New study on animal cruelty in Hong Kong by HKU Law Faculty and the SPCA (HK) finds mongrel dogs are the most common victims of animal cruelty

The Faculty of Law, the Univesity of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Hong Kong) (‘SPCA (HK)’) publish a new study on animal cruelty cases in Hong Kong.

The one-year research project was funded by the Public Policy Research Funding Scheme from the Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office of the HKSAR Government and was conducted by Associate Professor Amanda Whitfort of the HKU Law Faculty and Dr Fiona Woodhouse Deputy Director (Welfare), SPCA (HK), Shuping Ho, Welfare, Research and Development Officer, SPCA (HK) and Marsha Chun, Investigator, Inspectorate, SPCA (HK).

The study looked into animal cruelty cases in the SPCA database from 2013 to 2019. Most cases involved traumatic physical injury or neglect by the animals’ owner or family members. The majority of neglect cases involved dogs abandoned inside private premises without food/water. In nearly all cases the animals were found abandoned inside village houses their owners had rented. In many cases the owners were not living with their animals. In nearly one third of cases, the animals died.

In 20% of cases, owners who abandoned animals avoided prosecution because they could not be located within the 6 month time limit to be charged by police.

Most cases involved stray dogs which had been collected by persons who did not have sufficient financial resources or time to care for them adequately. In two significant cases, where dogs had started to eat each other to survive, more than 100 animals had been collected by the offenders and placed in so-called rescue shelters. The shelters were accepting animals from members of the public in exchange for donations.

Action is necessary to educate owners to voluntarily surrender animals they can no longer care for appropriately rather than place their welfare at risk by abandoning them. Registration requirements for large numbers of animals would also assist.

To counter the risk to animals in unregulated shelters, there is an urgent need to introduce shelter licensing legislation in Hong Kong. A further reason to regulate animal rescue shelters is the lack of financial transparency as to how public donations are being used.

Government policies prohibiting the keeping of dogs in public housing alongside historical dog population management strategies have also contributed to the problem of abandonment of dogs in Hong Kong.

Other findings of the report included the need for:

  • a duty of care for animals to be introduced to compliment current anti-cruelty legislation;
  • regulations to control grooming parlours, animal trainers and boarding facilities;
  • new offences to deter animal poisoners;
  • improved regulations to control the use of traps;
  • a new offence to combat animals falling from heights; and
  • prohibitions on mercy release of wild animals.

The full report is uploaded on the Associate Professor Amanda Whitfort’s website at here.

The executive summary of the study can be downloaded here.

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