Pet Trade – A Chain of Cruelty

The SPCA has been advocating for 'Adopt, don't shop' over the years as an alternative to the pet trade. However, to combat animal cruelty linked to the pet trade, there needs to be other measures in place. These include increased oversight and regulation of the pet trade, educating prospective owners the impact they make on animals with their choices, and the steps to safeguard the welfare of animals involved in the pet trade. One of the most effective tactics prospective owners can take is 'Boycotting the bad breeders'.

Historically in Hong Kong, much of the focus was on the dog trade and how unlicensed puppy mills operated but now problems are growing in the cat trade industry too.

As cat ownership becomes more popular, unscrupulous people are switching to cat breeding and trading to make a profit. Whilst oversight and regulation of dog breeders and traders increased significantly in 2017, the cat trade is still underregulated.

From time to time, we find cats bred from and kept in inhumane conditions as their breeders aim at producing the maximum number of kittens with the lowest overheads. Mother cats may be forced to endure multiple pregnancies without getting proper veterinary care or respite between litters.

Since these kitten mills prioritise making profits so much higher than the well-being of animals, it is not surprising for a buyer to unknowingly get a kitten that has already developed health issues like ringworm, cat flu or a life-threatening viral infection. These kittens may also suffer from a genetically related illness resulting from selective and restrictive breeding.

Last September, the SPCA received a then two-month old Scottish Fold kitten (now called Miracle) from a taxi driver whom had been asked to deliver the kitten by a breeder. The abandoned kitten was underweight, weak and seriously ill with anaemia, cat flu signs and diarrhoea. She also had a fungal skin infection. It was touch and go for a while and she needed to be given intravenous fluids and syringe fed along with other medication.

Luckily over the course of a week, she gradually started improving and eventually was able to eat by herself without fluid therapy. As she became more stable, she was able to go to a foster home for a longer term treatment for her skin problems. Eventually she got adopted in January this year.

Sadly, we are seeing more and more abandonment cases that seem to be linked to the pedigree cat trade. Kittens and adults are found abandoned in the street with signs of neglect, in poor condition with serious health issues. However, it is not just the buyers and the animals who will be the victims of the pet trade, prospective adopters also expose themselves to the same risk if they do not adopt through established organisations. We hear reports of parties who abuse people's good will pretending to offer unwanted cats, dogs, puppies and kittens for adoption when they are actually traders.

Another area fraught with risk is internet trading. Buying animals over the internet supports the underground businesses of puppy and kitten milling and illegal trade. Sometimes the breeding may not take place in Hong Kong but in Mainland China where traders smuggle animals into Hong Kong borders.

Over the past year, several large cases involving pedigree puppies and kittens being smuggled into Hong Kong have been intercepted. Unfortunately not all the victims were lucky enough to survive. We cannot imagine how much pain and suffering these smuggled animals had to go through. No life deserves this kind of treatment. As animal lovers, we can all do our parts to put a stop to this chain of cruelty.


'Adopt, Don't Shop'. Always adopt through an established, reputable organisation.


If buying – 'Boycott the bad breeder' - always meet the animals in person at the place where it was born and thoroughly understand its health condition. Meet the mother and preferably the father too.


Do not buy over the internet.


Report suspected illegal pet trade cases to the SPCA.