Thurs 21st January: The government’s view on TNR

It was another round of meetings and interviews today so I spent most of the afternoon either away from the kennels or otherwise tied up.  Kimmy, the cocker spaniel, was adopted in the morning, and later in the afternoon I heard from Maria (foster coordinator) that Hazel (yes, I had even forgotten we already had a Hazel when I named the unfortunate puppy), an older shih tzu girl, had moved from her long-term foster home to a lovely permanent home in Discovery Bay.  With a garden, no less.

Yesterday I was talking once again about the need for a TNR scheme as a humane alternative to the current “Catch and Kill” policy.  Although this has also been reported in the press, it’s of such importance that I want to include the following Legco minutes.  Apologies for taking up almost all of the blog with this, but I’m asked so many times why something isn’t being done to stop the never-ending problem of strays, abandonment etc.  Here is the answer.  It doesn’t address other issues such as why nobody is ever convicted for abandoning dogs although it is an offence, and why the pet shops are allowed to keep selling puppies when there are already far too many dogs in Hong Kong, and thousands destroyed every year.  I refuse to use the cop-out word “euthanised”, because that implies a gentle and humane death.  AFCD themselves use the word “destroyed” and I agree that this is correct.  I also know that AFCD (the department responsible for animal management) has been upgrading the public information ads that go out on local TV stations, radio etc, and this time they are quite good.

I’ve added a few of my own comments but otherwise this is as received.  If you have an opinion about TNR, please write to Dr York Chow and let him know.


  Press Release  
 
  LCQ4: “Trap-Neuter-Return” programme for stray dogs
***************************************************

     Following is a question by the Hon Alan Leong and a reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (January 20):

Question:

     In the reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council on May 27, 2009, the Secretary for Food and Health advised that half of the District Councils (DCs) had already given support to the “trap-neuter-return” trial programme (the trial programme) as early as 2007, and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) would, in collaboration with the animal welfare organisations concerned, finalise the details for the implementation of the trial programme in those nine DCs.  Moreover, an animal welfare organisation has relayed to me that as AFCD has not yet implemented the trial programme, it has designed a plan for implementing the trial programme, hoping to assist AFCD in bringing under control the number of stray dogs in the vicinity of Chuk Yuen Village near the Lion Rock using more civilised means.  Yet, the animal welfare organisation received a verbal warning from AFCD recently that the organisation might be prosecuted if it implemented that plan.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether AFCD has commenced the aforesaid trial programme; if it has, of the progress; if not, the reasons for that; and whether AFCD will work with voluntary organisations for the implementation of the trial programme; if it will not, of the reasons for that;

(b) whether AFCD will give an undertaking that voluntary organisations and individuals implementing the trial programme on their own will not be prosecuted under the Rabies Ordinance for offences such as abandonment of animals, failure to implant a microchip or obtain a licence for animals and so on; if it will not, of the reasons for that; and

(c) of the numbers of stray cats and dogs caught in the past three years and the numbers of those which had been euthanised; and whether the authorities will replace the arrangement of euthanasia with the “trap-neuter-return” programme, with a view to protecting the rights of animals and addressing the issues of stray cats and dogs more appropriately?

Reply:

President,

     Dogs are domestic animals and may face difficulties living in a wild environment.  Neglected dogs are prone to health problems, may cause nuisances to the public, and can also spread diseases such as rabies.

     Local animal welfare organisations have earlier proposed to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) the introduction of a “Trap-Neuter-Return” (TNR) programme for dogs, allowing neutered stray dogs without an owner to be returned to public places.  Apart from examining technical and legal issues, it is also necessary to ascertain public support if t! he programme is to be successfully implemented.  In this connection, the AFCD, in collaboration with the animal welfare organisations which have been advocating this programme, consulted various District Councils (DCs) on the TNR trial programme in 2007.  Nine of the eighteen DCs supported in principle the implementation of the programme in their districts, while seven expressed objection and the remaining two made no indication.  It is evident that DCs have differing views on the TNR programme for dogs.  In fact, the AFCD received over 20,000 complaints about stray cats and dogs in each of the past three years.  This shows that the public are dissatisfied with the nuisances caused by stray cats and dogs.  The Government has the responsibility to address the needs of these members of the public.

     Community support is crucial to the successful implementation of the TNR programme for dogs.  Based on the outcome of the consultation! describ ed above, the animal welfare organisations concerned have indicated that they would identify suitable sites for implementing the trial programme in the nine districts which have indicated in-principle support.  At present, the AFCD and the organisations concerned are actively examining the implementation details and the pertinent legal issues, and discussing ways to set criteria for assessing the effectiveness of the programme.  Overseas experience and data show that the TNR programme for dogs is controversial and has never been implemented in the major cities of European countries and the United States.  Places with similar programmes in place have also failed to achieve satisfactory results.  For instance, a study in the United States shows that euthanasia is more effective than the TNR programme in controlling the number of stray cats.  To make the trial programme a success, i.e. to effectively achieve the objectives of controlling the number of stray dogs and reducing nuisance caused to the public, the programme should be implemented under proper supervision and with professional support.  Many dogs may be left wandering in the street after neutering due to lack of proper care.  This causes both nuisance to the residents and potential threats to the animals’ lives.  As such, we must take a prudent approach in implementing the TNR programme for dogs.  Our reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(a) The AFCD has been maintaining liaison with the animal welfare organisations concerned to discuss and study the feasibility and details of the introduction of a TNR trial programme for dogs in a particular district, including the responsibility issue regarding the dogs returned after neutering. The AFCD discussed with these animal welfare organisations again on October 22, 2009 and will continue to follow up on this.

(b) Hong Kong has a very good track record of rabies control and has been rabies-free for years.  Rabies is a communicable disease transmissible from animals to humans with a high mortality rate.  Besides, stray animals easily serve as a reservoir of rabies virus, strict enforcement of provisions of the Rabies Ordinance on dog management, implantation of microchip in dogs and licensing control are crucial to the maintenance of public health and prevention of importation of animal diseases.  To safeguard public health, the Administration will follow up on or prosecute any dog owners who have contravened the Rabies Ordinance.

(My comment: all dogs caught and neutered under the TNR scheme would automatically be rabies vaccinated).

(c) Generally speaking, stray animals caught or animals received from owners will first be taken to the AFCD’s Animal Management Centres for observation.  During the observation period, veterinary officers on duty will closely monitor the animals’ health and other conditions to ensure their suitability for re-homing.  Health conditions permitting, the animals will stay f! or four days so their owners may reclaim them.  Arrangements will be made for unclaimed dogs and cats to be re-homed through animal welfare organisations if they are found to be healthy and of an acceptable temperament.  Only animals which are assessed to be unsuitable for re-homing due to health or temperament reasons, or could not be re-homed by animal welfare organisations will be euthanised.  (My comment: animals are destroyed whether or not they are healthy or friendly). The numbers of stray cats and dogs caught or received by the AFCD in 2007, 2008 and 2009 were 18,760, 16,750 and 15,600 respectively.  Among them, the numbers of cats and dogs euthanised were 16,770, 14,500 and 13,310 respectively.  The AFCD has been maintaining liaison with the animal welfare organisations regarding the ongoing TNR p gramme for cats.  When compared to stray dogs, the risk of bite and the noise nuisance caused by stray cats are less serious.  Apart from discussing the TNR trial programme for dogs with non-governmental organisations, we consider that the most effective way to tackle the problem of abandoned or stray animals is to raise public awareness of the concept of responsible pet ownership, i.e. pets should be treated as members of the family and kept properly, and should not be abandoned easily or become a source of nuisance.  (My comment: Agree 100%) As such, the AFCD has been stepping up promotion and education at various levels and through different channels, including Announcements of Public Interest on television and radio and posters on public transport to promote care for animals.  (My comment: I must applaud AFCD for these new API’s and other forms of education). In addition, the AFCD produces promotional leaflets, posters and souvenirs for free distribution to the public and organises other promotional activities to enhance publicity.  The AFCD will continue its work in this regard to promote the message of responsible pet ownership.

     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Issued at HKT 16:05

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13 Responses to “Thurs 21st January: The government’s view on TNR”

  1. Christine Lomax Says:

    Hi everyone
    Hazel (Angel) has settled in really well overnight. She loves her new bed and slept well. Kyra and Sky are still coming to turms with the fact, that they have to share mum and dad with their big sister now! Not happy bunnies. LOL they will get use to it, they are all getting on really well no fights or growls. Angel went for her first walk in the dark last night before bedtime, off the lead!! She loved it, as it is not near any roads, she was quite safe. So many new smells and things to look at, we had to shepard her back into the garden. The little stop out!
    On that note I will finish here. Just to let everyone know that Angel will stay with us now until she passes away, and lets hope that wont be for a very long time yet. She’s a lovely old girl 🙂
    Christine
    Thank you all for letting us have her in our family

  2. Abby and Lou Says:

    But aren’t a lot of strays semi-owned or owned unofficially?

    If TNR is in place, then these strays would not produce the litters that end up in AFCD? You can’t prosecute people when they don’t own the dogs officially (denial and no paperwork etc) but yet these people feed the dogs and perpetuate the populations.

    People have to understand that no solution is immediate and that although TNR means that the strays are returned to the area, it also means that these dogs will not be reproducing and producing future stray dogs.

    TNR seems unnecessary in many European cities because the concept of dog ownership is different than in Hong Kong. Germans will tell you that it’s completely unnecessary and many don’t desex their dogs as they just don’t let their dogs stray (or so I read somewhere).

    You’re right, the pet shops are not helping and people need to be educated that dogs are not disposable and the mentality of “if this one doesn’t work out we just dump it and try with another one, and another one” is WRONG. Buying supports puppy mills and irresponsible and indiscriminate breeding, which has no regard for the breeding dogs or the health and temperament of the puppies, diluting and destroying the lines. Puppies sold are pet shops are way too young to be separated from their mothers.

    Anyways it’s everything you’ve been saying for years. I hope there has been enough of a shift that more and more people will start to listen and know that even though and because they are dog lovers they do NOT need to have dogs if they are not able to care for the dogs at this time. Volunteer!

    Thanks for all your work in this…

  3. Doris Says:

    The AFCD should go to schools to promote the rights of animals to let the CHILDREN tell their PARENTS what’s the right thing to do and what not. The government wants to introduce liberal studies, and this is one good session. I wonder if the principals andd the teachers are aware of this heartbreaking situation.

  4. Abby and Lou Says:

    I was told by a teacher who said that a parent said why should they be raising money when the dogs poop all over the streets…going to schools and including parents IS definitely a good idea.

    I think HKDR is reaching many school kids now but whether the parents would listen to their kids is something to be seen. More volunteers, more projects.

    • Sally Says:

      There’s an automatic $1500 fine for dropping litter or not cleaning up after your dog. The fines for animal cruelty or other pet-related offences are a few hundred dollars. To my knowledge (and I do keep asking) nobody has been prosecuted for abandoning their dog, even a microchipped one, because there needs to be “evidence”. For me, a dog picked up from the street which the owner doesn’t want back is an abandoned dog. Simple.

  5. Poppa Says:

    How incredibly frustrating!

    I don’t think the answer lies in just ‘raising public awareness’ (you can ‘raise it’ all you want, but it means nothing if attitudes and behaviors are not changed…) and continuing to destroy dogs, it’s obvious these steps in the process are not working as if so the HKDR kennels would not be so full! Also I guess it is not in the AFCD’s best interest to pursue TNR as this ultimately means less dogs to trap, and eventually a ‘loss of business’ for them…

    More needs to be done – apart from what the HKDR is already working towards, I think the Council should also consider providing easier access to cheaper neuter/vet services especially to those in remote areas (e.g. the villages) as that is where the main problem seems to be, as evident by the number of unwanted ‘tong’ dogs (vs. pet shop dogs.)

    I wonder how effective a public petition would be to get the Council to re-consider some of these issues?

    Keep up the good work Sally!

    • Sally Says:

      If the government provided free desexing that would be a huge step forward. The money it would cost them would be offset by the money they would save not having to catch, keep (for 4 days) and kill all of those dogs and puppies.

  6. Abby and Lou Says:

    well i guess the poop patrol is not in DB. There’s poop everywhere! And we have bins everywhere for poop!

    Unfortunately there is no one solution, no one answer.

    Hopefully each prong will get enough of the population so that all strategies together make a difference.

    But until people actually care… put meaning on a life that is not their own or their immediate family’s (and even harder for many, on non-human lives!), understand the value and truth of unconditional love, and that every action counts, and that there is hope for a better world. It’s not blind idealism but really a reachable truth.

  7. Helen Yeung Says:

    A year back I helped a lady in a Tai Po village to have her four dogs spayed by SPCA’s mobile vet. The mobile vet is not very mobile, unless she can gather at least 10 dogs they would not come to your village. She managed to transport her dogs to Lam Chuen for the procedure, not exactly convenient for village folks, with all those coordination prior to this happening, tel calls, fax, booking, arranging transport, dropping off, picking up … Can HKDR help in anyway to reach out, many volunteers live in villages and can be helpful.

    By the way, when can Hong Kong have animal police? I am sure a lot of retired officers from forces (animal lovers) would be happy to take on this job.

  8. hktimes Says:

    Having just moved here from Europe, I can say that I have not heard of a trap n neuter program in the EU but mainly because there are a lot less abondoned animals than in HK and a different mentality towards dog ownership (as someone has stated already). Government has the wrong end of the stick. I don’t understand how a neutered dog will suddenly require proper care as opposed to a non-neutered dog. I see so many TNR cats (with clipped ears) in HK that are very obviously alive and healthy and require no proper care. A dog is no different. It sure seems like there are other underlying reasons which I cannot fathom. Too many beautiful young and old lives are ended for no reason at all. Sally, we praise organisations like yours that fight for those that cannot speak for themselves. And I will continue to support in any way I can.

  9. Gloria Says:

    Sally, this is the only the reply from York Chow. I watched the replay of the meeting and some the Legco members raised questions and York Chow replied but they are not in the press release. I tried to translate in English and send to you.

  10. Linguinii Says:

    Free desexing is a great idea! And I wonder why they dont make desexing as compulsory as rabies licence. I think AFCD should promote the benefits of desexing as part of their ‘responsible pet ownership’ campaign as well. And the same as you get big health warnings on cigarette packets and public smoking bans- maybe the AFCD should do something similar with warnings about buying from pet shops and reality of puppy farms, opening up more park areas for dogs. and embrace TNR- send out more positive responsible messages that cats and dogs (owned, semi owned or stray) are a part of our society- not a ‘nuisance’ or disposable statistic.

  11. helen Says:

    in the press release Dr York Chow (funny his name sounds like a mixed breed of dog) says that public support of this TNR programme must be obtained. Perhaps as well as educating people it is time to invite all dog/animal owners to hold a rally in support of the programme. Surely seeing thousands of people out on the street will have some effect on their decision

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