The government will not “arrest” a shop cat accused of hurting a child, according to a lawmaker who has met with the authorities.

The Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) made a u-turn after over 60,000 people signed a petition in the space of 24-hours. It was launched by Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong urging the authorities not to take Marble the cat away.

Last Friday, a mainland Chinese woman reported to the police that her son had received a 5mm scratch from the feline at a Kwun Tong pharmacy, but shopkeepers said security camera footage showed that the incident did not occur.

Marble shop cat
Shop cat “Marble”.

The case was transferred to the AFCD, as the woman rejected the offer of help with medical costs from the shop owner and said she was concerned about the potential transmission of rabies.

The AFCD had said the cat should be under rabies observation in accordance with the law, and that it would seize the cat by Monday. However, they did not show up – as of Tuesday afternoon – amid public pressure. Marble remains unwell and is under observation at a private veterinary clinic.

Under observation 

Edward Lau, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said he met with the director and officials of the AFCD on Tuesday to follow up on the incident.

Lau said the AFCD told him that the authorities will implement a seven-day quarantine for mammals which hurt people, to protect the health and safety of the public. If the animal had received a rabies vaccination, the quarantine period can be carried out at home – otherwise it has to be spent at a veterinary clinic or an AFCD quarantine centre.

Edward Lau AFCD Leung Siu-fai
Edward Lau (right) meeting Leung Siu-fai, director of AFCD. Photo: Facebook.

After observation by AFCD officials, they accepted that the cat can stay at the clinic for the quarantine period.

“Marble will not be ‘arrested’ – it can go home after medical treatment,” Lau said.

Lau also said the AFCD should review its procedures to confirm whether animals have truly hurt people, to avoid abuse of the complaint system. He said the AFCD was willing to do so.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.