Cover Story - Heading Towards the Second Century

Heading Towards the Second Century

It has been a century since the establishment of the SPCA by a group of animal enthusiasts who cared about animal welfare. Since 1921, the SPCA has rescued thousands of abandoned, sick and injured animals, launched numerous animal welfare campaigns, and advocated for amendments to animal related legislation. The SPCA has changed the way Hong Kong SAR views animal welfare in different ways.

 

Stopping the use of bamboo cages and amending regulations for bird shops

In the 1930s, bamboo cages were used to transport livestock such as pigs, cows and chickens. The bamboo canes often broke into sharp spikes, which resulted in injuries to the animals inside the cages. The SPCA recommended to the government that wood be used instead of bamboo, to reduce the chances of injury. At the same time, the SPCA also successfully amended the regulations for bird shops, ensuring all bird shops be licensed and provide a hygienic environment for our feathery friends. The welfare of birds has improved substantially as a result.

 

Cat boxes receive stray cats around Hong Kong

People mostly kept dogs for security, and cats for catching rats in the 1950s. Awareness of animal welfare was still very low at this time, and there was a distressingly high level of animals abandoned, especially cats. In 1960, the SPCA set up “cat boxes” in the territory where people could place unwanted cats, rather than simply turning them out in the street. The 6 cat boxes on Hong Kong Island could handle about 35 cats per day, and the 5 cat boxes in Kowloon and the New Territories handled more than 50 cats every day. Within the boxes were two compartments; one for kittens and another for adult cats. The cat boxes helped reduce the number of stray cats, who were then received by the SPCA for treatment or re-homing.

 

Rabies ravages Hong Kong

At the end of the 1970s, rabies ravaged Hong Kong once again, as it had in 1983. More than 110,000 dogs were euthanased, while another 167,000 dogs were lucky enough to receive rabies vaccinations. At that time, the SPCA helped inject more than 6,000 dogs with the life-saving vaccine. Although there were no severe human injuries, the spread of rabies during this period caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of dogs.

During this period, the SPCA’s mobile clinic was first launched. It provided professional veterinary services at a low cost, particularly rabies vaccines, for pets belonging to residents living in remote rural areas, such as the New Territories and the outlying islands.

 

Rate of surrender increases after a dog ban is enforced

In 1996, without warning, the Housing Department announced a dog ban in public housing estates, requiring all tenants to get rid of their dogs within a space of just two weeks. Residents were forced to abandon their dogs in their thousands, although the SPCA was able to receive a great many. In fact, the Society reported a 10% increase in dog surrenders and urged the Housing Department to adopt sensible guidelines to allow tenants to keep registered dogs, to control their numbers and identify irresponsible owners. The SPCA published a full-page newspaper advertisement to denounce the government’s action, and ask for public support. A signature campaign was begun to oppose the Housing Department’s reckless decision.

 

Animal welfare campaigns

In 2000, the SPCA embarked on a humane population control method to limit the number of stray animals at the very source. This is how the Cat Colony Care Programme (CCCP) and Mongrels Desexing Programme (MDP) came into being. The SPCA also launched its Dog Walker Programme to recruit volunteers who could help exercise dogs waiting to be homed. The Foster Parents Programme was also initiated; newborn or injured animals are sent to foster parents to receive love and care. These campaigns have significantly enhanced animal welfare, and turned Hong Kong SAR into a territory with a heart, in harmony with animals.

 

 

Watch the SPCA Centenary Milestones video: