Investigating Cruelty

50 dogs and 11 cats in a breeding farm, owner prosecuted50 dogs and 11 cats in a breeding farm, owner prosecuted

The SPCA Inspectorate is Asia’s oldest Inspectorate, exclusively dedicated to the investigation of animal cruelty and the protection of animal welfare. The Inspectorate is best known for working closely with Hong Kong law enforcement agencies to prevent cruelty and where appropriate to help bring animal abusers to court.

  • On any given day, our team of inspectors are on call - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - ready to investigate reports of suspected cruelty or rescue animals in distress.
  • Our 24-hour Inspectorate Hotline receives over 30,000 calls every year from concerned members of the public. Together with e-mails, letters and media reports, over 700 requests for investigation of suspected animal cruelty are received.
  • These might include reports of suspected animal cruelty or inappropriate treatment of animals. In such cases, Inspectors will visit the location to evaluate the situation

The overwhelming majority of animal cruelty cases that our Inspectorate encounters are a result of ignorance, neglect and apathy, rather than violence.

Inspectorate Figures

Year

2016 - 2017

2015 - 2016

2014 - 2015

Total Hotline Calls Received

29,422

31,284

35,308

  Rescues

1,541

1,482

1,732

  Complaints of Cruelty Investigated

841

780

869

  Animal Trading Inspections

1,064

1,257

1,156

  Advice Given

211

159

171

  Warnings Given

56

42

56

  Prosecutions Instigated

38

28

27

INVESTIGATING CRUELTY AND COURSES OF ACTION TAKEN

  • Types of Investigations
  • Deciding Action
  • Advice
  • Warning
  • Prosecution
TYPES OF INVESTIGATIONS

The Inspectorate handles two distinct types of investigations:

1. PRO-ACTIVE INVESTIGATIONS
  • Inspections  The Inspectorate routinely visits pet shops, markets and animal shelters, as well as any other establishments that may keep animals, to ensure that minimum standards of welfare are maintained and offer advice to improve welfare further.
  • Following up on information obtained through Facebook, newspapers, internet and other media.
2. INVESTIGATIONS INITIATED BY MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC
  • Through telephone calls to our Hotline, emails and letters.
DECIDING THE COURSE OF ACTION TO TAKE

For every request for investigation of suspected animal abuse, inspectors use two yardsticks:

The Five Freedoms to gauge the level of animal welfare involved and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance Cap 169 and Regulations Cap 169A to decide if an offence has been committed. See more information on how animal cruelty is defined under Hong Kong law.

There are numerous acts that affect animals that a caring person may find cruel or inhumane, but which do not break any existing statutes or laws. 

Each situation is evaluated to determine which course of action is appropriate:

  • informal advice
  • a warning
  • or legal intervention

For every case where animal welfare is compromised but no law is broken, inspectors work hard to improve animal welfare through persuasion, warnings and education. The goal of every investigation is to bring about a positive improvement in animal welfare in the shortest time possible.

ADVICE

Where and when there was no contravention to the Law but the welfare standard of the animal can be improved, inspectors will provide advice. Often, these may be pet owners who are ignorant of their animals needs but are very willing to listen and comply with the advice. 

CASE EXAMPLE

  • A dog was kept in a cage just large enough for it to stand up and turn around in all directions. This does not contravene the law, but it is not good animal welfare to keep a dog in this manner. The owner/keeper was advised to provide the dog with a larger cage and to release the dog for exercise more often, or not to cage the dog at all if possible.

All advice given is subject to follow up inspections by the Inspectors.

WARNING

Where and when the condition of the animal or its provision is borderline to breaking the law, for instance, if the condition gets worse, the owner/keeper might then be committing an animal cruelty offence and warnings will be issued. 

CASE EXAMPLE

  • A dog appeared to be in a normal body condition except that it had a wound resulting from an accident. The owner had been treating the wound with some cream provided by a friend.

    The Inspector "warned" the owner that if the wound did not heal well because the owner had only applied some cream to it, rather than consulting a veterinarian and being prescribed the correct type of medication, he may be liable to an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, if there was evidence to show that the dog had suffered unnecessarily as a result.

All warnings given are subject to follow up inspections by the Inspectors.

Inspectors will follow up the case until the owner can demonstrate
a sustained improvement in the animal’s welfare.

PROSECUTION

dog in filthy cage, owner prosecuted

Every year, the Inspectorate deals with cases of animal cruelty and severe neglect that result in prosecution. Animal cruelty as defined under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ordinance Cap. 169, carries a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment and $200,000 fine.

Successful prosecution in court requires evidence that proves beyond reasonable doubt that the suspect has caused unnecessary suffering to an animal.


Animal Watch Scheme

Together with the Police and AFCD, our partners in the Animal Watch Scheme, the Inspectorate's specially trained Investigation Team works hard to present a strong case against animal cruelty offenders.