In 2005, the SPCA further expanded its animal birth control programmes and set up the Community Dog Programme to better address the issue of dog overpopulation.
This programme aims to increase responsible dog ownership, improve dog welfare and regulate the population of Hong Kong’s loosely owned and unowned roaming dogs.
How does the Community Dog Programme work?
The CDP works to improve the welfare of two populations of dogs:
Loosely owned dogs such as community dogs and construction site dogs are helped through community outreach and assistance.
- Unowned roaming dogs which are often truly feral or semi-feral dogs.
SPCA is keen to assess whether a Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) programme for such dogs is viable in Hong Kong given that our CCCP programme for unowned, roaming cats has been so successful.
In many Asian countries, dog TNR is successfully used not only as a means to limit the population,
but also to control the spread of rabies.
1. Loosely owned dogs
Characteristics of loosely owned dogs
- Regularly fed by people living or working in the area, often by one person or group of people and usually living on a property
- Used to humans – friendly especially to familiar people but can be territorial
- Allowed to roam freely
- Often not de-sexed & not licenced, microchipped or vaccinated against rabies
- High reproductive success due to regular food source and other resources such as shelter on property
Community dogs - Village dogs
Community dogs and village dogs are a common sight in Hong Kong. Often left to roam freely, many have lived in the community for years. These dogs are well known to villagers and regular visitors, often having names. Some are abandoned ex-pets who were left behind when their owners moved out of the village and have been ”adopted” by the community. Some are actually properly owned dogs that are kept in a “loose” and somewhat irresponsible manner.
These dogs are usually fed by and interact with one household (sometimes more), but with no particular person or household taking full responsibility for the dog.
Construction site - Work site dogs
These dogs are used to guard construction sites or work sites and are usually fed by work site staff.
They are seldom desexed or micro-chipped. Often abandoned after construction is over, they and their unwanted offspring may become part of the unowned roaming dog population in the area.
However, this group of abandoned dogs continues to contribute to Hong Kong’s roaming dog population.
How the CDP helps loosely owned dogs
Throughout the year, the SPCA Inspectors and the CDP team identify specific locations that have populations of loosely owned dogs. Often these areas are identified by volunteers.
The teams educate the de-facto owners of these dogs on their life long responsibilities as owners. They are encouraged to take proper responsibility for their dogs by desexing them and licensing them in accordance with the law.
Often, members of the public will apply to join the programme after witnessing the poor welfare of many unwanted puppies produced by dogs in their community.In such cases, they are already caring and feeding these dogs. By taking the next step to desex and license these dogs, these individuals are willing to improve the welfare of the dogs they care about by becoming responsible pet owners.
If the cases are suitable for the programme, logistical support or financial assistance may be offered.
In the case of construction site dogs, some companies have recognised the need to take responsibility for their canine workers and have joined the Community Dog Programme. Often, this is spearheaded by staff who have grown attached to the dogs in their workplace and want to improve their welfare.
2. Unowned roaming dogs
There are generally two types of unowned roaming dogs: truly feral dogs and semi-feral dogs. They tend to have the poorest welfare of all populations of dogs as they have the least access to resources.
Since 2005, the AFCD, in collaboration with two animal welfare organizations, the SPCA and the Society for Abandoned Animals, have been in sustained discussion regarding the possibility of a Trap-Neuter-Return trial for these poor unowned roaming dogs in Hong Kong.
Truly Feral Dogs
Characteristics of truly feral dogs
- Not fed regularly by any person or household
- Not often seen near human settlements
- Very shy, secretive - will avoid humans
- Roam freely but usually only seen at dawn or dusk
- Low reproductive rate - population is supported by dogs from loosely owned populations
- Shy and secretive, these dogs usually live on the fringes of human settlement and woodland and will come out in the early morning and at night.
- They have short life spans (usually less than 2 years) and puppy mortality is high.
- They usually rely on rubbish for food and do not have a regular source of food, unlike loosely owned dogs or semi-feral dogs.
This population of dogs reproduces often but without human help, most of the puppies die. Many loosely owned dogs come from the unowned roaming dog population when they are taken in as puppies and raised by people.
Characteristics of semi-feral dogs
- Fed irregularly by a number of persons or households
- Shy and secretive, may approach known humans with food but still wary
- Seen around human settlements but usually only seen at dawn, dusk or at known feeding times
- Roam freely
- Reproductive rate is higher than truly feral dogs due to more being food available (more puppies are born and survive)
Due to the high death rate, this population may be supplemented by immigration from surrounding dog populations, e.g. abandoned construction site dogs, abandoned pets or offspring from loosely owned dogs, who might be pushed out of an area due to competition for resources and then join the feral/ semi-feral population.
If you are caring for a group of loosely owned dogs, SPCA may be able to help desex them.
Please call the Community Dog Programme Coordinator on 2232 5511