Covid-positive pets confiscated by, or handed into, the government will be sheltered and tested until they recover, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has said. However, the authorities dodged HKFP’s questions over whether they still had the capacity to destroy pets after an NGO urged them to clarify.

The government has amended its disease regulations with jail terms of six months and HK$10,000 fines for pet owners who refuse to hand over their infected animals.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP, GovHK.

The new rules were introduced after Hongkongers were urged to voluntarily hand in their pet hamsters for “humane dispatch” in January after some rodents tested positive for the virus.

After NGOs and pet owners expressed concern last week, the AFCD said in a Wednesday social media post that infected pets will only be transferred to animal shelters for quarantine and further Covid-19 tests.

“Veterinarians will take care of the infected pets, and do Covid-19 tests on them according to their situation. The AFCD will send the pets back to their owners if test result turns negative,” the department said, 13 days after the new amendment came into force.

The AFCD said the animal shelter was near the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Zhuhai-Macao port. But when asked repeatedly by HKFP if the authorities had the capacity to destroy pets, an information officer referred to a statement saying it was “devoted to quarantine and veterinary monitoring for animals tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.”

Pet abandonment

In a previous Facebook post, the AFCD also urged citizens “not to abandon pets under any circumstances.” The department advised pet owners to seeks support from relatives or the AFCD if primary pet carers are infected.

If pets are sent to the AFCD animal shelter, pet owners could also inform the department of their pets’ special needs, and hand over any specific medicine or food their pets might need.

gamma dog
Pet owners and NGOs feared infected pets may be abandoned or destroyed. Photo: Mia Fong

In a statement released on Friday, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said that the likelihood of pets transmitting virus to their host was “minimal.”

It called for a clarification of the legal changes last Friday, adding that the emotional connection between humans and animals should be considered when drafting any pet-related legislation.

As of Thursday, Hong Kong has seen almost 1.2 million Covid cases and nearly 9,000 deaths.

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Lea Mok is a multimedia reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously contributed to StandNews, The Initium, MingPao and others. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.