Pets: Why abandon us?

By Keith Yee, Betsy Ng & Cindy Lam


In 2001, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department caught more than 12,000 stray
dogs. There were 670 dogs and 100 cats surrendered by citizens to the department.

Of the 14,800 animals handled in 2000-2001, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found homes for around 2,300.

According to El Chan, chairman of the Society for Abandoned Animals, the high number of abandoned pets can be partly explained by the high population density in Hong Kong.

In 1996, the Housing Authority launched a “No Pet” policy in all public housing.

The spokesman of the authority said pets may cause nuisances to residents. For example, it is hard to stop dogs from barking. If they find pets in public housing, the authority issues a warning to the flat owners.

If the owners fail to remove their pets within 14 days, the authority has the right to take back the ownership of the flat.

According to statistics provided by the authority, there were more than 160 cases of keeping pets in public housing flats last year.

To preserve the right to live in public housing, some residents choose to give up their pets.
When pets are abandoned, they reproduce and increase the number of wandering animals on the streets.

“Desexing pets can help reducing the number of unwanted pets. Pet owners should consider that seriously,” said Doris Yiu of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

However, pet owners seldom desex their pets in Hong Kong before abandonment.

Miss Yiu said pet owners might think that desexing is painful and inhumane.

In fact, these are misunderstandings. After being desexed, animals bounce back quickly, usually within 24 hours, and they will fully recover in three weeks.

“Hong Kong people have relatively low commitment to their belongings,” said Fiona Chan, assistant lecturer in the Department of Psychology at The University of Hong Kong.

She said Hong Kong people like replacing older products with more updated ones. This is a typical characteristic of innovators who adopt to new products and like seeking new stimulation.

She said some pet owners bought animals because of their appealing and cute appearance.

She suggested that the commitment level of pet owners is crucial to the problem of pet abandonment. It is about whether they treat their pets as part of their possessions or not.
However, there are some pet owners who give up their pets for unusual reasons.

According to Miss Chan of the Society for Abandoned Animals, once they received a dog from a woman. It was old and was going to die soon. She decided to abandon it because she did not want the dog to die in her house.

“In Chinese society, having something dead in one’s own house is a taboo,” said she.

Shiran Lo, director of Hong Kong Cats Salvation Army, provided another case.

She said she knows a lady who kept four cats. The first one got sick but she didn’t take it to the vet. Soon, the cat died.

The second one died because of lack of care. It jumped out of a window.

She pointed out that the lady should have installed screens on her windows. She said that people who care about their pets should learn the correct way to set up a safe environment for them.

“However, she did nothing about it even after the incident, and later, her third cat died exactly the same way,” said she.

That lady, after the death of her three cats, was afraid the fourth one would die as the other two did.

She finally dumped it in a park. When she saw many cats wandering there, she thought they were having a happy life.

“Pets also have feelings. They are not toys or goods. Once you have bought a pet, you should treat it as a family member. If you cannot give your love and time to the pet, you should not buy it,” said Miss Chan.

After getting used to the care of owners, pets may not be able to survive on their own once they are abandoned. They may not know how to search for food.

Miss Chan once rescued two puppies. They fell down a slope. Then she took them to a clinic and the vet discovered stones in their excrememt. She guessed the puppies probably had nothing to eat, so they ate stones.

“Pets feel depressed after being abandoned. The cats we receive have lost the will to survive. They refuse to eat and drink. Finally, they die.

“I even saw a dog cry when its owner left it in our center,” said Miss Chan.

She mentioned there was a case in which some hungry stray dogs went into the Sheung Wan Wet Market. There they pulled chickens from cages and ate them.

Some stray animals are dirty and may carry diseases. “Without proper control, they may spread diseases to people such as rabies,” said a spokesperson for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

“Stray dogs bark at night. This causes a disturbance to people,” said Miss Yiu of the SPCA.

“Stray dogs that have been abused or chased by people develop hatred towards people. They may attack people to protect themselves when they feel threatened.”

Courtesy of the SPCA
Dogs are depressed when their owners abandon them.