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LCQ1: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

     Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (October 27):


     It was reported earlier that a batch of 18 bulldogs were suspected to have been kept for breeding for years in an animal breeding facility and had been abandoned after they were no longer suitable for breeding.  As those dogs lacked exercise and were confined in a very crowded environment for a prolonged period, most of them had developed health problems, and several of them had to be euthanized as a result.  Regarding the protection of animal rights, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective number of complaints received by the Government in each of the past three years that involved suspected illegal breeding of cats and dogs or cruelty to such animals at animal breeding facilities, and among them, the number of complaints in which prosecutions were instituted; if prosecution was not instituted, of the reasons for that;

(b) how the law enforcement departments can effectively invoke the existing relevant animal rights protection legislation to prosecute the responsible persons of the animal breeding facilities or pet shops involved in excessive breeding of cats and dogs as well as cruelty to animals, and to deter such unlawful acts;

(c) whether the authorities had, in past two years, reviewed if the relevant animal rights protection legislation is outdated, so as to ensure the prevention of cruelty to various types of common pets or domestic animals; and

(d) whether the authorities will formulate appropriate measures (e.g. implementing an animal healthcare voucher scheme, etc.) to encourage the public to complement the proposal put forward in the Policy Address delivered by the Chief Executive on the 13th of this month for enhancing adoption services for stray cats and dogs; and give priority to considering solving the problem of stray cats and dogs by arranging adoption services through the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other voluntary organisations?



     Over the years, the Government has adopted a three-pronged strategy comprising education, publicity and law enforcement to raise public awareness of animal rights.  Cruelty to animals is unlawful.  Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance (Cap. 169), cruelty to animals includes the act of cruelly beating, kicking, ill-treating, torturing, infuriating or terrifying animals, thus causing unnecessary suffering to them.  Other forms of cruelty to animals also include carrying animals or holding them in captivity in an improper manner.  While excessive breeding is not an offence under the existing legislation, prosecution will be taken out when there is sufficient evidence to prove that a person is involved in cruelty to animals in the process of animal breeding.  There have been successful prosecutions in the past.  Our reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(a) Government received 190, 187 and 157 complaints and reports of suspected cruelty to animals in 2007, 2008 and 2009 respectively, showing a slight downward trend.  There were 18 persons prosecuted in each of 2007 and 2008 and nine in 2009.  Given that stray cats and dogs are usually involved in such cases, law enforcement officers unavoidably encounter greater difficulty in collecting and adducing evidence. However, they have been making their best endeavours to bring to justice those who committed an offence relating to cruelty to animals.

(b) Section 3 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance (Cap.169) sets out the possible forms of cruelty to animals and the relevant penalties.  The main consideration is whether an animal has been treated wantonly or unreasonably, resulting in unnecessary suffering.  If a keeper of any animal breeding facilities or pet shop has failed to provide proper care to the animals in his or her possession, thus causing them unnecessary suffering, we will collect evidence and institute prosecution under the relevant legislation.  In April 2010, the Government successfully prosecuted the owner of a dog breeding farm under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance for negligence in care of 43 dogs. The owner was fined $7,000 and sentenced to two weeks' imprisonment.  We consider that the relevant legislation and sentences have sufficient deterrent effect.

(c) Clearly, legislation has to be kept abreast of the times. As such, we substantially increased in 2006 the maximum penalty for cruelty to animals from a fine of $5,000 and imprisonment for six months to a fine of $200,000 and imprisonment for three years.  The conditions of Animal Trader Licence were also tightened early this year, stipulating that pet shops could only sell dogs from approved sources.  We will review from time to time whether animal welfare is adequately protected under the existing legislation.

     Apart from legislative control, publicity and education are also very important in enhancing public awareness of care for animals. As such, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has been stepping up publicity and education at various levels and through different channels, including Announcements of Public Interest on television and radio as well as posters on public transport carriers which convey animal welfare messages. The AFCD also produces promotional leaflets, posters and souvenirs for distribution to the public and organises other promotional activities, with a view to reminding the public of the importance of good treatment of pets, responsible pet ownership and respect for the life of animals.

(d) The AFCD collaborates with 11 animal welfare organisations (partner organisations) in providing re-homing services for cats and dogs. To encourage more people to adopt these animals, the AFCD will provide outsourced free neutering service for animals adopted through its partner organisations.  The Department will, through collaboration with partner organisations and other avenues, promote the benefits of adopting abandoned animals and pet neutering.

     In addition, the AFCD will introduce new re-homing procedures including, among others, pro-active liaison with partner organisations and provision of animal photos when there are suitable animals ready for adoption.

     The AFCD will enhance the cooperation and exchange with partner organsiations in respect of re-homing services.  Related initiatives include laying down clear guidelines and requirements so as to strengthen mutual cooperation; helping these organisations promote re-homing services; enhancing the technical support for partner organisations; as well as establishing a system to monitor the work performance of partner organisations.

     We consider that the most effective way to tackle the problem of stray cats and dogs is to reduce their number at source.  To this end, the AFCD has all along been stepping up publicity and education at various levels and through different channels with a view to raising public awareness of responsible pet ownership.

Ends/Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Issued at HKT 12:40


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