Killing of dogs by government has dropped to under 2500 a year, but activists say catch and kill policy must go; there is a better way

Feral dogs that will be killed by government vets if the AFCD's white van men find them. scmp.com
Feral dogs that will be killed by government vets if the AFCD’s white van men find them. scmp.com

Dogs trapped by AFCD white van men and killed by government vets now number under 2500 a year, SPCA Deputy Director Dr Fiona Woodhouse said. This is a dramatic improvement, because government euthanasia of dogs was previously as high as 14,000 annually. The drop in the kill rate is welcome, activists say, but destruction of any animal before its time is deplorable.

On animal welfare, attitudes towards the Government vary widely.  The most scathing criticism comes from Dr John Wedderburn, the father of Trap Neuter Release in Hong Kong. John has campaigned for about 25 years for Government adoption of TNR.

A passionate animal care advocate, he rages against our officials for refusing to budge from their Catch and Kill policy. Disgusted, John  has moved to Indonesia with his wife and carries on campaigning.

Fiona said the drop in the dog kill rate is due to multiple factors:

  • A “massive” neutering push by the SPCA with its mobile clinic and other programmes as well as efforts by welfare organisations such as the Society for Abandoned Animals, and volunteer groups across the territory.
  • Improved understanding of the value of desexing following Government and private sector education.
  • Government subventions and donor schemes for desexing  and new initiatives such as the SPCA’s vouchers that subsidise animal neutering operations for people who can’t afford them or need an incentive.
  • Policy changes by the AFCD: It will no longer prosecute people responsibly arranging desexing.

The background:  Men in AFCD Animal Management vans get around our streets and villages trapping feral or stray dogs. The animals are taken back to Animal Management Centres dotted about the territory where they are caged, terrified.  Four days later department vets, many of whom hate their jobs, will inject the dogs* so they die.  The Government spends about $30 million a year of your money killing dogs (and cats) according to a 2009 AFCD annual report. Dr John Wedderburn and others have said that instead of being killing operations these centres should be devoted to desexing.

Fiona said anyone in Sai Kung or Clearwater Bay who knows of dogs, such as those on construction sites, that should be desexed to prevent pregnancies should contact the SPCA.  Desexing can be supported by the society; perhaps the mobile clinic will be sent. The vouchers range from $100 to $300 depending on animal type and sex.  They apply to cats too.

SPCA staff recently attended a joint session with the Sai Kung District Council. Fiona said they found the councillors generally understanding and willing to work together on animal welfare.

Enter Gloria Li, head of STOP, a charity campaigning for an end to Catch and Kill in Hong Kong, who reports the Sai Kung District Council has blocked progress on TNR. Gloria said that in 2010 the Government agreed to TNR trials. Ho Chung was chosen as a pilot scheme location. The District Council objected. Now TNR trials are being carried out on Cheung Chau. They are expected to be completed in January next year when the data will be analysed. Gloria said if the results show TNR has worked in reducing the feral dog population on the island, TNR programmes will begin at other locations.

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Credit must be given to the Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay people who battle to reduce the killing: Catherine Lumsden of Catherine’s Puppies, Narelle Pamuk of Sai Kung Stray Friends, Debbie Chow, Maggie Leung and others.

See www.spca.org.hk for contact details

* Owners have four days to claim trapped dogs

Emotive video by STOP: Save Hong Kong’s Dogs and Cats


Comments from local activists on government dog killing

NARELLE PAMUK of Sai Kung Stray Friends:

I have the authorisation to get dogs released from Government Kennels. It is a paperwork procedure.I am always willing to help if someone is willing to adopt a dog from AFCD.

Sai Kung Stray Friends Foundation are always active in rescuing dogs from all situations, mostly from abandonment and stray free roamers, dogs with injuries or in need of medical treatment and welfare situations where owners are neglectful.  Our rescue missions save dogs from possible AFCD capture and disposal.  The “animal disposal” budget allocated by the HK Government to AFCD should be seriously and urgently addressed, less expenditure on disposal and money allocated to set up Free Desexing Clinics in every district and also the Vets in the AFCD Government Kennels should perform desexing.  You can call AFCD to pick up and take away a dog for disposal but you can’t call for desexing?  For local people on low income desexing costs are exceedingly high for them and to encourage people to desex and rabies vacinate/michrochip their dogs it must be a Free of Charge Service. There is a solution to overflowing numbers of dogs in shelters and stray homeless dogs if desexing was available. A law needs to be introduced that all owned dogs and free roam village dogs must be desexed or the owner/village chief will be fined.  There is a solution and Government money should be better utilised to prevent the large numbers of waste of live and animal carcasses going into our HK landfill!

The Government should make land sites available for NGO animal shelters. Charities are being extorted by excessive monthly rentals by landlords who take advantage of Charities and their situation of the almost impossible task of finding suitable locations to accommodate dogs.

KARINA O’CARROLL of Sai Kung Buffalo Watch:
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AFCD are not killing everything. There is a page on their website of partner organisations they work with to release dogs to if they are deemed suitable for rehoming.
The best way to phrase this article is to focus on responsible pet ownership. Desexing your dogs. Not buying dogs. Adopting if considering getting a dog.
No one likes the fact healthy dogs are put to sleep, but overpopulation of dogs in Hong Kong as well as continued buying of dogs from breeders as well as the issue of ‘loosely owned’ village dogs left to roam and breed, all contribute to the problem.
If more people want to help, best thing would be to educate owners to desex their dogs, adopt, foster, and help with the rehoming of dogs available.
AFCD and the SPCA do all they can to rehome strays, but sadly some dogs are just too feral and unsuitable for rehoming and there are simply not enough facilities or homes for long term care of feral stray dogs. The issue must be tackled at source, by desexing.

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  1. One of the main reasons that AFCD are killing fewer dogs is because there are more and more organisations, groups or individuals taking in and re-homing such dogs and puppies. Self-funded individuals and groups are also responsible for a large number of dogs and puppies being desexed through TNR while the government are still wasting time talking about trials. This has been going on for so long it’s not even worth talking about any longer, as unpaid volunteers just get on with it and do the job. TNR works, of course it does.