Population control of stray animals

Updated: 2013-09-20 15:30

(HK Edition)

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The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has been condemned by the animal welfare community for putting down more than 30,000 animals in the past three years. Last year, the department spent HK$1.5 million putting down 8,700 stray animals. The animals typically were kept for eight days after they were picked up, before being put to sleep.

An alternative program, called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) to humanely reduce the population of stray dogs and cats, has been stalled for years after being voted down at the district levels. The AFCD recently announced that two experimental areas have been chosen - in Yuen Long district and Cheung Chau - for a pilot TNR program for stray dogs, scheduled to commence later this year.

Chan Hak-kan, legislative councilor representing the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, is a strong advocate for the TNR program. "Hong Kong has used TNR on monkeys, and it works well. The city should at least give it a try on stray dogs, and monitor the population changes. In two years, the result will speak for itself," Chan said.

Some groups have carried out their own TNR programs. At one of the vet clinics under NPV, Mak Chi-ho, the founder, said nearly 1,300 stray cats and dogs had been neutered in the past six months. He said the target is to neuter 10,000 stray animals by the end of 2016.

Mak and lawmaker Chan have joined the Alliance for Animal Police, an organization set up in December 2012, with members from seven political parties and 14 animal concern groups. The Alliance is demanding stiffer penalties for animal abusers.

Chan hopes the animal abusers will take some mandatory psychological counseling as well. "There is a good chance that these abusers, after serving a brief jail time, may return to society and hurt other people," Chan said.

Chang Chi-lok, a psychiatrist, said cruelty to animals is one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder, and teenagers with a history of cruelty to animals show greater progression toward delinquency and anti-social behavior later in life.

Many animal abusers come from troubled families, had traumatic experiences and a low self-esteem. They have no empathy to the pains of animals. They abuse the animals to vent their anger. Some find a perverted sense of satisfaction from the suffering of animals. "Aberrant personalities may lurk behind the acts of animal abuse. They may give rise to greater tragedies, if these personality disorders do not get properly addressed. Both medication and psychotherapy can alleviate cruelty to animals," Chang said.

(HK Edition 09/20/2013 page2)