Friday, 29 April 2016

Fri 29th April: For or against Cap139b and what it means

Some of you will already have noticed that we have a new website up and operational at, and the reason we haven't announced it formally yet is that I need to go through all the pages to check for errors or omissions.  That's what I spent today doing, in between other things of course, but I haven't managed to read everything yet and you will find some links are still blank and missing information.  Still, we finally have our forms and general information back up and I have already received some feedback, so now I just hope that we will soon be up to full speed again.  Please take a look and let me know if you spot anything that needs correcting or filling in, or have any comments in general.

These breeder dogs came to us a couple of years ago and this is what we need to stop/
If you are on Facebook and live in Hong Kong you may have seen the posts regarding a protest taking place on Saturday against the Proposed Amendments to Cap139b.  At first glance this might seem a good cause to support if you are an animal lover who cares about dogs and the awful breeders, but you need to understand the background and the result of this split between animal welfare groups. It's best explained in this open letter by Howard Wong (below), in which he admits that the proposals don't go far enough but that it's better than no changes at all.  Having started out on the same side as the Saturday protesters in wanting far more stringent conditions for all breeders, I realised after years of getting nowhere that accepting at least some protection for the poor animals was better than no protection at all. By blocking any hopes of an agreement which will see the proposed Amendments to the Animal Traders Regulations being passed, that means no hope for the dogs and a victory not only for the Saturday protesters but also for all the breeders, commercial or otherwise.  So please be aware, if you are planning on joining the protest, that you would not be marching for change, but against the proposed changes.  Please take a look at this SPCA video to understand why we, or more importantly the dogs, so desperately need help and protection 

Would you believe it that Hong Kong’s pet trading regulations don’t cover animals that you claim are your own pet? This huge loophole originates from a time when there was little commercial breeding of pets and was there perhaps to facilitate people getting rid of their pets in times when there was little in the way of adoption.

However this loophole has led to huge problems in animal welfare. The Animals and Birds Ordinance Cap 139 has a piece of subsidiary legislation called the Animals and Birds (Animal Traders) Regulation Cap 139b. This regulation requires people to be licensed if they sell animals. But it exempts licensing if the pet is one’s own pet. How do you determine if an animal is someone’s pet? The simple truth if you can’t and so many traders use this loophole to avoid the law and the conditions that licensing brings, such as routine government inspection, space requirements for animals, welfare requirements etc. 

In a bid to prevent this abuse and to protect the welfare of animals the Food and Health Bureau, in good faith, introduced amendments to the legislation to remove this loophole. In the future all those who sell dogs, for example, will need licensing. If you breed just a few at home (where welfare has been shown to be reasonable in the past with dogs treated as pets) then you get one type of licence. If you are into commercial breeding (which often sees the worst types of welfare abuse) then your licence brings more rigorous checks, stricter welfare protection for the animals, all in line with perceived risk to the animals. The system makes sense and is there to protect the animals. Even online traders who might try to evade the system are unable to evade as all advertisements for dog selling must be accompanied by the trader registration number. If you are not licensed or even if you are masquerading as a licensed trader, it is easy for a government official to lay a trap and catch these unregulated traders.

The amendments have met with some resistance with people saying the changes are not drastic enough, that they still legitimise trading of animals. Well, yes they do but they are a huge step in the right direction and the administration should be applauded for this move. Governments move in small steps, and this move should be supported by everyone who has animals’ best intentions in their heart. If these amendments do not go through some officials will feel disheartened and we may not get such a bold move for decades to come. I implore everyone to write to the Food and Health Bureau and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to support them in this move.

School of Veterinary Medicine - City University of Hong Kong 
Dr. Howard WONG
B.A. (Hons), M.A., Vet.MB (Cantab)

Executive Director - School of Veterinary Medicine
Director - Centre for Animal Welfare

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