Mon 12th April: Starting the countdown

Obviously the story in today’s SCMP about our impending (involuntary)move from Pokfulam kennels on 30th April dominated the whole day.  There were a lot of emails to reply to, lots of questions that needed answering, and the overriding worry about what was going to happen when the actual day came.  I will give the whole story again here, and hope that this answers all questions:

When we took over the lease at the Pokfulam site, we were aware that it was only going to be short term as the site was already earmarked for redevelopment.  However, the actual length of stay was unknown, and as far as we were concerned, the longer we could stay the better.  In the meantime, (three years ago) we approached Lands Department for help in finding an alternative site and we were shown various options, none of which were suitable for kennels (next to a hospital, next to a residential development, on a steep slope etc).  We continued searching over the years, and found many sites that we thought would be perfect, but each time our hopes were dashed when we were told the land was reserved, unavailable or unsuitable.

When we started the search we were looking for somewhere on Hong Kong Island, but as time passed we spread out to the New Territories, accepting that this was inevitable.  We were still looking at Government sites, and went to look at many places, but again they were all unsuitable, or very short-term.  We also looked at privately owned sites, for rent or for sale.  We went all over the countryside, asked many property agents, and saw a lot of good, bad and terrible places, but nothing that we could use.

Finally we were given notice by Swire Properties, the owners of the Pokfulam site, that we would have to leave at the end of February (this year).  We had nowhere to go, as every hopeful piece of land had come to nothing.  So when Swire offered to try to find some land for us we were thrilled, and in December went out with Swire (and SPCA, who were also looking for a new site) to see two sites in the New Territories and two near Tung Chung, Lantau.

The NT sites were in the far north and very inaccessible, so of no help to either HKDR or SPCA.  One of the Tung Chung sites was right next to a school and also residential buildings, so also out of the question.  The only piece of land that looked absolutely perfect was the one we have been planning to move to, a very beautiful site which was next to a stream and endless countryside.

We finally got confirmation that we could have the land early this year, and immediately started making plans for the layout and design, including all the basics such as drainage, water and electricity, as the site was completely green.  We had volunteers from architect to environmental engineers, landscape gardeners and all sorts, working to make a Homing Centre that would be our dream come true.

At the same time we made the necessary applications to Lands Department for a waiver which would allow us to build using temporary structures (the containers I had talked about before).  Close attention was paid to ensuring that the stream would not be affected or polluted, and that the end result would be a showcase “green” site.

We had an inkling that there might be problems with the first response from Lands Department, and the finding that the stream had already been designated of high importance in environmental and ecolological terms.  The final report from Lands Department, which included comments from other departments such as the Environmental Protection Department (APD) arrived the day before the Easter break, meaning that there was nothing that could be done or resolved until the holiday period was over.

Swire had been kept up to date with all of the developments, and had seen all of the plans and kennel designs at various meeting we had had during this period.  Even at that stage, given that it was already close to the date that we were expected to move out of Pokfulam (we had been given another month’s extension to end of March by then), we couldn’t even start any work until a survey had been completed (by Swire) which would mark the official boundaries of the site.  We officially took over the site on 1st March.  Between then and the new and final extension date of 30th April we had to build a home for almost two hundred dogs.

Knowing that it would be impossible to do this, even with the best will in the world, we started looking again for other sites that could be used temporarily, but moving so many dogs to any site for however long would mean a lot of work and a lot of money.  The donations that were coming in to help build the new Homing Centre were only to be used for that purpose, and we all felt that spending anything on a temporary kennel would be money wasted.

Now we are just over two weeks away from the final “must leave by” date, and we only have these options:

Tung Chung.  It’s possible that we may eventually be able to overcome all the objections but we are looking at a probable time period of two years before the land will be usable.

Temporary kennel space in Yuen Long: we have been offered a building in a Yuen Long village which could be used as a kennel.  However, it needs renovation and there’s not enough space for all the dogs unless they’re crammed in. It’s also quite remote so we couldn’t expect many volunteers to be able to get there (or adopters).  We would have to employ paid staff to look after the dogs, including taking them out for toilet/play breaks as there is no direct access to  outside space for the dogs (almost all of whom are toilet trained).

Temporary boarding in private kennels:  Many of you have kindly offered to sponsor a dog’s boarding cost.  However, having quickly added up the total cost we’re not sure if this money wouldn’t be better spent renovating the Yuen Long building and employing our own staff.  At least the dogs would be together in one place.

Land for sale in Saikung:  this is a site we found some time ago and we were seriously considering, but we didn’t have the money to buy land and build kennels.  We dropped this option when the Tung Chung site was offered, but this is obviously the Number One choice at this point.  It will obviously take time to go through all the necessary procedures before we can even start to build, but at least we would know this would be a home for ever, and all money spent would be money well used.

This is where we are today.  The final question that is being asked, and the one that I really have no answer to, is what will happen to the dogs if we can’t find somewhere?  Would we be expected to have them all killed?  Or take them to AFCD so they could be killed for us by the government?  One thing’s for sure, it would finally get the attention of those who have turned a blind eye so far.

Finally, we have sent out the message to everyone who can – please adopt one of our dogs.  If you have been thinking about having a dog but waiting for the right time, this is it.  If you can’t adopt, foster.  If you can’t adopt or foster, please donate money to help the dogs.  Thank you.


8 Responses to “Mon 12th April: Starting the countdown”

  1. Doris Says:

    As time is running short, how about we start the pledge right away. Maybe it will help to get the basic down payment for the land in Saikung.

  2. Capucine Says:

    Hey Sally,
    This may sound stupid as i’m sure you have considered every option but have you thought about contacting the Kadori Farm? They have a very large area of land that they might be willing to lend temporarily to home the dogs.

    • Sally Says:

      Remember that even a temporary site that has no existing building will cost a huge amount of money to turn into kennels. Any temporary solution must already have existing structures of some sort that can easily, quickly and cheaply be converted into kennels.

  3. Ellen Says:

    It’s good to see so many options open! Does this mean that most of the dogs won’t be put to sleep?

    I hope everything works out for you all! Best of luck!

  4. Josie Tao Says:

    Sorry to hear about this. Hope things turn out well in the next few critical weeks

  5. Kai Says:

    Sally, is it possible to donate specifically to sponsoring boarding?
    I’m asking because while rallying up for help putting up posters to spread the word for people to adopt/foster; we are mostly students, so most of us can’t adopt.
    We can try to sponsor boarding though (i.e. maybe a dog per 2 dorm floors or something). We will need to be able to explain that the money will go to what we think it is to get the support though.

    • Sally Says:

      Hi Kai,
      Yes, we have been asking for boarding sponsorship but we have also been looking at renting an existing building which used to be a kennel so that we can “board” dogs there together instead. We would have to employ staff to take care of the dogs but even so it seems that it would be a much cheaper option. Some sponsors have already made arrangements with kennels for boarding the dogs (please ensure that they are the good kennels if thinking of doing this – we have a list) and that is, of course, an option.

  6. Abby and Lou Says:

    Kai – that’s a great idea – can you rally and see what kind of donations you can put together – see how much donations each floor can drum up? Even small amounts from each person but at a large volume (including teachers, families, etc) can make a difference!

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