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LCQ18: Handling of seizures of animals smuggled into territory
     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Pui-leung and a written reply by the Secretary for Environment and Ecology, Mr Tse Chin-wan, in the Legislative Council today (July 13):


     It has been reported that 159 smuggled animals were seized in a joint anti-smuggling operation conducted by the Customs and Excise Department and the Marine Police on May 18 this year. Some members of the public have relayed that while law enforcement agencies have seized smuggled animals from time to time, the public have no way of knowing how the Government will handle such animals. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the total number of animal smuggling cases detected by law enforcement agencies in the past five years; the number of arrestees convicted, as well as the conviction rates; and

(2) whether channel is currently in place for the public to learn about the housing and handling (including the specific processes) of animals seized in anti-smuggling operations; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

     Having consulted the Security Bureau, the reply to the question is as follows:

(1) From 2017 to 2021, according to the record of the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department and the Hong Kong Police Force, there were four smuggling cases involving animals, with a total of 16 people arrested. Upon investigation, seven people were charged with offences related to the Immigration Ordinance (Cap. 115), the Import and Export Ordinance (Cap. 60), the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance (Cap. 313), the Dangerous Goods Ordinance (Cap. 295) and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance (Cap. 169). Among those seven people, five were convicted, the court proceeding of one person is underway, and one was acquitted.
     Furthermore, under the Public Health (Animals and Birds) Ordinance (Cap. 139) and Rabies Ordinance (Cap. 421), in general, any person who imports into Hong Kong or re-exports through Hong Kong animals or birds must obtain a special permit issued by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) in advance and/or hold a valid health certificate issued by the exporting place or country, and must comply with the terms stipulated in the permit. In addition, according to the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap. 586), unless specified otherwise in the legislation, if the live animals imported or re-exported are scheduled species, one must obtain a license issued by the AFCD in advance. Any person who violate the requirements above commits an offence.

     From 2017 to 2021, in connection with illegal importation of live animals without relevant permit or health certificate (including mammals, birds and pet reptiles, etc), the AFCD instigated prosecution against 115 cases, 112 of which were convicted, the court proceeding of one case is underway, and two were acquitted.

(2) During the investigations of ongoing cases, all exhibits (including animals) must be handled according to the instructions of the law enforcement agencies. In general, the AFCD or animal welfare organisations such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Hong Kong) will be authorised by the law enforcement agency to help take care of the animals involved in the cases. To avoid affecting the investigations, details such as homing arrangements of the animals concerned cannot be disclosed. After a case is concluded, the law enforcement agency will authorise the AFCD to make housing arrangements. Under existing mechanism, the AFCD will arrange for re-homing of the animals through partnering animal welfare organisations. If necessary, the public can contact the AFCD to enquire about channels for adopting the animals concerned.
Ends/Wednesday, July 13, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:15
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