Helping Abused Animals to Start a New Chapter of Life

Remember the "Stray Wonderland Animal Shelter" tragedy that caused the deaths of 36 animals and a hundred suffering from starvation in 2019? And last August, dogs trapped in cages were found washed up on Hong Kong beaches. They were believed to have been thrown into the water by smugglers during a police chase. The incident caused 15 deaths and other 12 animals were sent to the SPCA for medical treatment.

Over the past ten years, the Society has rescued more than 2,000 abused animals. It takes the police six to nine months to investigate each case. During this period, the police often authorises the Society to treat the injured animals until the case is settled. (if the owner is not the offender, the animal will be passed back to him/her to care).

Our inspectors, veterinary team, behaviour trainers and homing assistants all work together to help the injured animals every step of the way until they find their forever homes. In this issue of Pawprints, these heroes share how they have helped change the lives of the abused.


Chief Inspector (Task Force) Berry

The Shocking 'Stray Wonderland Animal Shelter' Rescue

Berry joined the Inspectorate Department of the SPCA in 1999. Looking back, the rescue at the 'Stray Wonderland Animal Shelter' in Ta Kwu Ling three years ago is still very memorable.

He said, 'arriving at the more than a 10,000-feet big animal shelter, I was shocked to see 146 animals suffering from starvation and dehydration, living on the ground covered with piles of garbage and faeces. The smell of decaying animal corpses filled the air. Flies and mosquitoes were flying around.'

There were 10 carcasses found in one of the kennels. Most had already decomposed, leaving only bones and pelts inside the cages. Berry said sadly, 'it takes a long time to starve to death. I really can't imagine how much pain these animals had to endure before they died.'

Looking at this animal purgatory on earth, Berry was heartbroken but there was no time to cry. He said, 'we had to send the most injured animals to our hospital urgently otherwise their lives would be at stake.'

This rescue is the most arduous mission in the history of the SPCA. A total of 45 inspectors, veterinarians, nurses, staff and volunteers were dispatched to help on the scene. It took two days for the team to rescue 74 dogs and 36 cats. Among them, 23 dogs and 36 cats were sent to our centre for care.

The owner of the shelter was arrested for alleged cruelty to animals and keeping a dog without a license. During the trial period of seven months, our veterinarian team and behaviour trainers provided medical care and training to prepare the animals to find a forever home. Overall, it cost more than a million dollars for the Society to treat and care for these little survivors until full recovery.

The owner of the shelter was finally sentenced to 10-month imprisonment. The judge originally granted the animals to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. However, the SPCA cared about them so much and offered to continue to help until they found their new homes. Luckily, they have all been adopted and are living happily ever after with their new owners.

How can we help the SPCA inspectors handle cases more efficiently?


When you report a case to our inspector, please provide photos or videos of the incident. This will help our inspectors deploy more accurate actions and plan rescue strategies。


Stay low-key. Try not to alarm the suspected offender and give him/her time to clean up the scene. Without sufficient evidence, it is difficult for the police to make a prosecution.


Veterinarian Dr Ashley

The Weak Starving Corgi

Corgis are chubby, active and have a reputation for being little barkers. When Dr Ashely Mak first saw then 2-year and 9-month old Pocky on 19 December 2020, the day he was rescued by our inspectors, he looked extremely thin and weak, slow in response, she knew something bad must have happened to this poor corgi.

She said, 'he only weighed 5.24kg with a body condition score 1 out of 5 (1 = severely emaciated; 3=normal body; 5 = overweight). He also had overgrown nails especially on the front-legs. His coat was greasy and dirty stained with faeces and urine. I wasn't surprised to find fleas under his coat. His eyes also had severe mucoid discharge. I could tell he had been neglected for a long time and his health was in serious trouble.'

Pocky had in fact been neglected by his owner and suffered from starvation, dehydration and malnutrition. On the day Pocky was rescued, our inspector found him roaming in the living room. There was also a deceased adult Terrier in the same apartment whose maggot-infested body was already decomposing. The environment was covered with faeces and urine. Four bowls were placed in different corners of the premises but contained no food and water.

First and foremost, Dr Ashley treated his malabsorption and digestive problems. She said, 'we had to be careful to gradually increase the food amount due to his long-term starvation. If he suddenly ate too much, this could lead to refeeding syndrome and could be fatal.'

Pocky also had to fight against liver, spleen and dental issues along the way. Our veterinarian team performed blood tests on Pocky regularly to check for anaemia, infection, organ damage and electrolyte imbalances. They also gave him vitamins to boost his red blood cells, immune system and digestive tract to keep him strong.

After a year long treatment, Pocky finally recovered and gained some healthy weight to 8.7kg. Most importantly, he found his forever home last December.

Dr Ashley said, 'towards the end of his treatment, he started to play and bark like a healthy corgi. I am happy to see that he finally found a family who loves and cares for him.'

As for Pocky's former owner, he was convicted of animal cruelty and sentenced to 4-week imprisonment, suspended for 18 months. We think that the sentence is insignificant compared to the physical and psychological pain Pocky had to suffer from. Over the years, the Society has been lobbying with the government to revise the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance in order to increase the penalties and deterrence.

How can you help our veterinarian and homing team?


Prosecution case animals can only be cared for by the SPCA before the trial ends. During this period, we bear all the costs for treating and caring for the abused animals. So please support our work by making regular donations so that more animals can be helped.


Behaviour Trainer Garay

The Insecure Mira

Last January, the police received a report about persistent bad odor and non-stop barking from an apartment on Chatham Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. The SPCA found a thin female mongrel panicking inside the bedroom wardrobe. The floor was covered with the dog's faeces and there was no water and food for her. The situation was estimated to have lasted for 3-4 months at least.

Our veterinarian team found some wounds on the back of the dog, overgrown nails, loss of hair on the tail and skin issues around her genital area. All caused by chronic lack of nutrition and neglect of care.

The dog later met our senior behaviour trainer Garay who still remembers her to this day. He said, 'when we first met, she was so frightened that she defecated uncontrollably. She was also very anxious around strangers or in a new environment. If we tried to approach her, she might bite. But it doesn't mean she was aggressive. She was just very insecure.'

Garay then used positive reinforcement techniques to make her feel at ease. 'Whenever I entered her territory and she started shaking, I would leave to make her gradually understand that humans were not frightening. Later I would give her some snacks to show my good intentions. When she felt safe around me, she started eating the snacks. After a month practising this little exercise, she began to trust me.'

The former owner was later convicted of animal cruelty receiving a sentence of two-week imprisonment, suspended for 18 months and was fined HK$1,000. Meanwhile, the health of the dog had improved to be placed at our adoption centre. Fortunately, it didn't take long for her to meet her destined owner who later named her Mira.

Garay said, 'it is important to help an anxious dog regain trust in humans. I suggested the new owner to visit her at the centre frequently and let her get to know him before he took her home. We are very thankful for his patience and helping Mira build up her confidence.

However as soon as Mira came home, they faced another challenge. Gary said, 'Mira has separation anxiety. I advised the owner to leave her favourite toy, for example, a chewing bone, for her to focus on after he goes out. Actually, it's very common for owners to mistakenly leave just any toy they find without matching their pets' preferences. Only by finding what your pets like, can you draw them away from anxiety.'

How can we help dogs with anxiety adapt to new environment?


Trust your trainer, even if his/her advice may not always go in line with your experience. Every dog has different personality and their experience will affect their behaviour. Only when the owner and trainer work hand in hand, can we help the dog build up a sense of security.


A fence can be used to separate a 'safe area' for the dog to go back to when it senses 'danger'. Gradually this can increase its confidence in staying in the new environment.


Homing Assistant Kiki

The Exhausted Standing Mongrel

Animals that have been abused are often labelled aggressive, but male mongrel Ah Fuk has proved that dogs are still willing to trust humans even when they have been hurt by us.

Ah Fuk was rescued by our inspectors on a stormy rainy day in June 2020. He was tied outside his home by a rope that was as short as 30cm when the thunderstorm warning was in force. Since the rope was too short, he could only stand on his hind legs with the forelimbs leaning against a wall to strike a balance under pouring rain. He was also muzzled and couldn't bark for help.

The police authorised the Society to take the dog back to the centre and get a thorough medical examination. Fortunately, his health was in good condition and was soon placed in our adoption centre waiting for a new home.

There Ah Fuk met our homing assistant Kiki who said she would never have thought Ah Fuk had come from an abusive background. She said, 'he was a bit shy when people came to visit. But he never showed signs of aggression. Sometimes his whole body would totally lean on you to ask you to pet him or give him a belly rub. He also understood basic commands like 'sit' and loved playing toys with us. He is a dog who brings joy to people.'

Eight months later, Ah Fuk finally met his destined family and tasted love for the first time.

'I really hope that everyone will stop labelling abused animals. Ah Fuk is such a good example to show that they are not necessarily aggressive and can still trust humans. Of course, some are afraid to have contact with us and some may even act aggressively to protect themselves. But as long as we accept that they have been hurt both physically and psychologically and we are willing to spend time to heal their wounded hearts, they can also become an important member of your family and learn to love each other,' Kiki said.

How can you help our homing department?


You can donate clean towels, beddings and toys to the animals at our adoption centre.


Foster and adopt animals from rehabilitated cruelty cases or other animals from us. This can relieve the burden on staff as well as giving foster animals some much needed time out in a loving home. Also it can help free up cages and space so we can take care more animals.