million dogs and cats.

But despite a spike in the number of furry companions, animal rights advocates complain Hong Kong has never improved any pet-friendly measures to accommodate the needs of owners.

The by-laws and regulations of the railway and franchised buses prohibit the carriage of animals, except a guide dog accompanying a visually impaired person.

“We have long advocated for animal friendly infrastructure, including on public transport such as buses and ferries. It provides more options for people to take their pets to the vet or when they do outdoor activities with their pets,” says Dr Fiona Woodhouse, the Deputy Director of Welfare of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Hong Kong).

The MTR Corporation says various lines are saturated or almost saturated during peak hours and maintains it cannot adopt animal carriages.

According to the Transport and Housing Bureau, public transport services in Hong Kong account for around 90 per cent of all passenger journeys and serve more than 12 million passenger trips on average every day, with the MTR handling about 5.8 million journeys a day.

In neighbouring Taiwan, the island has had no problem adopting a more relaxed policy to pets.

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The Taipei Metro allows cats, dogs and rabbits on board if they are kept inside a pet carrier not exceeding 55cm in length, 45cm in width, and 40cm in height.

Buses in Taipei have also run dog-friendly bus services since 2017 in which passengers can travel with their dogs on the bus for some routes on the weekends and public holidays without having to put them in a crate.

Similarly, the Tokyo Metro allows passengers to travel with pets on trains, as long as the animal is kept in a container and causes no disturbance to other passengers.

In her policy address in October last year, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor promised to step up in advocating animal affairs as pets are human’s best friend.

She announced police would implement a new “Animal Watchers” scheme in the financial year of 2019-20 to tackle cruelty to animals.

Police say they will liaise with the stakeholders soon on the planning and implementation of the campaign and discuss the details in due course.

But in terms of other animal policies, pet owners say the government is not doing enough.

Lam, the dog owner, hopes Hong Kong will make it more convenient for her to take the dog to see her friends.

“It would be great if the MTR can be more animal friendly and set up dog carriages even if only on weekends or holidays.”