Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
LCQ14: Enhancing animal welfare and animal management

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (June 1):


     Regarding the promotion of animal welfare and prevention of acts of cruelty to animals, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, in conjunction with the Police, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department as well as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Hong Kong), set up a special working group in 2011 to enhance cooperation in handling cases of cruelty to animals, of the number of meetings held by the working group so far;

(2) as I have learnt that at present only five police districts have set up designated Crime Investigation Teams to investigate suspected cases of cruelty to animals, whether the Government will consider setting up such kind of teams in all police districts; if it will not, of the difficulties encountered by the Police;

(3) given that this Council passed the amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance (Cap. 169) in 2006 to increase the penalty level of offences concerning cruelty to animals, but cases of animal abuse were still often heard of in recent years, whether the Government will reconsider introducing further amendments to Cap. 169 to increase the penalty level of such offences; if it will, of the legislative timetable;

(4) whether it will consider establishing a system under which law enforcement departments may issue, to persons who are negligent in taking care of animals but the circumstances of their cases are not serious, "Care Enhancement Notices" ordering them to treat animals kindly;

(5) whether it will reconsider enacting legislation to make it compulsory for persons convicted of animal cruelty offences to receive psychological counselling and attend courses on caring for animals;

(6) whether it will consider amending existing legislation or enacting new legislation to permit specific eateries to allow customers to patronise the eateries together with their pet cats or dogs, and to subject such eateries to appropriate regulation, so as to improve animal welfare;

(7) given that section 56 of the Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap. 374) stipulates that when an accident occurs whereby damage is caused to an animal, the driver of that vehicle shall stop and report the accident to the Police as soon as possible, but the animal referred to in that provision does not include dogs and cats, whether the Government will amend Cap. 374 or Cap. 169, in the hope that drivers will drive with more caution to avoid hitting and injuring cats or dogs, and cats and dogs injured after being hit by vehicles will be able to receive treatment as soon as possible; and

(8) whether it will allocate more resources to animal welfare organisations with a view to stepping up the promotion of animal rights and interests in the territory?



     Over the years, the Government has been adopting a multi-pronged approach to enhancing animal welfare and animal management.  In order to enhance collaboration among Government departments and organisations concerned in combating acts of cruelty to animals, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), in conjunction with the Hong Kong Police Force (Police), the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Hong Kong) (SPCA), set up in 2011 an inter-departmental special working group (WG) for forging closer co-operation and mutual support in handling animal cruelty cases.  In the same year, the Police, together with AFCD, SPCA and veterinary associations, introduced the Animal Watch Scheme to strengthen efforts in tackling animal cruelty cases.

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

(1) Since the establishment of the WG, relevant departments and organisations have maintained close liaison to discuss the handling of individual cases, formulate guidelines for improving efficiency in the detection and prevention of animal cruelty cases, and review the guidelines from time to time.  In addition, the WG also organises various training courses for relevant government officers to facilitate continuous enhancement of their understanding of animal welfare issues and skills in handling animal cruelty cases.  It also keeps in view the level of penalty handed down by the court for the purpose of considering whether a review of the relevant regulations is necessary.  AFCD has not kept figures on the number of meetings and discussions held by members of the WG.

(2) On the enforcement front, reports of animal cruelty cases received by the Police will be taken up by the crime investigation teams in various districts which have sufficient experience and professional investigation skills to follow up cases of cruelty to animals.  Depending on the manpower of police districts, the nature and the prevailing trend of cases, the Police may consider assigning cases to dedicated teams in the interest of ensuring comprehensive and focused investigation.  This arrangement will allow the Police to flexibly deploy its limited resources, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of its efforts in combating acts of cruelty to animals.

(3) Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance (Cap. 169), any person who cruelly beats, kicks, ill-treats, over-rides, over-drives, overloads, tortures, infuriates or terrifies any animal, or by wantonly or unreasonably doing or omitting to do any act, causes any unnecessary suffering to any animal commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of $200,000 and imprisonment for three years.  The Government updated and substantially increased the penalty levels in 2006 to strengthen deterrence.  Since then, the heaviest sentence handed down by the court for cases convicted under the Ordinance is imprisonment for 16 months.  The Government believes that the current penalty level provides sufficient deterrence against acts of animal cruelty and has no plan to propose any amendments to further increase the penalty level.

(4) AFCD has been working closely with the Police and SPCA in handling animal cruelty cases.  Depending on the investigation findings of individual cases, suggestions will be given to the carers concerned to rectify some of their minor acts of negligence in taking care of animals.  Follow-up actions and inspections will also be carried out as appropriate.  

     The Government considers that public education on responsible pet ownership is most important for safeguarding and promoting animal welfare.  To this end, AFCD has established a dedicated team to devise, implement and fortify public education and publicity programmes for disseminating messages of caring for animals and responsible pet ownership.  

     In the past year, AFCD launched a series of educational and publicity activities, including producing and broadcasting Announcements in the Public Interest on TV and radio; placing advertisements at cinemas, public transport, bus stops, magazines and websites; organising promotional events in shopping arcades; regularly conducting village and community campaigns; holding talks in schools and housing estates; as well as conducting surveys on pet care.  Our efforts on this front will continue.

(5) The Government has no plan to amend the legislation to make it compulsory for persons convicted of animal cruelty offences to receive psychological counselling or attend courses on caring for animals.  As the motives and underlying reasons for committing the offences vary in different cases, it may not be appropriate to require every person convicted of animal cruelty offences to receive mandatory psychological counselling.

(6) To ensure food safety and public hygiene of food premises, the Food Business Regulation (Cap. 132X) stipulates that no person shall bring any dog onto any food premises (including kitchens, food rooms and indoor or outside seating accommodation of a restaurant) and no person engaged in any food business shall knowingly permit the presence of dogs in his/her food premises unless the dogs are guide dogs for visually impaired persons (except for food rooms) or performing statutory duties (e.g. police dogs).

     Animals can be a source of contamination of food and equipment as their hair, body and excreta may carry pathogens and parasites.  Co-existence of humans and animals at the same premises will increase the risk of transmission of communicable diseases.  Allowing dogs to enter food premises will pose higher health risk to customers therein, especially those who are physically weaker or more susceptible to infection.  As such, the prohibition of dogs from entering food premises is needed from the perspective of food safety and public hygiene.

     Hong Kong is a metropolitan city.  There are diverse views among members of the public on whether pets should be allowed in public places (including food premises).  The Government has to strike an appropriate balance between overall public interest and protection of animal welfare.  We have no plan to amend the above requirements for the time being.

(7) At present, section 56 of the Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap. 374) provides that the driver of a vehicle shall stop the vehicle when an accident involving that vehicle occurs whereby damage is caused to, among others, an animal.  The driver is required to report the accident to the Police as soon as practicable.  For the purpose of this provision, "animal" is defined as any horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig or goat.

     The Subcommittee on Issues Relating to Animal Welfare and Cruelty to Animals under the Legislative Council Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene discussed the above issue at its previous meetings.  In response to Members' comments, the Government has studied the practices adopted in various overseas places, including the United Kingdom (UK), Singapore and New York.  The relevant legislative provisions in Singapore and the UK are similar to section 56 of Cap. 374 in Hong Kong, except that their scope covers dogs as well.  On the other hand, animals covered by the relevant legislation in New York include both dogs and cats.

     In recent years, we have from time to time seen reports from the press and on the social media regarding incidents where dogs and cats are knocked down by vehicles, causing injuries to the animals or even deaths.  In those cases where the vehicle drivers left without causing the animals to receive immediate treatment, this has given rise to public concern from the animal welfare angle.  Taking into account the occurrence of such incidents, the public sentiment, and the practices adopted in other places, the Government is prepared to review the relevant legislation, with a view to bringing dogs and cats within the scope of section 56 of Cap. 374.

(8) AFCD has been working in close collaboration with a number of animal welfare organisations (AWOs) to promote animal welfare and better animal management, including providing funding for these organisations as long as resources permit.  Currently, AFCD provides funding support to nine AWOs.  In this regard, AFCD has set aside $1.5 million in 2016-17.  Interested AWOs may submit their applications together with details of their animal welfare initiatives, and associated performance indicators as well as the estimated budget to AFCD for consideration.  Successful applicants are required to submit to AFCD regular progress reports on their approved projects and audited accounts upon project completion for scrutiny so as to ensure the proper use of public money.

Ends/Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:16


Print this page