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LCQ13: Pet cremation services

     Following is a question by the Hon James To, and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (June 5):


     At present, if members of the public do not wish to send the carcasses of their pets to the landfills for disposal like refuse, they need to use pet carcass cremation services provided by pet funeral service companies. Since such services are usually located in commercial/residential or industrial buildings without any regulation, cremation of pet carcasses has generated environmental hygiene and air pollution problems, thus causing nuisances to residents in the neighbourhood. In view of this, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Committee of the Yau Tsim Mong District Council last year urged the Government to introduce legislation to regulate such activities. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has compiled statistics on the approximate number of households in the territory which are currently keeping pets, the respective numbers of such households keeping cats, dogs and other pets, as well as the respective numbers of cats, dogs and other pets kept by such households; if so, of the statistics;

(b) of the number of animal carcasses collected at refuse collection points and, among them, the respective numbers of those of dogs, cats and other animals, in each year from 2009 to 2012 and the first quarter of this year;

(c) whether it knows the current number of pet funeral service companies in the territory which provide pet carcasses cremation and handling services, the districts and types of buildings in which such companies are mainly located, and the number of animal carcasses they cremate each year;

(d) of the total current number of "specified process" licences (applicable to cremators of an installed capacity exceeding 0.5 tonne per hour) issued under the Air Pollution Control Ordinance (Cap. 311) for cremators and, among such licences, the number of those issued for pet carcass cremators; whether the authorities had, in the past five years, conducted sample tests on the exhaust of such pet carcass cremators to determine if the exhaust contained any harmful substances such as dioxins; if they had, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that; whether it will investigate if the operations of those pet carcass cremators located in commercial/residential and industrial buildings have caused air pollution;

(e) of the number of complaints received by the authorities relating to pet funeral service companies, the major contents of such complaints and the districts where the companies under complaint were mainly located, as well as the number of such complaints involving breaches of the relevant legislation on fire safety, environmental hygiene, air pollution or land use, in each of the past five years;

(f) whether the services currently provided by the Government for the scattering of cremated human ashes at sea or in Gardens of Remembrance include services for scattering cremated pet ashes; if not, whether it will consider the addition of such services;

(g) whether it has studied the legislation and approaches of overseas places for regulating the handling and cremation of pet carcasses; if so, whether the operations of such cremation are sited in annexes to facilities for cremation of human remains, and of the details; if not, whether the Government will consider conducting such a study; and

(h) given that some members of the public have pointed out that there is currently a rising trend in the demand for pet carcass cremation services in Hong Kong, and the cremation processes cause nuisances to the densely populated communities, whether the authorities will consider afresh introducing legislation on pet carcass cremation services, so as to regulate such processes through a licensing system; whether they will, in the process of land use planning, identify suitable sites for provision of public pet carcass cremation services, so as to reduce the nuisances and health problems caused to residents by pet carcass cremation services?



     At present, the relevant government departments may, according to their respective mandate, inspect premises where pet cremation and hospice services are provided to check compliance with the relevant legislation and requirements, including the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132), the Air Pollution Control Ordinance (APCO) (Cap. 311), the Fire Services Ordinance (Cap. 95), the Dangerous Goods Ordinance (Cap. 295) and the land leases, etc.

     If the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) receives complaints about sanitary nuisance emanating from premises where pet cremation service is provided, their staff will inspect the premises concerned and take enforcement actions under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132) as necessary. On receiving complaints about black smoke or odour emitted in the process of cremating pet carcasses, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) will carry out inspections and take enforcement actions according to the APCO (Cap. 311) as necessary. The Fire Services Department (FSD) will conduct inspections and take necessary enforcement actions pursuant to the Fire Services Ordinance (Cap. 95) and the Dangerous Goods Ordinance (Cap. 295).  For substantiated complaints about breaches of lease conditions, the Lands Department (LandsD) will take appropriate lease enforcement actions.

     My reply to the various parts of the question raised by the Member is as follows:

(a) According to the findings of the Thematic Household Survey on keeping of dogs and cats conducted by the Census and Statistics Department from October to December 2010, some 249 400 households were keeping dogs or cats, representing 10.6% of all households in Hong Kong. Among them, 4.1% (97 100 households) and 7.1% (166 500 households) were keeping cats and dogs respectively.

     Of those 166 500 households keeping dogs, 72.8% kept one dog, 17.5% two dogs, and the remaining 9.8% three or more. The total number of dogs being kept was 247 500.

     Of those 97 100 households keeping cats, 61.4% kept one cat, 23.4% two cats, and the remaining 15.1% three or more. The total number of cats being kept was 167 000.

     The Administration does not have information on other pets kept by members of the public.

(b) Between 2009 and March 2013, the FEHD collected a total of 40 469 animal carcasses from its refuse collection points, with breakdown as follows:

No. of dog carcasses                       27 106
No. of cat carcasses                       12 787
No. of carcasses: other animals               576
(including rabbits, tortoises, hamsters and snakes, etc.)

(c) According to information available to the Administration, more than ten local pet cremation service operators exist in the market place. Most of them operate in industrial buildings while some are accommodated in commercial buildings or the rural areas. The total number of animal carcasses cremated by these operators each year is not available to the Administration.

(d) Under the APCO, there are five incinerators in Hong Kong that have been granted a "specified process" licence issued by the EPD. None of them is used for cremating animal carcasses. The facilities currently used for cremating animal carcasses in Hong Kong are generally of a small scale with a capacity that is below the threshold for a "specified process" incinerator regulated under the APCO (i.e. 0.5 tonne per hour). As such, the composition of the air emissions from these facilities is not subject to compliance test. Nevertheless, by virtue of the regulatory requirements in the APCO, air emissions from these facilities should not cause air pollution or nuisance to nearby inhabitants. Between 2009 and March 2013, as a result of inspections to follow up complaints about pollution, the EPD instituted five prosecutions as part of the enforcement actions taken against facilities which had violated the APCO.

(e) From January 2009 to March 2013, the EPD, FEHD, LandsD and FSD received 41, 21, 28 and 10 complaints respectively in relation to the operation of pet cremation service. Most of the complaints were about emission of smoke or odour, sanitary nuisance, possible breach of lease conditions and suspected presence of dangerous goods. The complaints were mainly directed at premises located in Kowloon Bay, Kwun Tong, Kwai Chung and Yau Tsim Mong, etc.

(f) The services provided by the Government for the scattering of cremains at sea or in Gardens of Remembrance do not cover pet cremains. We have no plan to add a service for the scattering of pet cremains.

(g) According to the information we have collected, services provided in overseas countries for the disposal of human remains are usually separated from those for animal remains. Animal remains will either be disposed of by the animal owners themselves or by commercial operators. For animal remains, the disposal method may include cremation, burial, delivering to landfills, or decomposing into composting materials or materials for other uses. The choice of disposal method is for the animal owners to decide. In the United States and Canada, it may be necessary for animal cremators to obtain approval for gas emission/waste disposal from the environmental departments at the state, provincial or city level; while in the United Kingdom, cremation of animal remains must be carried out on premises approved by the authority concerned.

(h) As in other trades, operators of pet crematories have to comply with the relevant legislation and lease conditions. We are of the view that the existing legislation (including the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132), the APCO (Cap. 311), the Fire Services Ordinance (Cap. 95) and the Dangerous Goods Ordinance (Cap. 295)) is adequate for regulating the air pollution and public health issues that may arise from the operation of pet cremators. The Administration has no plan to set up a separate licensing system.

     In general, pet carcasses are not regarded as clinical waste. Provided that basic personal hygiene measures are taken, the risk of disease transmission through pet carcasses is very low. Infectious diseases of pets that are of serious concern to public health are uncommon. When bringing pet carcasses to the FEHD for disposal, pet owners or the relevant organisations should wrap up the pet carcasses properly in bags and deliver them to the refuse collection points managed by the FEHD. The pet carcasses will be safely disposed of as other municipal solid waste at landfills, which are well designed in engineering terms to guard against ground water and other contamination. We consider such practices acceptable from the perspective of public health. Therefore, the Government has no plan to provide public cremation services for pets.

Ends/Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:31


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