Pawprint Magazine

Published by the SPCA, Pawprint is an animal welfare magazine that highlights the latest work of the SPCA and membership activities, as well as current animal welfare issues.

Pawprint is published three times a year – February, May and August, and is available in both Chinese and English. As a member privilege, SPCA members enjoy a free subscription to Pawprint. For members of the public, however, the magazine is available online in PDF format.

If you are a member and wish to change the language preference for your Pawprint subscription, please contact our Membership Department at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 2232 5548.

If you are a representative of a Hong Kong school and would like to subscribe to Pawprint, please contact our Education Manager at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Issue 94 - 2014/05 2014/08

Issue 94 - 2014/05 2014/08


  • Planning for a Pet ? 02
  • Latest News at the SPCA 04
  • Cover Story       The Light is Amber 06
  • Focus                 Are You Not Entertained? 14
  • Inspectorate     SPCA Case Files 20
  • Veterinary         Vet Facts 22
  • Veterinary         Vet’s Case Book 23
  • Veterinary         Vet Tips 24
  • Veterinary         Vet’s Profile: Dr Tim Choi 26
  • Happy Ending    Salute! 27

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  • Planning for a Pet ?                                                                                  02

    “Responsible Pet Ownership Children’s Kit” for Parents and Children

    First in Asia

    Available in English and Chinese

    The Education Department of the SPCA is proud to launch the “Responsible Pet Ownership Children’s Kit”, now available for parents and children (5-12 of age) who are considering acquiring a pet.

    Pet ownership is increasingly common in Hong Kong, and many pet owning households consist of parents and young children. The SPCA realises that parents, having acquired family pets simply out of their children’s requests, may not fully understand the responsibilities and commitment required of pet owners.

    We ask parents to take the initiative to feed, exercise and groom, and look after the health of the pet themselves – and teach their children by example. The “Responsible Pet Ownership Children’s Kit” is designed for just that – with easy-to-use learning aids, parents can educate their youngsters about pet ownership and make the decision of getting a family pet together.


    The RPO Children’s Kit can now be obtained at all SPCA adoption centres: 

    • Hong Kong Centre
    • Kowloon Centre
    • Mongkok Adopt-a-Pet Centre
    • Sai Kung Adopt-a-Pet Centre
    • Barking Lot Cafe(Stanley Adoption Centre)


    What can we learn from the kit?

    • The needs and lifecycles of pet animals
    • The responsibilities of a carer
    • Fitting a pet into our daily lives and yearly plan – making use of weekly and yearly planners, parents and children can make plans together


    What else come with the kit?

    • A cute key chain
    • A banner pen
    • A special figurine designed for children
    • Stickers with pet-caring tips



    To further encourage parents and their children to learn more about the RPO kit, we are offering several summer workshops where participants can take part in creative games and inspiring activities related to the three areas of animal care: an animal’s needs, its lifecycle and its owner’s responsibilities.


    Launch Ceremony

    The launch of the “Responsible Pet Ownership Children’s Kit” took place on June 22 at the Hong Kong Scout Association with the support of animal welfare organisations, numerous local artists and their children.


    Enquiries / Registration : 2232 5541 / 2232 5526


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  • Latest News at the SPCA                                                                           04

    Flag Day 2014 - Gold Flag Donation
    Our Animals Rely on Us

    The SPCA is committed to protecting the welfare of animals since 1921.

    • Last year, we saved over 1,700 animals
    • Found permanent homes for over 2,000 dogs, cats and small animals
    • Handled more than 800 animal abuse complaint cases
    • Performed desexing operations on over 13,000 animals and
    • Provided animal care education to 20,000 school children and adults


    Our Flag Day on 2 August 2014 (Saturday) supports our:

    • 24-hour Animal Rescue and Emergency Hotline
    • Adoption Services
    • Desexing Program


    This year, for every HK$500 you donate, you will receive a special edition SPCA gold flag. Each gold flag is a reminder of the part YOU have played in making a difference.


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  • Cover Story              The Light is Amber                                                   06

    An overview on the current situation and the challenges the dog TNR trial is forcing.

    When the proposed initial Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) trial sites in Lamma Island, Sai Kung and Yuen Long were voted down by respective District Councils due to concerns of some local residents, despite general overall support, it dealt a blow to the SPCA’s decade-long lobbying efforts. Despite this setback, the SPCA, and the Society for Abandoned Animals (SAA) remain dedicated to the search for suitable sites to trial TNR in Hong Kong as a measure to control dog population.

    Selecting a suitable trial site is complicated and involves numerous site visits and meetings with respective District Councillors, local volunteers, landowners and other stakeholders as well as full public consultation. Previously, the three proposed sites were shortlisted from over 100 possible locations and the process took over three years. Although each location is unique, a suitable TNR trial site typically has to satisfy a number of criteria:

    • Suitable and safe habitat for the dogs
    • Population of 30 or more breeding feral dogs
    • Problems or complaints reported related to the dogs
    • Committed local carers who have a pre-existing relationship and knowledge of the target group of dogs


    Next Stop – Cheung Chau

    The SPCA’s most recently proposed trial site has been home to some 20 to 40 free roaming dogs. The population fluctuates over time, especially during the breeding season and after the AFCD’s dog catching efforts. Hong Kong feral dogs usually produce an average five puppies in each litter.

    The AFCD, as the animal management authority responsible for catching dogs and ensuring public safety, uses a reactive approach to manage the situation. Upon receiving complaints, dog-catching teams are sent to the area in question to catch dogs or set traps. The AFCD’s dog catching efforts have not been effective and have continued over many years. Tracking recent data for the new proposed trial site, the AFCD has made 55 visits to the area and caught 170 dogs over the past three years, whilst the number of complaints received has nearly tripled. As the AFCD uses the number of complaints to benchmark the efficacy of their dog management efforts, this reactive approach has neither been effective in tackling complaints nor controlling dog population.



    Free Roaming Dogs – Irresponsibly Owned and the Feral

    The goal of TNR is to neuter and stop the population growth of feral dogs. These dogs are shy and hard to catch. However, many of the dog problems relate to irresponsibly owned dogs and these problems have generated the most opposition towards the trial.

    Stray dogs that roam are either abandoned pet dogs or more commonly irresponsibly owned by locals who do not license, vaccinate, neuter or control their dogs. As they roam around, they may also be mistaken for feral dogs. In reality, both groups of dogs mingle and interbreed, producing unwanted litters of puppies.

    Locally, there are some people who take pity on the feral dogs and feed them regularly. Some go beyond just feeding and are dedicated to improving their welfare by putting up unwanted puppies for adoption and assisting with education and de-sexing dogs when resources allow.

    After the first three proposed sites were voted down, the AFCD and the SPCA met with local representatives to discuss the possibility of entering the alternate site as a TNR trial zone. Subsequently a public consultation was conducted to seek public opinion in the implementation of the trial. Response was generally positive with a majority in support of the trial programme but some locals expressed concerns over the existing nuisance that dogs had been creating in the neighbourhood, and questioned if a TNR trial would jeopardise public safety and encourage the abandonment of dogs in the area. These are valid concerns and the trial has been set up to monitor such factors and take them into account.


    What Exactly are the Problems?


    Increasing number of dogs

    Many residents have reported that free roaming dogs are now part of their everyday lives. Many complain that their trips home are fraught with uncertainty and fear being bitten. The number of dogs is no doubt on the rise, with around ten litters of puppies born each year. The number of dogs is making these residents uncomfortable.


    Increasing conflict

    This has led to growing tensions between residents filing complaints and those who feed and try to neuter these dogs. The former blame the latter for the rising dog population while they themselves are criticised for being less than sympathetic towards starving animals and clinging on to the tried-and-failed method of complaining to the AFCD.


    Unacceptable dog behaviours

    Apart from the usual barking and other common dog-related nuisances, free roaming dogs also display other undesirable behaviours. They may move in packs or on their own and can venture on to roads and scavenge for food around houses. Residents sometimes have to wait till the dogs move away before they can comfortably pass by. There have also been reports of dog bite incidents.

    As few complainants can actually positively identify problematic dogs, feral dogs take the blame. As far as affected residents are concerned, dogs are dogs – it doesn’t matter if they’re feral or irresponsibly owned – dogs are causing problems and they must be removed, preferably as soon as possible.

    In fact true feral dogs are under socialised and quite wary of people and are more likely to move away to avoid contact than an owned dog who is allowed to wander on the streets. The roaming owned dog is often more confident and comfortable around people and may also be more territorial if encountered nearby where they live.


    Reality and Expectations

    The complainants’ demands are straightforward – they want to feel safe in their own neighbourhood and they want the nuisance to stop. In short, they want the dogs gone and they expect this to happen quickly. So far, the only possible solution has been to lodge complaints with the AFCD. However, despite the dogcatchers’ repeated visits throughout the years, the number of complaints (as is the number of dogs) is increasing. Naturally, the locals attribute this to the AFCD’s inefficiency.

    The truth is, this catch-remove method does not tackle the root cause of the issue and is proven to be ineffective in terms of dog population control. Pertaining to this particular area in Cheung Chau, AFCD data has shown that, on average, their dogcatchers can only catch around two dogs per visit, half of which are puppies. As the more wiley adult dogs remain “at large”, they continue to mate and reproduce – dogcatchers simply cannot catch up with their reproduction rate. AFCD are effectively harvesting puppies – puppies removed are often found homes for by animal welfare groups and any puppies left behind have less competition for resources and are more likely to survive and grow up to become fully fledged pack members. As the numbers of dogs increase over time, competition for food and other resources increases. Packs may break off and move into nearby areas to live more comfortably.

    Local volunteers and some residents on the other hand, disapprove of this reactive method as they see that it is ineffective and feel that it is inhumane. They also want to stop the dog population from growing but instead of collaborating with the AFCD to catch dogs, they want to use what little resources they have to catch and neuter the dogs. 



    What does TNR Do for the Community?

    Under a managed TNR programme, the programme coordinator (in this case, the SPCA or SAA) will work with registered volunteers to catch (or trap) un-owned, feral dogs, aiming to humanely manage this population of dogs through a non-lethal, animal birth control (surgical sterilisation) based methodology. 

    Dogs caught will be neutered and subsequently returned to their original habitat. This will help to manage the dog population – avoiding the impounding and possible humane destruction of the target dogs as well as preventing the birth and suffering of future offspring. Over time, the dog population within the site can hopefully be stabilised and even decreased. 

    It should be noted that under the TNR programme dogs with behavioural or serious health problems will be assessed and evaluated and may not be returned for either human and / or animal welfare reasons.



    What are the Benefits?


    For Dogs

    •     Improve overall dog welfare by preventing the cycle of poor welfare usually associated with

    (a)  the birth of un-owned, roaming dogs – two-thirds of feral puppies born would not survive their first year, usually dying from sickness or injury

    (b) the capture, impounding and, in most cases, the humane killing of under-socialised feral puppies and dogs

    •     Improve the welfare of individual un-owned roaming dogs by avoiding the stress of reproduction and administering various preventative medicines at the time of neutering

    •     Reduce the number of healthy puppies or sick and injured dogs that may compete for scarce resources (such as medical and other care and potential homes) within the animal welfare community


    For the Community

    •     Assist with dog population control by reducing the reproductive potential of the un-owned, roaming dog population

    •     Mitigate dog-related nuisance by controlling and managing the population, improving the general health status of that population and by reducing undesirable behaviours that can be associated with reproduction

    •     Reducing risk to public health – reduce chances of zoonotic disease (such as rabies) and injury potential (such as dog bite injuries)


    Not in My Backyard

    After the public consultation, we met with local District Councillors, Rural Committees and other concerned groups to help them further understand the importance and the possible benefits a TNR trial could bring to their community. This has been successful to some extent in gaining support but some residents are still vehemently opposed to trying the new methodology even though the current method of dog catching has not resolved the problem over many years.

    Residents’ opposition to the trial stems from a myriad of reasons but generally their experience with dogs, owned or feral, has been negative. Dog owners have neglected to clean up after and control their dogs; there have been confrontations with feeders; the perceived unpredictability in the dogs’ behaviour doesn’t help either. The perceived lack of action and follow-up by the AFCD on past of dog bite cases and other incidences has left the affected residents impatient and angry.

    In response to the TNR trial, the residents have expressed explicitly that while they have no objections to trapping and neutering the dogs, they do not want them to be returned. They also fear that the trial might encourage abandonment in the area (because dogs in the trial site will be neutered and fed). The solution of putting dogs caught on an uninhibited island where they would be “taken care of” has been made, or simply picking another site for the TNR trial suggested. In short, they want nothing to do with the dogs.


    The Legal Aspect of TNR

    According to the Rabies Ordinance (Cap. 421) and the Dogs and Cats Ordinance (Cap. 167), organisations and volunteers could be construed as legal owners of the dogs they trapped, neutered and released, which may make them legally liable for breaching legislation and open to prosecution. An un-owned dog cannot currently safely exist on the streets without risk of capture and removal.  However, within the legislation it is possible for exemptions to be given to allow dog TNR to go ahead within the current legal framework. As such the proposed trial needs go through a negative vetting process by the Executive and Legislative Council. Exemption notices will need to be gazetted before the trial programme can formally commence. 


    Time is of the Essence!

    Discussion regarding the new TNR trial site is still ongoing.  We are working hard towards further liaising with the concerned residents to address their concerns. It is vital to obtain a good measure of understanding from them before finalisation of the site and commencement of the trial.

    The success of the TNR trial depends largely on the number of dogs caught and neutered. The golden target often cited is 70% but the impact can also be seen with neutering rates from 35%. The longer the delay in the trial commencing the more the population has time to increase. This trial is tackling a community problem that has existed for a long time. The sooner we start the trial, the fewer dogs there are to catch, the easier it is to reduce the population, and as a result, the higher chance of success.

    While we understand and emphasise the importance of community support and reaching a consensus, the clock is ticking away. Each day we struggle to move the plan forward is a day we are not helping to stop the feral dog population from growing and or help the community to resolve or mitigate the problems with this existing and ongoing issue.


    A Cautionary Note:

    Despite opposition from some locals, over the years TNR has seen an overall shift in public opinion, garnering increasing support. The remarkable success of the CCCP has persuaded many that TNR can be part of the answer to solving our city’s continuing dog overpopulation problem.

    While we strongly believe and advocate that TNR should be implemented in Hong Kong for dogs, this alone cannot manage the city’s feral dog and general dog overpopulation problem. At the heart of this are irresponsible dog owners who keep contributing to the feral dog population by allowing their dogs to roam freely and reproduce or abandon unwanted pets and their offspring on the streets. If such behaviours continue, no matter how many feral dogs we try to neuter, there will always be more new dogs coming on to the streets.

    Now is the time to put more even more emphasis on responsible pet ownership education, focusing on desexing, anti-abandonment and dog registration. Couple education efforts with supports including assistance in accessing resources (such as spay / neuter services) and appropriate enforcement actions, and we can look forward to a feral-free Hong Kong.


    Various Reactive, Preventative and Educational Measures of the SPCA

    Owned dogs

    Feral dogs

    Irresponsibly owned dogs



    • Targets abandoned pets and socialised offspring of feral dogs
    • Reactive and educational
    • Humanely tackles surplus dog population
    • Compulsory neutering and rabies vaccination
    • Encourages responsible pet ownership


    Responsible Pet Ownership

    • Targets owned and irresponsibly owned dogs
    • Educational
    • Encourages neutering
    • Prevents abandonment


    Spay Neuter Assistance Programme

    • Targets owned dogs and irresponsibly owned dogs
    • Preventative
    • Provides financial assistance / incentive to pet encourage owners to neuter their dogs


    Mongrel Desexing Programme

    • Targets mongrels
    • Preventative
    • Free neutering
    • Free dog licensing
    • Free rabies vaccination


    Community Dog Programme

    • Targets owned dogs at most risk of breeding in the community: village dogs and site dogs included
    • Educational and preventative
    • Provides various assistance (including logistical or financial depending on assessment) to pet owners who wish to neuter their dogs
    • Compulsory dog licensing and rabies vaccination


    Trap, Neuter, Return

    • Targets feral dogs
    • Reactive and preventative
    • Humanely control feral dog population by preventing birth of puppies - breaking the cycle of reproduction
    • Compulsory rabies vaccination



    Community Dog Programme (CDP)

    Targeting irresponsibly owned dogs living in villages, work sites and recycling yards in the New Territories, or owners who need logistical support in accessing veterinary services the CDP aims to persuade and help dog owners desex their dogs.  But an even more important component of this programme is to educate and promote the importance of responsible dog ownership, as well as to have the owners legally responsible for their dogs. Each case is carefully reviewed and assessed to see what form of assistance (financial, transportation or others) can be offered. Please call 2232 5511 for details.


    Mongrel Desexing Programme

    Each month, the SPCA allocates limited slots for healthy mongrels between the age of four months and seven years to be neutered at no cost at the SPCA clinics. Rabies vaccination and dog licensing is available free of charge under this programme to encourage responsible dog ownership. Places are reserved on a first come, first served basis. Please call your nearest SPCA centre or the general enquiry hotline 2802 0501 for more information.


    Spay Neuter Assistance Programme (SNAP)

    The SPCA issues a limited number of SNAP vouchers to help pet owners with financial concerns to get their pet desexed at a reduced rate. These vouchers can be used for desexing surgery at veterinary clinics under the programme, which include all SPCA centres. Please call 2232 5549 for details.  


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  • Focus                          Are You Not Entertained?                                       14

    Are You Not Entertained?
    Make the right choices when you are having fun during the summer holiday.


    In the heat of summer, most of us have drawn up a list of exciting activities for our overseas trip or stay-cation. Take a look at that list – how many of your planned activities involve animals? Globally, millions of animals are exploited in one way or another to provide entertainment for locals and, more importantly, tourists. Zoos, aquariums, circuses, theme parks, together with other more localised activities, form multibillion-dollar businesses that capitalise on humans’ desire to be entertained by animals. Many holidaymakers are unaware that what they do in vacations is actually supporting animal exploitation.


    There are now many ways animals can be used for entertainment. A lot of these animals are wildlife that do not belong in the human world. Despite the variety of entertainment, the sufferings involved are quite similar:

    •     Young animals are sourced from the wild, often torn away from their mothers.

    •     Long hours of confinement, usually in appalling conditions and an environment vastly different form their natural habitat. Animals can be chained or caged, with insufficient food and water.

    •     Long hours of work to maximise profit.

    •     Stress as a result of confinement and, for most wild animals, prolonged human contact. Some animals exhibit stereotyped (abnormal and repetitive) behaviour as a result of stress.

    •     Physical mutilation for the purpose of protecting participants or trainers. Mammals might have had their claws and canine teeth removed; birds might have had their wings clipped; venomous reptiles might have had their venom milked.

    •     Drugging to keep the animals tamed and docile while handled by humans.

    •     Cruel training methods to make them do unnatural tricks and submit to humans. These can involve but not limited to beatings, starvation, sleep deprivation and confinement, until the animals learn.

    •     Poor health that is often associated with physical abuse and neglect.

    •     Shortened lifespan. Some species, like elephants and cetaceans, live for a much shorter time in captive environment.

    •     Unable to display natural behaviour. 

    •     Deprived of normal social grouping. Animals such as elephants and cetaceans are very intelligent and have complex social bonds. Such deprivation can add to stress and leave them traumatised and unpredictable.


    It is sad to see that our entertainment has come at the expense of animal welfare. However, we also believe that informed consumers rarely put their needs for entertainment before the welfare of animals involved. For all you travellers out there, take a deeper look at your holiday planning and start making responsible, informed decisions. Here is a list of activities commonly available in the region that you might want to be careful of or entirely stay away from:


    Say no to photo ops!

    Photo souvenirs seem innocent enough – not much people would associate them with cruelty. After all, what’s the harm?

    Aside from enduring long hours of handling by humans and generally poor living conditions, many of these animals are poached from the wild at a young age as the “cuteness factor” plays a major role in attracting business. When the animal matures, it is often discarded – killed or sold as meat – and replaced by another infant.


    Petting is only for pets!

    While some animals (the domesticated ones usually) are friendly towards humans, most wild animals find human handling stressful. Similarly to animal photography, feeding and petting wild animals should not be encouraged.


    Elephant trekking is cruel

    In many Southeast Asian countries, and increasingly common in some African countries, the experience of elephant riding is very affordable and is readily available in most tourist destinations. One can imagine how popular this activity is, and ironically this has contributed to the daily exploitation of these gentle giants.

    To satisfy the demand for rides, operators make their elephants – that goes for adults and calves – work every day without rest. Controlling and training of these elephants begin when they’re very young. They are repeatedly beaten with bull hooks and bamboo sticks spiked with nails until they learn their commands. Trainers also starve them, deprive them of sleep and eventually crush their spirits completely. When out on rides, the harnesses and saddles strapped to their backs can be extremely uncomfortable and often cause long-term health problems for the elephants.


    A cycling bear is unnatural!

    Circuses (or animal shows) are something we are all familiar with, and once we have taken a look at what happens behind the scenes to make that hour-long circus show possible, no one would disagree that it is one of the most brutal kind of animal cruelty. Circus animals often come from questionable sources and undergo extremely cruel training to make them learn unnatural behaviours. Remember, bears do not cycle and tigers do not voluntarily jump through a flaming hoop. They have been through a lot of pain to be conditioned to perform such tricks.


    Beware of animal rides

    The welfare of animals for rides is often overlooked because they are considered working animals. If your holiday experience involves animal rides, you have a responsibility to make sure that the animal, such as camels and equines, you choose to ride on isn’t suffering.

    There are some signs you can look out for: the animal should not look dispirited (head bent down) or malnourished (showing too much bones), there should be no sign of limping, no sores or wounds on the body. It should also have access to food and clean water in their resting place. The equipment used (including mouth bits, saddles and harness) should be well fitting and under no circumstances should there be any whipping and beating. More importantly, be mindful of the burden you’re placing on the animal – realistically can the animal carry you and / or your luggage? How long is your ride going to be? Only patronise operators that are treating their animals well, and pay them a fair price to encourage them.


    Dolphins and whales are not meant for tanks

    Cetaceans are intelligent animals which are genetically hardwired to travel long distance in the ocean for seasonal migration. Their specialised needs make confinement particularly unsuitable because no aquarium or tank can be big enough. Confinement often results in behavioural abnormalities or a decreased immune response, which contribute to a significantly shortened lifespan.



    Having discussed all of the above, there is no avoiding one of the most popular and common ways we use animals for entertainment – zoos. By definition, a zoo is an enclosure of any size where wild animals (captive bred or sourced from the wild) are confined for exhibition purpose. Aside form exhibition, many of the animal entertainment listed above, including animal photography, petting, rides and even shows, can all be found at zoos, depending on their welfare standards. The history of zoos goes a long way back and it is arguably the one of the most widely accepted form of abuse of animals in entertainment.

    Let’s bring the discussion closer to home: the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions surveyed around 3,300 primary school pupils in Hong Kong in early 2014 and confirmed that an overwhelming 90% of surveyed children are asking for an affordable zoo in Hong Kong. The FTU publicised the polled results in a press conference, urging the government to look into the possibility of building a zoo in Hong Kong and going as far as suggesting several suitable sites. Legco member Tang Ka Piu of the FTU also stated that while the Ocean Park is currently the closest thing Hong Kong has to a zoo, it focuses on tourism and has a high entrance fee, effectively robbing the average Hong Kong children the opportunity of seeing and learning about animals.

    Therein lies the crux of the matter – many advocates of the zoo industry claim that animal displays are educational. By going to visit animals in captivity, children and adults alike are leaning more about the animals, which eventually would lead to attitude change and conservation of these animals in the wild. On the whole, they claim, zoos are beneficial to wildlife.

    This is the argument zoos and aquariums have been hiding behind all along. To prove their case, some zoos have polled visitors to find out whether they find their visits educational, whilst most participants gave a positive response, none of the polls and surveys actually tested visitors’ knowledge on the animals they saw or asked specifically if their visits caused a change in attitude towards wildlife. None of these polls are scientific and therefore the argument that “zoos are educational” does not hold water. There has been no scientific proof whatsoever that animal displays improve visitors’ knowledge or change their attitude towards animals.

    Sadly, this has become the main reason why parents feel compelled to bring their children to zoos when they go on a holiday overseas, or locally, in Hong Kong’s case, bring them to the Ocean Park. Children are naturally curious and when given the choice, as demonstrated in the survey commissioned by the FTU, will not say no to seeing a wild animal in real life. However, when confronting the question of whether we need a zoo in Hong Kong (or go visit one overseas), adults should be held responsible and think long and hard about the ethical implications. We implore parents to apply common sense and ask themselves – are my children and I really going to learn about what a lion is by visiting big cats that are confined in a caged environment where they are fed dead meat, instead of running free and hunting preys in the great plains of Africa? Are we going to zoos chiefly because we see it as a form of entertainment?


    Wildlife Belongs in the Wild

    Don’t forget, the claim that zoos are educational has been the justification of establishment of new zoos, expansion of collections in existing ones, and more appallingly, the poor welfare that most zoo animals have suffered. And what is all this suffering for? Our entertainment? The supposed educational element?


    Sanctuaries? Conservation?

    There are animal sanctuaries and rescue centres that allow visitors to interact with animals in a carefully managed way. Whilst making their operation financially sustainable, the primary objective of these sanctuaries is conservation and the animals’ welfare is their first consideration.

    But “sanctuaries” and “conservation” can also be traps – more and more tourists are choosing to visit animal conservation groups to make their holidays animal friendly. This has given rise to some businesses which call themselves “sanctuaries” to misguide tourists.

    The Tiger Temple in Thailand is a good example of such “sanctuaries”. Run by monks, the monastery positions itself as a place of refuge for tigers rescued from poachers. However, according to an in-depth investigation and subsequently a report by “Care for the Wild”, the Tiger Temple has ties with tiger farms in Laos and has involved in both import and export of tigers. The temple also claims to breed tigers for “conservation”, but young cubs bred are mostly hybrids of several tiger subspecies and therefore does not qualify as a recognised conservation breeding programme. Tiger cubs are also subjected to human contact on a daily basis, making release impossible or dangerous. On site, tigers are made to perform and pose with visitors for photo souvenirs; outside of public display hours, tigers are confined in woefully small cages. The list of what is wrong with this so-called “sanctuary” goes on and on but overall their operation gives off a heavy scent of “money first” instead of “animals and conservation first”.


    The Bottom Line

    Wildlife fascinates us, and it is natural that we want to see animals up close in order to understand them better. There are actually many ways to enjoy and admire wildlife without doing the animals harm. Remember, fun is great, but don’t put fun before animal welfare!

    Right Tourism ( is a good place to get yourself educated about animal related activities before making holiday plans. There are activities we have urged you to refuse to participate in, but what to do if something new comes along? How do you tell apart a true sanctuary from a fake one? We ask you to apply common sense. It’s a good idea to ask an operator to show you their animals’ place of rest; it is a bad sign if you find the place unhygienic or cramped for the animals, or if you can’t see clean water readily available. Animals that are unwell – abnormal hair or fur loss, sores or open wounds, protruding pelvis, ribs and spine (signs of thinness) – should not be made to work. Wild animals should have minimal interactions with humans. The list goes on but if you feel unsure, it’s better to not take the risk.

    When you see an animal mistreated for entertainment, write a complaint letter to the operator to express your disapproval. You can also leave reviews on various travel sites or social media to warn fellow travellers off using an operator who abuses animals.


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  • Inspectorate               SPCA Case Files                                                    20

    “Animal Cruelty is a Crime ! ”

    Inspectorate Figures at a Glance:        January to March 2014 

    Hotline calls received                 8,361

    Animals handled                        996

    Animals rescued                        412

    Complaints investigated             343

    Pet shops inspected                   74

    Wet markets inspected               237


    01 Convicted (January)

    In June 2013, eight dogs were found dead in an residential unit in Sham Shui Po, which doubled as a pet shop. A woman was charged with three counts of “Possession of Part I Poison” and one count of “Possession of Antibiotics” and was convicted in January 2014. She was sentenced to three-month imprisonment (suspended for two years) and fined $32,000.


    02 Convicted (January)

    In September 2013, a stray dog was poisoned to death in Yuen Long. A village man who possessed poisonous bait was arrested and charged with “Cruelty to animal” and “Possession of articles with intent to destroy property”. He was convicted in January 2014 and was sentenced to two-month imprisonment.


    03 Convicted (January)

    In October 2013, ten dogs were found in a village house in Yuen Long under poor conditions. The owner was arrested and charged with “Cruelty to Animals”. He was convicted in January 2014 and sentenced to 200 hours Community Service Order.


    04 Rescued (January)

    A cat was trapped on a ledge outside the second floor of a building in Pok Fu Lam. It was rescued by SPCA Inspectors and was taken to the SPCA hospital for treatment and care.


    05 Rescued (February)

    A cat was found tangled in a football net in a primary school in Tseung Kwan O. Having carefully cut the net open, our Inspectors freed the tangled cat but it ran away before anyone could get a hold of it.


    06 Rescued (February)

    A cat was stuck inside the engine compartment of a stationary vehicle in a car park in Tseung Kwan O. With the assistance of the vehicle owner who opened the bonnet, Inspector managed to rescue the cat and took it to the SPCA hospital for treatment and care.


    07 Convicted (March)

    In September 2013, four poodles were found unattended in a village house in Fanling. The defendant was charged with “Cruelty to Animals” in March 2014 and sentenced to 200-hour Community Service Order and fined $4,000.


    08 Rescued (March)

    An owned dog was trapped by an illegal animal gin trap in Clearwater Bay. Inspectors managed to pry open the trap and sent the dog to the SPCA hospital for emergency veterinary treatment.


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  • Veterinary                  Vet Facts                                                                    22

    A Problem that Just Keeps Getting BIGGER!

    It is a sad and all too common fact that many of our companion animals are overweight, or evenly clinically obese. These animals are not able to enjoy life as much as their slimmer cousins and are at far greater risk of developing a multitude of medical issues. Sometimes owners are not aware of the problem or even find their tubby pets all the cuter for the extra pounds!

    Animals are judged to be overweight or obese based on their body condition score which is defined by their appearance and the ease (or not) with which certain bony landmarks can be felt. A common scoring scheme is from 1-5, with 3 being in great shape, 1 being severely underweight and 5 being obese.

    Obesity is an ever-increasing problem in pets, paralleling the similar human obesity epidemic, with a recent study in the US reporting that approximately 50% of dogs and cats are overweight. The issue can be narrowed down to a simple fact: animals ingest more calories than they use, with the surplus being stored as fat. 

    Wild animals have to expend a lot of energy to find food (think of wolves chasing a moose) that is not particularly rich in calories. Domesticated pet animals have to expend very little energy (a leisurely stroll to the food-bowl) to find food that is very rich in calories.

    Owners of course have the final control over what their animal eats. The giving of food, and the grateful acceptance of it by the animal, is a satisfying part of the bond between an owner and a pet. In addition to the basic food ration, this often extends to extra treats given by one or more of the family members. These treats are often extremely high in calories and a large contributing factor.

    Eating so many calories would be fine if they were burnt off. It is not always easy for owners to find the time or space to provide their dogs with sufficient exercise. In the hotter months owners need to be rightfully cautious about heat-stroke if they over-exercise their dogs. Many cats, especially as they get older, are disinclined to exercise if they don’t need to and, of course, walking a cat is not an option unless they are outdoor cats and walk themselves!

    The old saying of “killing a pet with kindness” is true. It is taken very seriously in some parts of the world – two British brothers were prosecuted for cruelty to animals in 2006 for overfeeding their Labrador Retriever so much that he “looked like a seal and could barely waddle a few steps”.

    Obesity puts great stress on the body. Here are some of the risks and negative consequences of an obese pet:

    •      Exercise intolerance – life is far less enjoyable as a consequence

    •      Respiratory compromise – fat is also stored inside the chest and can effect efficient lung function – this is often called “Pickwickian syndrome” after the wheezy Charles Dickens character.

    •      Heat intolerance and greater risk of potentially fatal heat-stroke.

    •      Hypertension (high blood pressure) placing greater strain on the heart and kidneys.

    •      Diabetes is far more commonly seen in overweight cats and dogs. The cells in the pancreas responsible for dealing with sugar in the diet by releasing insulin just get burnt out.

    •      Joint disease (osteoarthritis) from carrying the extra weight. This can be so painful that long-term painkillers are needed.

    •      Liver disease – a great risk when an overweight cat for whatever reason, stops eating for a few days is a condition called hepatic lipidosis in which the body floods the liver with fat, preventing it from functioning. This is fatal unless the patient is hospitalised and provided with intensive care, often for weeks.

    •      Increased risk of certain cancers.

    •      Lowered immune system function.

    •      Greater anaesthetic and surgical risk.


    Obesity, like so many diseases in the human and veterinary fields, is far better prevented that treated. Take a look at our vet tips in this edition on how to avoid this serious issue.


    Dr Adam West
    Senior Veterinary Surgeon


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  • Veterinary                  Vet’s Case Book                                                      23

    The Hidden Effects of Obesity:
    Hip Dysplasia and Arthritis

    Hip dysplasia is a developmental disease in dogs that results in early degeneration of the hip joint. Originated from the Greek dys, meaning bad and plasis a moulding (as in plastic), the term dysplasia means an abnormal development or growth of cells, tissue or organs. This condition is frequently seen in large breed dogs such as the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever and Rottweiler, but is also recognised in small breed dogs like the Shih Tzu, Pug and terrier breeds. With hip dysplasia, the hip joint develops abnormally as the animal grows and results in loose joints with increasing cartilage degeneration. Hip dysplastic animals frequently present when they are young for hip pain, and get progressive arthritis as they age. They are often less active, being reluctant to walk due to pain, and have poor strength in their hind legs.

    Hip dysplasia is a heritable disease, dogs that have hip dysplasia have an increased chance of having offspring with the same illness. However, there are a number of important factors that have can affect the development of hip dysplasia in a juvenile animal. Nutrition and weight control can influence the development of hip dysplasia. Animals that are overfed or overweight have the tendency to develop hip arthritis and more pain associated with the arthritis. 

    A lifelong study examining a population of Labrador Retrievers from birth to death, conclusively showed that a restricted diet delayed or reduced the severity of hip joint osteoarthritis as well as favourably affecting the duration and quality of life of the animals. The dogs that had controlled feeding lived significantly longer and had reduced or absent pain associated with arthritis.

    Hip dysplasia and arthritis are very frequently seen by veterinary surgeons in Hong Kong. The condition often requires surgery or long-term medication, the cost of which can be substantial especially for large breed dogs. Following the nutritional advice of your veterinary surgeon is essential, and may reduce the development of hip dysplasia in a juvenile animal or the pain associated with arthritis in an older animal. Weight control is one of the single most important controllable factors that you can, as an owner, manage to influence development of hip dysplasia and the pain associated with arthritis, hopefully in the process giving your pet a happy, healthier and longer life!


    Dr Leonard Hamilton
    Senior Surgeon


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  • Veterinary                  Vet Tips                                                                     24

    How to Keep Your Pet Slim and Trim

    Many pet owners do not realise their pet is overweight until a visit to the vet! Cuddly is not necessarily cute and can be life threatening or at best uncomfortable! So how can you help keep your beloved pet slim and trim?


    Here are some top tips!

    What is my pet’s ideal weight?

    This is more than just a figure (in kg), body condition score is also important. Your pet should have easily felt ribs (but not seen) and looking from above there should be a defined waistline that curves inwards slightly.


    Animals need exercise:

    •     For dogs, depending on age and health status this can be as simple as walking for 15 minutes to an hour twice (or more) daily. Another advantage of daily activity is it provides an outlet to relieve energy, otherwise some pets with “too much” may develop destructive behaviour. 

    •     In cats, walking is not an option (unless they have access to outdoors). They should be made to “work” for their food in addition to playing with them. This can be achieved by placing food bowls in high or hidden places, so they have to jump and move around to find food. You can also engage with your cat using toys to mimic animals cats in the wild would chase (like lizards, birds or rabbits). You could even try using laser pointers.


    Diet is critical:

    •     The amount of food that you give to your pet is a major factor in whether your pet will become obese. It sounds silly but it is important to remember that your pet is not the same size or weight as you (unless you own a Great Dane) so it’s really not necessary to provide the same amount of food!

    •     Unless advised by your vet, use scheduled feeding times rather than free feeding as this gives better control over the amount of food you are giving (particularly important for dogs).

    •     Follow the amount recommended on the packaging label for your pets’ weight (or recommended weight if dieting). The best way to ensure this is to buy a measuring cup or kitchen scales, do not try and “guesstimate” the amount you are feeding as you will often give more than you should.

    •     If you do give treats to your pet throughout the day, then account for it and decrease the amount of food given for each meal.

    •     Treats usually have a lot of calories in them, to the extent they could be compared to eating a fatty, fast-food meal! Try offering treats with minimal calories instead, such as special reduced calorie treats and vegetables e.g. carrots.

    •     Try adding some fresh vegetables to your pets’ meals (a small amount at first to avoid digestive upsets) as they are a good source of fibre with almost zero calories and will “fill your pet up” for longer.

    •     Avoid table leftovers as this will increase calorie intake leading to obesity. It could also make your pet sick due to them having a more sensitive gastrointestinal system than people.

    •     Make sure ALL your family members know that they should not give snacks or treats!


    Speak to your vet:

    Last but certainly not least, you should have a chat with your veterinary surgeon if your pet is obese or even a little plump. Some diseases could cause obesity and your vet will need to rule them out first. Your vet can talk you through the important points of weight management and formulate a weight loss plan for your pet, which should include an exercise plan. If the problem is severe there are special veterinary weight loss diets that can be prescribed to help with the initial weight management.

    Remember obesity is not cute! Overfeeding is not kind! Keeping your pet fit, slim and trim is a much better gift for a longer, more active, happier and healthier life!


    Dr Tim Choi

    Veterinary Surgeon


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  • Veterinary                  Vet’s Profile: Dr Tim Choi                                         26

    Dr Tim Choi
    Veterinary Surgeon



    Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc), University of Sydney, Australia; Postgraduate Certificate in Veterinary Studies in Small Animal Practice (PgCertVS), Murdoch University, Australia; Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS), UK.



    After graduation I practiced at a small animal hospital on the Central Coast before relocating to a veterinary hospital in Sydney. During that time, I developed an interest and gained valuable experience in small animal surgery and critical care medicine. I passed the North American Licensing Exam in 2010 (which allows me to practice in North America) and have attended several post-graduate continuing education courses in emergency/critical care medicine and surgery. I have attained a postgraduate certificate in small animal practice and currently studying my Master of Veterinary Studies in Small Animal Practice. I spent two months travelling around Europe and Asia before joining the SPCA in May 2014.



    I have interests in soft tissue surgery, oncology and critical care medicine.



    The SPCA practices a high standard of care for animals. I am very committed to the welfare of animals and it gives me a great sense of reward that working for the SPCA will help support the Society in its work to improve the welfare of animals and protect them from neglect and cruelty. 



    I have no pets at this stage due to my recent move to Hong Kong but I really hope to adopt one from the SPCA in the near future.



    In my free time, you may find me playing basketball, biking, travelling or exploring new places.



    One night when I was on emergency duty as a new graduate, a Rottweiler named Maximus, having eaten a whole box of snail bait poison for dinner, was presented at midnight with severe muscle tremors. Unfortunately, the owners only realised a couple of hours later once symptoms had set in. Snail bait is bright green in colour (the reason I mention this will become evident later), poisoning results in uncontrolled muscle tremors and seizures and, if untreated, is ultimately fatal.

    Whilst I was examining Maximus, he suddenly fell over and his whole body started convulsing. He was immediately admitted to the hospital and given an intravenous injection of muscle relaxants to stop the seizures. Unfortunately this only helped for about a minute before the seizures started again. There was no choice but to give a full general anaesthetic (to render Maximus unconscious) which thankfully stopped the seizures. 

    Then came the unforgettable moment! Poor Maximus was given an enema to remove the poison from his system, the “material” that was expelled was bright green and had the worst smell you could ever imagine! This delightful procedure was repeated twice an hour for the next four hours. The muscle tremors finally stopped and Maximus was allowed to wake up. By lunchtime, he was running and jumping around! He was discharged from hospital that afternoon after what can only be described as an extremely exhausting and smelly night for me but definitely worth it in the end!

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  • Happy Ending        Salute!                                                                                              27

    A Rottweiler found an alternate happy ending.


    Over the years we have worked very hard to find each of our homing animals a home, and the majority of our charges have been fortunate enough to settle into ordinary family life quite easily. Some animals, however, are destined for something bigger, something that would give them a purpose in life. Rocky is one of them.

    Last September, our Inspectors followed up on a tip and picked up a Rottweiler who seemed to have lost his way in Yuen Long. Preliminary examination found that apart from an injury in its right front paw, the friendly dog appeared to be in great shape. Several weeks later he ended up in our homing department and his fierce looks had earned him the name Rocky (but really, no one at the kennels called him by his proper name, because of his enormous head, he was nicknamed “Bighead”).

    Rocky was curious about almost everything when he first came to the kennels. The daily routine was new to him – he would be given delicious food, his room would get cleaned, and after a walk with our dog walkers, it would be playtime! He has lots of energy and would play with anything that’s thrown into his way – tennis balls, stuffed animals – no exceptions. On several occasions, he also played the hero that saved the day by donating blood to a few sick puppies.

    Throughout his days at the kennels, Rocky had had some enquiries from potential adopters, whom all had to be interviewed by our homing staff. Unfortunately, we found these adopters unsuitable – their decision to adopt Rocky were made on impulse; they didn’t understand how having a Rottweiler as pet would impact on their daily lives. We were anxious to find Rocky a home but we also had to ensure that Rocky would fit into the family’s routines, habits, living environment or families. In the end, we had to turn them all down.

    Rottweiler is a very active breed that needs a lot of exercise time. Spending most of his time cooped up in the kennels, Rocky was starting to get restless from the excessive energy. Our staff tried their best to give him as much playtime as possible but his mood swings were getting worse – most of the time he looked unhappy but there were bursts of extreme excitement when given the smallest stimulation. Day by day, the homing staff was getting more worried about his future.

    Till this day we still talk about how a single phone call had changed Rocky’s life forever. Winding back a bit to November, the SPCA had worked with the Police Dog Unit (PDU) of the Hong Kong Police Force on the “Police Dog Trial”, an event that allowed the public a glimpse of a team of very capable, disciplined four-legged police “officers” that helps keep our city safe. One day over the phone, an officer at the PDU mentioned of their recruitment of canine cadets and Rottweiler being one of the highly suitable breeds, we immediately recommended Rocky to them. A meeting was soon arranged and Rocky’s great personality (that, and the fact that his young age made him trainable material) had earned him a nod from the police dog trainer. As the staff bid our Bighead a tearful farewell, off Rocky went in a police car to be trained as a future defender of our city.

    Before formal training commenced, Rocky and his handler, Aely, spent around two to three months bonding with each other. That period of time was crucial to both man and dog in terms of establishing a solid relationship – Rocky needed time to learn basic commands and Aely also needed to observe and understand Rocky’s temperament and habits. Admittedly Rocky was a bit behind in his “class”, but being a very hardworking cadet, the duo progressed well. Aely said that in view of Rocky’s aggressive nature, his training was adjusted to start with appropriate playing then gradually moved on to proper attack training.

    After a few months of strenuous training, Rocky finally graduated from the academy! On his graduation day, our staff and Rocky’s dog walker, Nicole, went to see him – Rocky recognised us and smiled his trademark silly grin. Aely also showed us what he learned in the academy and it is astonishing to see how Mr Bighead had come a long way from a slightly bored homing dog to a fierce, disciplined canine “officer”.

    In retrospect, this arrangement, although rare and is the first time at the SPCA homing department, has worked out exceedingly well for Rocky. Given his temperament, he might not have fared well in an ordinary home. His position at the PDU gives him the opportunity to play to his strength and work to his best potential. We’re all very happy for Rocky and can’t wait to see him patrolling the streets of Hong Kong!



    It has come to the attention of Pawprint that the contributed Happy Ending article from last issue, “My Last Words”, was taken from part of the book “The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog” by Eugene O’Neill without appropriate acknowledgement. We apologise for the error and the inconvenience caused.


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