Three pro-democracy lawmakers have proposed cutting public funding for catching and killing stray animals, while calling for the introduction of a special force to tackle animal-related issues in the city.

During Wednesday’s legislative meeting, lawmaker Eddie Chu proposed cutting HK$22.7 million worth of funding allocated to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) for capturing strays.

Government employees caught a stray dog. File Photo: Apple Daily.

“I oppose the amount in principle,” Chu said. “Society has an incorrect mentality in that there is such a thing as ‘stray animals,’ which must be caught in a violent manner, kept for a period of time and then killed.”

“This is an incorrect attitude towards animals living in our communities.”

Chu said the government has never considered animal issues when pushing for development projects in rural areas. He estimated that at least 2,000 “community animals” will lose their homes to the North East New Territories development plan and risk being caught and killed by the authorities.

He urged the government to adopt a trap-neuter-return policy instead.

Euthanasia, animal cops

Lawmaker Claudia Mo proposed reducing funding for AFCD to euthanise animals held by the authorities. Lawmaker Ray Chan agreed with the motion, saying that the methods of euthanasia adopted by the government, such as injection, cause pain to the animals.

Claudia Mo and her dog Marble at an animal rights protest. File Photo: Apple Daily.

Mo further alleged that the government treats animals as property or commodities. “Hong Kong’s animal protection law is vague and goes against the ideal that humans and animals should be living in harmony,” she said.

Meanwhile, Chan proposed cutting the salary of the head of AFCD on the basis that it had “performed poorly” in animal-related work.

The AFCD said earlier that it had killed 1,814 dogs and 449 cats last year, a slight drop from 2015. Chan attributed the decline in number to efforts by animal volunteers who paid out of their own pocket to rescue the animals.

“It should have been the government’s duty to protect these community animals, but civil groups have shouldered the responsibility instead,” he said. “Instead of considering the worthiness of life, the AFCD only thinks about whether it has space to keep the animals.”

The lawmaker also called on the government to strengthen the fight against animal abuse and introduce “Animal Police,” a team tasked with handling animal issues. There is no detailed proposal on the new team, but some advocates want police to take an active role.

Ray Chan. File Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

“We should put more resources into setting up an animal police team,” Chan said, “so that people won’t think that they can easily get away with hurting animals. It will also send a message to the public that animal abuse is not a minor issue.”

See also: Regulate or end pet trade? Hong Kong animal lovers divided over new dog breeding law

Police launched the “Animal Watch Scheme” in 2011 with support from the AFCD and animal welfare group SPCA to combat animal cruelty. But critics argue that the scheme is not enough to deter people from hurting animals.

A police spokesperson told HKFP earlier that its crime investigation teams have the necessary skills for probing animal cruelty cases.

Eddie Chu said he did not expect the three motions to be passed, as they were not supported by pro-Beijing lawmakers.


Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.