Issue 89 - 2013/2


Issue 89 - 2013/2


  • Latest News at the SPCA 2
  • Cover Story         Combating Cruelty 6 - 11
  • Focus                  Up North and Beyond 12 - 15
  • Focus                  Tackling Cheung Chau 16 - 19
  • Feature               Slithering Serpents 20 - 21
  • Feature               From Dog Hair to Yarn 22 - 23
  • SPCA Case Files    24 - 27
  • Veterinary           Vet Profile: Dr Tanya Master 28
  • Veterinary           Vet Facts Veterinary Ask the Behaviourist 29
  • Veterinary           Vet’s Case Book 30 - 31
  • Happy Ending        32


  • Latest News at the SPCA                                                                           2 

    Calling all Aspiring Photographers!

    The SPCA’s Education Department is launching a photo competition in March. “Love Animals – Love Photo-taking” encourages photo buffs to submit their best shots of all things living, capturing the harmony between humans and animals. The contest celebrates creativity as well as the joy animals bring to our lives. Details will be announced in – watch this space for more information!


    SPCA X Baleno “I Pet, I Act”

    The SPCA is working with clothing brand Baleno to launch a crossover T-Shirt campaign. “I Pet, I Act”aims to promote responsible pet ownership as well as fundraise to support the future works of the SPCA in improving animal welfare. A total of eight T-shirts, creatively designed around specific messages, will be launched in early April. Take action to show your love for animals and learn more about the “I Pet, I Act” campaign at in late March.


    Pet Trade Legislation Update

    The AFCD’s consultation document on better regulating pet trade is now closed for public comment. The SPCA presented our views on the issue to the Legislative Council and made a formal submission. Dr Fiona Woodhouse, Deputy Director (Welfare) of the SPCA, reiterated our support for the increased regulation of dog breeding, put forward further suggestions and raised concerns based on our extensive experience with the illegal dog trade. LegCo debate on the topic is expected to start in April. Please stay tuned for reports on further developments.


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  • Cover Story              Combating Cruelty                                                   6 - 11

    Combating Cruelty
    Pawprint takes a detailed look at where we are in the fight against animal cruelty. 

    November 2012 saw a widespread social media campaign calling for the arrest of the culprits behind the brutal abuse and death of Ah Miu the stray cat. In less than a week, five suspects were apprehended amidst outcry from animal lovers, but the movement didn’t’ stop there. This particular incident has fuelled some people’s demand for Hong Kong’s very own animal police.

    There are rarely discussions about what the supposed animal police is expected to accomplish. Hong Kongers no doubt anticipate a drop in animal abuse cases, stricter enforcement of related laws as well as harsher sentences for offenders. Are these expectations realistic? We can begin to answer that by seeing how the existing system works to tackle animal cruelty.


    How does it Work Now?

    In late 2011, the Hong Kong Police Force announced the formation of the “Animal Watch Scheme”. The scheme aims to “step up co-operation among stakeholders for a joint effort to combat crimes of cruelty to animals”, according to the then Food and Health Bureau chief. Among Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), the Hong Kong Police Force and the SPCA, animal cruelty cases are dealt with in a more systematic and scientific manner, including process like intelligence gathering, publicity and investigation, as well as providing expert advice on animal cruelty cases.


    Crunching Figures

    Facts and figures are crucial when it comes to fighting crime. Statistics have shown that the number of animal cruelty complaints the SPCA investigated has remained fairly constant over the past four years. On average we see a 1% increase each year, reflecting a result of increased public awareness. The prosecution rate varies between 0.9% and 2%.

    On first look, even at its highest, the prosecution rate seems to be far from satisfactory. But if we compare the figures to countries or cities with a so-called “proper” animal police in place, our current system has done just as well, if not better. In the US, for instance, the Humane Law Enforcement (HLE) division of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has effectively been regarded as the New York State’s animal police. The team consists of no more than 20 armed officers and is empowered by the state to investigate and make arrests for the prosecution for animal cruelty. Each year, HLE investigates around 6,000 cruelty cases, which result in about 100 arrests; that makes a prosecution rate of roughly 1.7% (compared with Hong Kong which has a 1.6% prosecution rate from around 900 cases and on average 13.5 arrests). If we look at statistics from the UK and Australia, the rate is very similar, except that the complaints these countries receive are many times higher in numbers. 

    The Police, the AFCD as well as the SPCA may all conduct their own initial investigations on suspected cruelty cases, but when there is a need for prosecution:



    • Provide pathologist’s report where necessary
    • Provide animal holding facility for large scale raids
    • Conduct independent investigations, make arrests and prosecute




    • Assist in evidence collection
    • Provide expert witness statements where necessary
    • Treat and care for exhibit animals




    • Make arrests
    • Seize exhibits
    • Question suspects
    • Prosecute




       Cruelty complaints the SPCA         (HK) investigated

     Prosecution instigated 

     2011 – 2012



     2010 – 2011



     2009 – 2010



     2008 – 2009




    “Animals living in an urban environment find themselves confronted by the perils of city life on a daily basis.”


    Acciden Happens

    So exactly why does offences involving cruelty to animals have such a low prosecution rate? Surprisingly, the majority of the “complaints” received does not necessarily involve actual animal cruelty, especially regarding suspected violence against and killings of strays. “People who report this type of animal cruelty call us with the best intentions. They discover a severely injured cat or a dog carcass with gruesome wounds, and immediately they associate the scene with images of cruel men beating these unfortunate animals up,” explains Tony Ho, SPCA’s Chief Officer Inspectorate. This assumption may be true, but the cat could also have got tangled up in loops of barbed wires when negotiating the top of a wall and the nasty lacerations can be a result of the cat trying to free itself. An unsuspecting driver could have started the car, killing a cat hiding inside the engine. A dog could have been attacked by other strays in the streets.

    “The SPCA Inspectorate has a cruelty investigation team, comprising nine Inspectors who are trained and experienced in handling suspected animal cruelty and will do their best to investigate any complaints,” says Tony. “From our experience, while accidents may account for many injuries and deaths in animals, it is important that we take every complaint seriously. We commence investigations with the suspicion that cruelty is involved and therefore, when in doubts, further investigations will be conducted; arrangements will be made for the animals concerned to be examined by veterinary surgeons or pathologists, and at the same time we will exert efforts to locate possible witnesses or suspects.”

    Whether domestic or feral, animals living in an urban environment find themselves confronted by the perils of city life on a daily basis. What appears as ordinary and harmless to humans could be a death trap for animals. Bobby Wong, a SPCA Superintendent of 19 years, has had his fair share of the strangest rescue situations. “You think animals will never venture to places where there is no food and water to be found. Well, on many occasions I have had to rescue cats from all sorts of dangerous and awkward places. Ledges on the outside of skyscrapers; inside of gutters, winding mechanism of roller shutters, the engine compartments of vehicles or even a traffic tunnel – you name it!” If this is how an animal meet its fate, to an average citizen it is hard not to assume that someone has killed them.


    Neglect is Real

    That said, human behaviour still undeniably and regrettably plays a role in many deaths and sufferings of animals. Apart from intentional violence, pets left unattended in flats without fresh water and food, animals being chained to the ground without shelter, mother dogs kept in cages as breeding machines… Inspectors have seen many cases in their line of work. Cruelty does exist, but Tony points out that it is usually a result of ignorance, neglect and apathy rather than violence. “While there is no excuse for ignorance or negligence, to improve the situation, apart from enforcement actions such as arrests and prosecutions, we need to work harder on education.” In our city, comparing to neglect, intentional abuse is not the main cause of animal cruelty, but because of their gruesomeness, they are often most widely reported.

    Suspicion of animal cruelty does not always lead to prosecution, Tony explains. “To begin with, over 80% of the investigation results in no offence disclosed. At the same time, prosecution of a suspect is not a simple matter of just finger pointing – it has to involve a breach of law. Under the judicial system in Hong Kong, the prosecution has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the suspect has caused unnecessary suffering to any animal.” Before joining the SPCA, Tony had served in the Hong Kong Police Force for 35 years so arrests and prosecution are not unfamiliar subjects. However, animal cruelty poses a different challenge, especially concerning dead or injured strays. “Animals can’t talk, and they do not have identity like human beings; more often than not we arrive at scene only to find a severely injured animal with no clue whatsoever what happened to it. Because the victim cannot speak for itself, investigation relies on the availability of eye witness and other corroborative evidence.”


    “The prosecution has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the suspect has caused unnecessary suffering to any animal.”

    That’s easier said than done. “Informants are quick to suspect animal abuse but often fail to help establish reasonable suspicion of cruelty. Most complaints involve guesswork, and the majority hesitate or refuse to come forward as a witness. Even when they claim to know something or someone who witnessed the crime, they cannot provide the information. Some even evade questions as we try to conduct investigations and ask us to ‘just dig around’,” says Dicky Lee, the SPCA’s Chief Investigation Officer, who recently retired from the Police Force after serving 35 years, during which he spent 20 years as a Detective Senior Inspector. “Many of these complaints were reported without reasonable suspicion but we would still initiate a series of investigation which, unfortunately, often leads to no end!”

    As a matter of fact, most of these allegations would end up with no suspect, and needless to say, no arrest can be made. In other cases, without direct evidence such as eyewitness testimony, hearsay and circumstantial evidence are respectively inadmissible and not sufficient to even justify prosecution. “When we take a case to court, we need to have sufficient evident to proof the case.  The Department of Justice would not take on a case if it is built on weak evidence, or relying on inadmissible evidence,” Tony shares his experience on prosecution for animal cruelty.


    Case Studies 

    The Case of Spring Roll, May 2012

    A video from a local newspaper revealed that a man in Yuen Long had been beating his dog, Spring Roll, for over a year. Under the Animal Watch Scheme, a witness was located through the joint effort of the SPCA Inspectorate and the Police, which later led to the arrest and prosecution of the owner.


    Why prosecution was successful:

    The presence of a key witness, who saw the beating of the dog and took the video, is vital; the video, being an important exhibit, matches the account of the key witness. Other corroborative evidences include a cane, which was used by the defendant to beat the dog, as well as the statements given by the SPCA Inspector and the police officer who carried out the investigation and seized the exhibits. Last but not least, although the veterinary examination did not reveal any injury on Spring Roll that would corroborate the beatings shown on the video, SPCA invited a dog behaviour and temperament expert, who examined the dog, the video and testified as an expert witness in court. The offender was thus convicted as charged after the trial.


    The Case of an Overheated Dog, August 2012

    A police officer responded to the scene where a Golden Retriever was found locked inside a parked car without any ventilation in Yuen Long during a very hot day. The collapsed dog was rescued and brought to a private veterinary clinic across the road. Unfortunately it was certified dead almost immediately upon arrival. The owner was tracked down and arrested but the case was later concluded with insufficient evidence to charge her with animal cruelty.


    Why there was no case:

    The veterinary surgeon who attempted to revive the dog had found it comatose, agonal gasping with a very high body temperature of over 43°C. However he refused to provide an official veterinary report to the Police and refused to be a prosecution witness. The carcass was released to the dog owner for disposal before the he had refused to be a witness. As a result, no post-mortem examination, which would have provided useful evidence in place of the veterinary report, could be performed. The loss of an important exhibit coupled with the lack of veterinary report rendered the case legally groundless.


    The Case of a Halved Cat, March 2012

    A witness saw a man who, after stopping a white van on the roadside of Yuen Long, lifted the front passenger seat and thrown out two objects before driving off. The objects were later found to be the anterior and posterior parts of a cat. The witness reported the incident and the registration number of the van to the Police and the SPCA Inspectorate was called in for assistance.


    What it looked like:

    The driver, having cruelly torn the cat in half, dumped its body on the roadside.


    What actually happened:

    Under the Animal Watch scheme, the body of the cat was sent to the AFCD Veterinary Laboratory for post-mortem examination. At the same time, the Police located the driver, who revealed that having started and driven the van for a while, he heard some strange noises coming from the engine compartment under the seat. He then stopped the van and checked the compartment and found the cat dead and trapped inside. When he pulled out the carcass, it was torn into two parts; there were still some bloodstains and cat fur left inside the compartment. 


    Why is duty of care important?

    Duty of care is a legal obligation imposed on an individual requiring that they adhere to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts. By defining by law the duty of care of an animal handler, any person who does not take reasonable steps to ensure that the animal’s needs are met commits an offence, even if it may yet to have suffered unnecessarily.


    What Really Matters

    In some instances, Inspectors would come across what they call “borderline cases”, where the state of animal welfare is less than satisfactory by SPCA standard but meets the minimum requirements of the law. “When we see cases where shortcomings can be immediately rectified or are rather trivial, and that there is not enough evidence to secure a prosecution, we issue warnings to make sure that the owner or keeper understands the requirements and would sustain the improvement made. It is sometimes more beneficial for them to learn the right way to treat or care for their animals,” says Dicky. For these cases, Inspectors makes multiple visits afterwards as follow-ups.

    In a published review of animal welfare legislation in Hong Kong, Amanda Whitfort, Associate Professor of The University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law, and Dr Fiona Woodhouse, the SPCA’s Deputy Director (Welfare), point out the shortcomings of the current legislation. The review spans almost 200 pages and outlines in detail what the existing laws can be improved upon. According to the authors, many of the laws are out of date and fail to impose a “duty of care” on animal keepers (see the bottom of the page). Sentencing practices have been perceived as lenient and may be insufficient to deter abuse. To curb animal cruelty effectively, Hong Kong’s cruelty laws must undergo complete reforms to achieve significant improvement of animal welfare.

    Know that fighting cruelty is not just about dishing out severe punishment and arresting uninformed pet owners who do not yet know how to care for their cats and dogs properly. We believe in stopping cruelty before it happens – education is paramount. In the wake of the Shun Tin Estate abuse, there is no better opportunity than now to reinforce the message that animals, pets or strays, deserve our respect and care.

    Animal cruelty is an issue that needs to be addressed holistically. Only through education, law reforms, as well as stricter enforcement and sentencing can we better the lives of the animals living in our city. After all, these creatures also call Hong Kong their home.

    Pawprint catches up with a few dog-loving police officers on their day off.

    It’s not often the Pawprint team gets to leave the editorial desks during office hours, so when the opportunity arose we jumped at the chance of meeting the men and women in uniform, and with their dogs, no less. 

    Meet Ming, a police officer of 14 years who now works in the Complaints Against Police Office. Her dog Mu-mu, a three-year-old mongrel, was adopted from the SPCA. “Originally I’ve wanted to get a Shiba Inu. But then I thought loads of people buy dogs; maybe I should give another dog a chance. So I went to the SPCA and got myself a mongrel.” She gave Mu-mu a good pat and added, “it no longer matters what breed your dog is once you’ve bonded with him.” On her days off, Ming occasionally treats Mu-mu to a day of fun with other canines. “Many other officers have pets and we sometimes get together and let the dogs play.” 

    Chi, with fellow Emergency Unit officers Ching and her husband, has been with the Force for 14 years. They all serve in the district of New Territories South. Chi helped foster a friend’s puppy back in 2000 and proceeded to adopt the scruffy little mongrel. Ching adopted Katre, her retired canine partner, as well as Wai-wai, a stray mongrel she picked up from the street when she was on patrol. 

    Ching is a volunteer SPCA Inspector, but she mentioned there are certain aspects of the work she isn’t keen on. “Sometimes I get calls to go on rescue missions and I see these bony, hungry stray dogs that desperately need our help. We rescue them from the streets, and at the SPCA centre the vet would examine them and find out, well, they’ve been microchipped. They used to be someone’s dogs and they were abandoned. That’s probably the worst feeling in the world,” she shook her head.

    As a police officer, Chi sometimes works crazy hours. He recalled a particularly scary incident with his four-legged friend. “I came home from a late shift and found my dog retching and having serious diarrhoea. I had absolutely no clue what was wrong and rushed him to a 24-hour clinic in Mongkok. Turns out it was gastroenteritis – gave me the worst fright of my life. Even though I’ve handled dogs on the job, I don’t know a lot about canine diseases.” Ching, who’s partnered with Katre for two years, echoed the sentiment.

    “I know more about dogs because I’ve partnered with one, but there’s still a lot I don’t know so I read up as much as I can, often from books. The internet also has a wealth of information.”

    “Having a dog is not unlike having a child. It’s easy to say you want to start a family when your only experience with children is the odd times you play with your friends’ babies. Parenthood means being there for the good and the bad, dealing with the dirty diapers and baby tantrums – the full monty basically.” Chi compared pet ownership to parenting. “Likewise, owning a pet means you have to take care of it for the rest of its life, and that means taking your dog to the vet when it’s sick, and trying to keep it comfortable when it is past its prime.” In fact, Chi showed up dog-less and the Pawprint team was naturally a bit disappointed. He explained that on such an unusually warm day – 24°C in January, unusual indeed – he’d rather not put a 12-year-old, senior dog through the ordeal of long drives and tiring expeditions in an unfamiliar park. 

    It would have been splendid had we been able to stay and chat with the officers (and play with the dogs) for the rest of the day but sadly it wasn’t our day off. As we bid a fond farewell to the group, Mu-mu was slowing warming to his fellow canines and we envied the dogs playing the day away on such a beautiful January afternoon.


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  • Focus                          Up North and Beyond                                             12 - 15

    Up North and Beyond
    SPCA’s China Outreach programme extends our mission far beyond Hong Kong’s northern border.

    As the cast and crew of the SPCA X Tencent “Care for Life” project officially kick-started its production at a press conference in September 2012, our China Outreach programme has reached a significant milestone. This first ever joint animal welfare campaign by Tencent Video in China, Taiwan SPCA and SPCA (HK) is likely to make waves in the entire Greater China Region, raising public’s awareness on caring for and respecting animals.

    But before making waves in the region, China Outreach has been making ripples in China since its establishment in 2005. Working with schools, veterinary bodies, the Chinese government and like-minded individuals and groups, we have worked very hard to educate young minds and inspire changes in people’s attitude towards animals. In a land where dog-meat eating is commonplace, the concept of animal welfare is still very new, sometimes even foreign, to the average citizens. But the SPCA strongly believes that ideas can take hold and attitudes can change, which is why education is the core of our work in China.


    Reaching Schools

    In 2007, with HSBC’s generous sponsorship our Education Department put together a humane education package comprising teaching aids such as lesson plans, worksheets, class activities and information banks. The package has been used in the curriculum of local primary and secondary schools, and also in partnership with the Scout Association and Girl Guides Association to enrich their animal-welfare badge programmes.

    Our humane education package has received a lot of interest from animal welfare groups throughout Asia and among them was Xiamen Animal Protection Education Association. “We had a few discussions over the materials and based on what they requested, the SPCA put in content related to Xiamen’s local wildlife and basically condensed the original material to create a localised version for schools in Xiamen,” explains Vivian Chiu, our Education Manger. The finished product was a textbook of 60 pages which was distributed to schools in the city, reaching approximately 8,000 students in 2010.

    The trial in Xiamen tested the waters for us and from this experiment we realised the potential of the humane education programme. “We needed to reprint the textbooks anyway so we took the opportunity to refine the content and created a second edition,” says Vivian. By 2012, the number of Xiamen students using our humane education textbook has increased to 12,500, but the year also saw the programme outreached this Fujian city.

    Guangzhou was the next in line. Ryan Lau, the SPCA’s China Outreach Director, worked very closely with the city’s education department to understand their need. The process was, however, not as straight forward as one would think. The textbooks had to pass government censorship before going to print. “When the content was finally approved, we printed these textbooks from our own budget and distributed them,” says Ryan. The beginning of the Guangzhou effort benefited 4,150 students and the programme is expected to gain momentum in 2013.

    Because humane education is altogether a new subject matter not only to students, but to their teachers as well, training sessions were organised to familiarise them with the teaching materials and help them understand some basic concepts of animal welfare, veterinary science and China’s animal-related regulations. In two separate sessions in Guangzhou and Xiamen, we worked with Animal Asia and the International Fund for Animal Welfare respectively to train 60 teachers from each of the cities.

    Feedback on the human education programme has generally been positive. “You can see there’s a healthy increase in the number of teachers and students using the humane education textbooks. In two years the number has doubled – from 8,000 in 2010 to 16,650 in 2012,” says Ryan. In Xiamen, humane education has even extended beyond the classroom. “Students in Xiamen have activities like summer camps, student debates and competitions around the topic of animal welfare and humane education.”


    Government Cooperation

    Apart from education, the SPCA’s China Outreach programme also works extensively with the Chinese government on a host of issues. “Dog ownership management is a challenge for the Public Security Bureau (PSB) as they find it difficult to persuade citizens to license their dogs. Coupled with the obvious growth in abandonment, they have a good reason to change the way they operate now.” Currently, feral dogs are generally left alone, but in case of a rabies outbreak, the PSB often commences large scale culling – a practice under fire from the public because of its inhumane treatment of dogs.


    “For the first time, the Chinese government is building their animal facility with due consideration for the welfare of animals.”

    In Guangzhou, the PSB has just completed the construction work of a new dog kennel, consisting of receiving facilities, vet services, an adoption and an education centre. “For the first time, the Chinese government is building their animal facility with due consideration for the welfare of animals. The centre was set up according to SPCA standard; hopefully this will become a new model for all of China,” says Ryan. In March, our staff will be visiting the new facility to advise on all aspects of their operational procedure, including receiving animals, vet examinations to our adoption protocols. 

    SPCA’s Inspectorate also offers training for the PSB on humane animal handling. In August 2012, Animal Asia held the Fourth City Dog Management Symposium in Dalian, where SPCA Inspectors had a sharing session with about 50 policemen from different mainland cities. “They were interested to hear about our experience in catching dogs – our skills, the tools we use, the standard of animal welfare,” Ryan recalls. The SPCA Inspectorate has many handmade catching tools which are inexpensive to make and very practical, an area the PSB is looking forward to work with us on in the future.


    Veterinary Support

    Decades ago, most veterinary schools in China had only offered training for veterinary surgeons to handle farm animals, specialising in vaccinations, disease treatment and even husbandry. Back then, few households had pets so there was hardly any demand for quality pet care. But with the mainland pet owning population growing exponentially, authorities know that the gap needs to be addressed and the SPCA is on hand to help.

    Predating the China Outreach programme, our Veterinary Services Department has been working with Chinese veterinary surgeons since as early as the 1990s. In May 2000, Dr Jane Gray, the SPCA’S Deputy Director (Veterinary Services), organised a lecture on basic veterinary care and infectious disease treatment at the China Agricultural University in Beijing and received tremendous response. “It was the first lecture the SPCA has ever given to Chinese veterinary surgeons. Because it was so popular, we went back at the end of the year to do something similar,” says Jane. These sessions in Beijing became the first in a series of regular lectures we organised in China. Supported by Waltham, these lectures were later expanded to Shanghai. Due to the SARS outbreak in 2003, the lecture series took a hiatus but returned a year later with a different strategy. “Vets in Beijing and Shanghai have been getting more and more exposure to western veterinary medicine so we decided to shift the focus to second-tier cities.” SPCA vets have travelled to cities such as Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming and Nanjing to deliver lectures.

    The purpose of these lectures is to improve the techniques of practicing veterinary surgeons and provide up-to-date professional training for them. “By raising the standard of veterinary care, we hope to improve animal welfare in China,” says Jane. Wherever possible, we also incorporated in these lectures the basic concepts of animal welfare. Sponsored by Royal Canin, the Veterinary Services Department also produced a DVD detailing all aspects of desexing, including patient preparation, anaesthetic and surgical techniques as well as post operative care. From planning, filming to production, the process took almost two years and the DVDs were distributed to certified veterinary surgeons in China.

    “By raising the standard of veterinary care, we hope to improve animal welfare in China.”

    Our Veterinary Services Department also has an observation programme where we accept Chinese veterinary surgeons for in-house observation. Programme length varies between a few days and a month, during which the visiting Chinese vets can observe all aspects of our work, from high-tech surgeries to our welfare work such as desexing for the Cat Colony Care Programme (CCCP). “The visiting vets benefit greatly from the programme. For instance, Dr Wang from Shanghai visited us twice and when he went back to his clinic, he started a small scale CCCP in his own neighbourhood,” says Jane. This is exactly the kind of result we hope to see by continuing our work in China. 


    SPCA x Tencent Video  “Care for Life” Project

    In an unprecedented effort, SPCA (HK), Tencent Video, entertainers and directors from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China came together to promote the concept of animal welfare. Tencent donated a total of RMB 1.5 million to produce and shoot eight short films between September 2012 and March 2013.

    An impressive lineup of talented stars and directors, including Gigi Leung, Karen Mok, Mavis Fan, Gordon Chan and Teddy Chen, have worked hard to bring a number of animal welfare concepts to life, touching on topics such as strays, abuse and humane slaughter. Currently all of the eight short films are in post-production and are expected to roll out in Spring 2013.


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  • Focus                          Tackling Cheung Chau                                             16 - 19

    Tackling Cheung Chau
    Pawprint reports on a SPCA special operation in September 2012.

    In conjunction with the World Rabies Day 2012, the SPCA reaches out to a unique community in Hong Kong to raise their awareness of rabies and, more importantly, responsible pet ownership. Cheung Chau, a fishing village in the past, is one of the few places in Hong Kong where fishing fleets dock their boats. Throughout the years, the island’s economy has gradually evolved from relying solely on fishing to related sub-industries and even tourism. As such, Cheung Chau resembles a typical rural village and its townscape is characterised by fishing boats along the coastline of Cheung Chau Wan, fishing platforms, dockyards, recycling yards and more than 1,000 households scattering across the island. Away from the city, the area supports a relatively stable population as well as tens of thousands of tourists each year. 

    In the past there have been reports of dogs attacking cats on the island, and complaints about roaming unowned dogs are not uncommon. We have also been alerted about possible animal hoarder cases. “The SPCA is aware of these incidents. We would like to gain a better understanding of the problem and hopefully try to help the Cheung Chau community,” says Dr Fiona Woodhouse, Deputy Director (Welfare) of the SPCA. For 30 years we have run a veterinary clinic on Cheung Chau, and with that advantage a targeted community outreach exercise can be arranged. The preliminary plan was to find out more about the cat and dog populations on the island, and then to decide what kind of operation could best help the Cheung Chau community.

    With that in mind, the Welfare team made a preliminary site visit in early September, where they visited Cheung Chau’s District Councillors and gauged the scale of the operation. In the trip they also indentified cases that might require special assistance. The Welfare team then drew up a detailed plan to collect data of owned and unowned animal populations by surveying every household, boat and business on Cheung Chau, and to organise a vaccination, licensing and desexing campaign afterwards.


    Cheung Chau – Quick Facts

    Etymology:    Cantonese, literally “Long Island”

    Location:         About 10km southwest of Hong Kong Island

    Size:              2.45 km2

    Population:     Over 22,000


    Stage One: Surveys

    Because of Cheung Chau’s unique townscape, the first stage of the operation was divided into two parts – the SPCA Welfare team canvassed the wharf, dockyards and fishing platforms while the Inspectorate covered the rest of the area from door to door.

    In order to reach the fishing platforms and as many fishing boats as possible, Vivian Or, the SPCA’s Community Dog Programme (CDP) Coordinator, rented a small boat to conduct a boat-to-boat visit. The aim was to speak to boat crews personally and inform them about the vaccination and desexing campaign, as well as to collect contact information from interested parties and visually survey the number of dogs on boats. In one day they managed to visit about 100 boats, but only a handful were willing to speak to the team and none expressed interests in vaccination or desexing. Response from the fishing platforms was slightly more enthusiastic. Persuading fishing platform owners to desex their dogs was extremely challenging. “While some are willing to vaccinate and microchip their dogs, only one of the fishing platform owners was interested in desexing,” says Vivian.


    “Because male dogs do not give birth to puppies, the owners simply don’t see the need to desex their dogs.”

    Back on the shore, the Welfare team also visited dockyards located north of the wharf. Mr Liu, a dockyard manager, has three dogs and initially only agreed to vaccinate them. “He was very reluctant to desex his dogs, but when we went back to vaccinate his dogs during the desexing campaign, and explained to him the advantages of having his dogs desexed, he finally agreed,” says Shuping Ho, the SPCA’s Welfare Research and Development Officer. Interestingly, he only agreed to desex two of his dogs – one female and the other a young male puppy – he did not want his grown male dog neutered. In fact, most of the dockyard or recycling yard dogs are male, leading the team to believe that their owners keep them as guard dogs. “Some owners believe desexed dogs make for weaker guard dogs, and because male dogs do not give birth to puppies, the owners simply don’t see the need to desex their dogs. But at least they’re willing to vaccinate and microchip their dogs after some persuasion.”

    Moving inland, the Inspectors went from door to door gathering information on Cheung Chau’s pet ownership statistics and habits, as well as data on non-pet owners and their attitudes towards pet ownership. The Herculean task took one week to complete and covered 1,200 households. Inspector Yin Ling Kwok, who coordinated the survey, says she encountered similar problems as the team at sea. Less than one-third of the households were willing to talk to the Inspectors. “Many of the villagers simply did not want to be interviewed and pet owners whom we managed to interview had little interest in desexing their cats and dogs,” says Ling. 

    From the survey, the Inspectorate learnt that the island’s population of feral dogs is quite low. While not too many Cheung Chau households own dogs, there are owners who do not supervise their dogs and let them roam freely in town. Survey results also suggest that the non-pet-owning population would like to see more controls on animal populations. There were many complaints about animals among these people and one restaurant owner told of how stray cats would all gather in the back alley of his restaurant at night to scavenge on food leftovers.


    Stage Two: Vaccination and Desexing

    Equipped with the survey data, the team went back to the headquarters to regroup and prepare for the second stage of the operation. The vaccination and desexing campaign took place between 8 and 13 October. Animals at the fishing platforms and dockyards were given onsite vaccination, and locals who previously agreed to desex their pets brought their cats and dogs to the SPCA’s Cheung Chau Clinic. Apart from owned animals, our vets also took the opportunity to work with active Cat Colony Care Programme (CCCP) carers in Cheung Chau and brought in stray cats for desexing.

    A number of people had the experience of pets giving birth to several litters of puppies or kittens and took this opportunity to use our services as they had learnt their lesson. “We targeted these people because they did not understand that desexing can stop the cats or dogs from multiplying in numbers,” says Fiona. For pet owners who did not previously agree to desex and vaccinate their pets, the SPCA Welfare team persisted – they visited these households every day and tried to understand their concerns. In some cases, persistence paid off, but oftentimes villagers still viewed desexing as an unnatural process and prefer to just let their animals be.

    Even after the operation, the rate of animal desexing in Cheung Chau is still much lower than that of the Hong Kong average (based on our survey, 34% of Cheung Chau owners desexed their dogs, 43% desexed their cats), but the future prospects for the area seem to be looking up. “Through this special operation, we reminded the people of Cheung Chau of our presence within the community. It’s not just about helping a few dozens of animals in one week – relationship and trust building with Cheung Chau villagers is vital to the long-term success of the operation,” says Fiona. “The operation is beneficial to the community but it requires an on-going effort. By raising awareness and educating the population in a targeted area, we hope to make a long-term change.” A few months after the operation, the Welfare team attended a community fair in Cheung Chau to continue with their outreach and awareness effort. With the expansion of our Cheung Chau Clinic, we also hope to offer better and more frequent services to the island. In the end, only education will be able to change people’s attitudes towards responsible pet ownership and that is the long-term goal of the SPCA in Cheung Chau.















    SPCA Lenore Nell Winfield Clinic

    After months of renovation work, the SPCA Lenore Nell Winfield Clinic in Cheung Chau was reopened in April 2012, with separate surgery and consulting rooms and upgraded equipment and cages. This has all been possible due to the generous donation of Mrs Pamela Barton, who sponsored the renovation, and the Wong family, who donated a flat that allowed for the expansion of the centre.


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  • Feature                                   Slithering Serpents                                       20 - 21

    Slithering Serpents          
    As we welcome in the Year of the Snake, let’s get acquainted with these amazing scaly creatures.

    Whether or not you’re familiar with the wilderness, the snake is an animal you must have encountered at some point in your life, be it in the wild or in the press. For an animal without limbs, they fare incredibly well – many of the snake species are top predators and some manage to conquer even the most hostile conditions. Every species has evolved to adapt to a certain environment and are masters of their respective habitats. These specialists in stealth are found in nearly every corner of the world, but generally come and go unnoticed unless they want to be seen.

    In Hong Kong, these shy, slithering creatures dwell in the countryside, but in a land so small they are never truly far from human settlement. Confrontation is not unheard of – hikers going for walks along popular trails may come face to face with a snake on the way. However, few people consider the fact that it is us, hikers and pets, that are the intruders into snake territory, not the other way round. Nevertheless, it is the snakes that almost always get bad press. Snakes, often misunderstood, are portrayed as vicious killers which prey on unsuspecting hikers and their pets. In summer when there are sightings of pythons straying into neighbourhoods in the New Territories, the Police often have to commission outside help to catch snakes. Dave Willott is one of the snake catchers on their speed dial.


    Monty Python

    The Burmese python (Python bivittatus), Hong Kong’s largest natural predator, is protected under Hong Kong law. In 2010, a hiker fended off a four-meter long python, saving his dog from being crushed and swallowed whole. Incidents like these are few, but they inspire fear, especially in the folks living in the countryside. Their concerns over safety pressured the AFCD to relocate all captured pythons to nature reserves in China. The policy was criticised by many, including the SPCA, for upsetting the local ecosystem and condemning these giants to an uncertain fate.

    Last August, the AFCD made a significant change in policy – working with the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, the captured Burmese pythons are microchipped and released back to remote areas of Hong Kong’s countryside. The move is likely to benefit the vulnerable species.

    “In the active season, I get calls from the Police a few times a week.” Snakes are usually shy, but in autumn they need to fatten up to survive the long, harsh winter, which is why sightings are more common. In spring, the breeding season, big mother snakes can also be spotted on hiking trails.

    According to the AFCD Biodiversity Database, Hong Kong is home to 52 species of snake. “The common rat snake (Ptyas mucosus) is one of the most sighted species in rural Hong Kong,” says Dave. The inconspicuous grey snake is harmless when left alone, but like any wild animal, they are more than ready to bite when cornered. These snakes are vital to our ecosystem and, believe it or not, our environmental hygiene. As the name has suggested, common rat snakes prey on rats, as well as toads and birds.

    Be wary if you encounter a band of bright green in the wild, it might just be one of Hong Kong’s eight venomous species. According to Dave, the Bamboo Pit Viper (Cryptelytrops albolabris) is the most commonly seen venomous snake in our countryside, followed by the Chinese Cobra (Naja atra). In Sai Kung, Dave is often called in to capture another venomous species – the Red-necked Keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus), with its distinctive red and green markings, is easily recognisable. Previously thought to be harmless, this gentle snake used to be a popular pet snake – until its rear fangs were found to deliver venom. While on the job, Dave says there’s a 50-50 chance he comes face to face with a venomous snake.


    “To the people who are considering getting snakes to celebrate the Chinese New Year – don’t.”

    As one can probably imagine, snake catchers are seldom needed in the city. “A few wild snakes might get washed into town by storms, but they don’t normally survive,” says Dave. Most snakes he catches are native but occasionally a few pet snakes of the foreign variety escape captivity and wind up in unlikely places in town. “The American corn snake is a popular pet, so is the ball python.”

    Speaking of pets, Dave mentions of the growing interest of snakes in Hong Kong. “We have had more snake enthusiasts in Hong Kong in the past 10 or 15 years,” says Dave. “When I first started to be interested in these creatures, there was no shop selling pet snakes in Gum Yu Gai (Tung Choi Street in Mongkok).” That said, keeping snakes is tricky business. For species such as pythons and boas, wild-caught specimens require an AFCD issued licence, whereas captive-bred ones need documentation to prove their origins. “A general problem with snake owners is that many do not understand the need of the snakes. While most can get by in less than satisfactory conditions, poor care will significantly shorten their life span,” says Dave.

    To the people who are considering getting these slithering creatures as pets to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Dave has one word – “don’t.” That pretty much sums up what we’d like to tell our readers. “It’s just not a good enough reason. You should think carefully before you buy,” he adds. Dave stresses that snakes, like any other pets, are a responsibility for life. Some species have a natural life span of ten years, others can even live up to 30. A lot of ill-advised owners rely on the knowledge of pet traders, which is often far from enough to care for the snakes properly. “Not many people know that stress can kill. Bright light, inadequate hiding space, these can be the end of your snake.” Substantial background information is vital to keeping a pet snake healthy. Every species has its own very specific requirements in terms of diet and habitat and must be researched carefully. With specific requirements come special costs. Special equipment, increasing size of tanks, diet, and veterinary treatment all adds up. The SPCA’s Dr Tanya Master has a few words on reptiles’ general needs on page 28. 


    There’s a Snake in My Boot!?

    If you find a snake in a place it shouldn’t be, call the Hong Kong emergency number 999. Do not attempt to catch the snake yourself!


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  • Feature                                   From Dog Hair to Yarn                                 22 - 23 

    From Dog Hair to Yarn
    Two entrepreneurs spill the beans on their unusual business idea involving dog hair.

    Anita Lam and Margaret Lok are the brains behind the social enterprise WOOF. Their idea of upcycling dog hair into a clothing material called “chiengora” has won them the 2011 Hong Kong Social Enterprise Challenge. This year, the dynamic duo is poised to take Hong Kong fashion by storm and they are working with the SPCA as a partner. Pawprint had a chat with them to uncover the secrets in making canine hair into high fashion.


    What is chiengora? Can you explain the idea behind WOOF’s chiengora products?

    Chiengora is a yarn or felt created by spinning or felting dog hair. It is 100% animal-friendly because the dog hair used is collected from grooming. At this time, WOOF has two product lines – custom-made and ready-to-wear.

    Our custom-made collection caters for pet owners who’d like to create unique and memorable fashion pieces using dog hair from their beloved pets. Each of these pieces is handmade because they make use of hair from one (or more) specific dog. Currently, all custom pieces are made from felted chiengora.

    Designs for our ready-to-wear collections are quirkier and unconventional, therefore they’re great for fashionistas. Material used for this collection is mixed-breed dog hair, collected from pet groomers including the SPCA. We are still developing the technology to mass produce machine-spun chiengora.


    What are the characteristics of chiengora?

    What is it best used for?

    It has been scientifically proven that chiengora is 80% warmer than wool and unlike wool it is waterproof. Technically, the material is suitable for making any yarn products. But our custom-made designs largely focus on accessory pieces because most dogs in Hong Kong range from small to medium-sized, it is not easy for dog owners to collect enough hair for larger pieces like a jumper. Also, depending on the kind of dog you have, short to mid-length (below two inches) hair have to be mixed with hair from longer breeds or with other material in order to hold.


    Is chiengora safe to use?

    Chiengora is very safe and hygienic to use. People who have concerns about hygiene may not realise that sheep and camels are, in fact, way dirtier and smellier than dogs. We harvest hair from grooming stores and the dogs there are generally well cared for.

    In our ready-to-wear collection, we machine-clean dog hair. The process is no different from cleaning wool or any other animal fibre since the factory we work with handles wool and angora as well. Our custom-made items, on the other hand, employ a hand-clean process. We clean the hair using dog shampoo and disinfectant to remove germs and bacteria, then we rinse it in clean water. The process is repeated three to five times until the water begins to run clear. We store clean dog hair with charcoal purifier to absorb any odour. Blind tests have shown that chiengora smells no different from wool to humans; dogs and cats do not react differently to it.

    Allergic reaction is rarely a concern. Research has shown that the primary allergens in animal allergies are proteins secreted by oil glands in the animal’s skin, dander, as well as proteins in the saliva, which sticks to the fur when the animal licks itself. Once the hair fibre is removed from the animals and cleaned, exposure to allergens will be minimised. In fact, people who are allergic to wool may find chiengora a good alternative – sheep sweat through their skin while dogs sweat through their mouths; protein remaining on the hair of dogs is theoretically less than that of sheep.


    What inspired you to bring chiengora to Hong Kong? What is WOOF’s philosophy?

    We believe that compassion and empathy are keys to building a better world. We are deeply inspired by Gandhi’s words, “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. Hong Kong is a very loving city, yet not enough attention is given to homeless animals and their welfare.

    One of our fundamental design principles is to not consume additional resources from our planet. We focus on upcycling waste materials and convert them into something valuable. Combining the two concepts, we chose fashion and design as our channel to reach more people in order to convey this message. Each WOOF ready-to-wear product carries a WOOF tag, and on it is a story of an animal waiting to be adopted. We aim to provide an additional platform for these animals to find new homes.

    WOOF aims to promote awareness for homeless animals and respect for all living creatures. A part of our revenue goes to our WOOFerine project where we work extensively with animal welfare organisations. We aim to reduce the number of stray animals by educating pet owners, young people and the general public. Since we do not encourage pet trade, we also make sure the groomers we work with have no hands in illegal breeding.


    Where does the SPCA come into play?

    We share the same social believes; SPCA is our major raw material provider, it ensures that the dog hair we collect is 100% animal-friendly, and it plays a very important role in bringing our idea into reality.


    What are the difficulties you have encountered when you put the business idea into practice?

    Knowing that some might perceive dog hair products as “weird and gross”, at first we struggled to decide whether or not to market chiengora as our raw material. But after seeing its amazing qualities, we made up our minds – chiengora is a premium material made with love; playing it low-key is absolutely absurd.

    Mass producing chiengora to create commercial value is also another challenge. Existing spinning machines for wool or other animal hair fibre can’t handle the unevenness in length and thickness of mixed dog hair. We are still co-developing the technology with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.


    What are WOOF’s future plans?

    We will have our first custom-made collection ready by around April this year. Dogs start shedding their winter coat so owners can harvest the most from their pets around this time of year. We are also working with various designers, our craftsladies, spinning experts on our first two ready-to-wear collections.


    Chiengora’s Origin

    The word “chiengora” (pronounced she-an-gora) originates from the French word chien, which means dog, and “angora”, meaning its softness and value is comparable to angora.

    Before sheep herding was introduced to America by the Spaniard, the Mayans had already been using dog hair to create blankets and clothing. Across the Atlantic, records have shown that European royalties had also used it in clothing from as early as pre-historic Scandinavia.


    For more information on WOOF and their products, please visit


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  • SPCA Case Files                                                                                        24 - 25

    “Animal Cruelty is a Crime ! ”

    Inspectorate Figures at a Glance:     June-August 2012

    Hotline calls received            10,563

    Animals handled                    1,679

    Animals rescued                    398

    Complaints investigated          227

    Pet shops inspected                88

    Wet markets inspected            138


    01 Police Superintendent’s Discretion (June)

    A teenager who deep-fried and ate a tortoise filmed the process and uploaded the video online. The video sparked massive outrage and the boy was later located and arrested in a joint operation of the Police and SPCA Inspectors. In September, he was cautioned under a Police Superintendent’s Discretion. The family surrendered their other tortoise to the SPCA and it has found a loving home in October.


    02 Convicted (June)

    A Maltese was placed in a plastic bag and thrown down the patio from a height of about ten metres in Sai Wan. A man who has lived with the dog for years was arrested and later pleaded guilty to animal cruelty. He was fined HK$2,500 and sentenced to six weeks imprisonment (suspended for 30 months) in August.


    03 Rescued (June)     

    A pigeon was trapped inside the gap between the glass and concrete walls outside the third floor of a building in Causeway Bay. Assisted by a hydraulic platform of the Fire Services, a SPCA Inspector reached the location and rescued the pigeon.


    04 Convicted (July)

    Four dogs were left in a flat in To Kwa Wan without food and water, resulting in the death of two dogs. The remaining two, found to be extremely thin, were rescued and taken to the SPCA hospital for treatment and care. The owner was later located and arrested. He pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and was sentenced to two months imprisonment and fined HK$2,500 in September.


    05 Rescued (July)

    On a river in Tai Lam, an egret was caught in a fishing line underneath a bridge. SPCA Inspectors managed to reach the bird from a small boat and finally rescued it. The egret’s wings were tangled in the fishing line with a fish hook at one end. The bird was taken to the SPCA hospital for preliminary treatment and was later sent to Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden for further treatment and care.


    06 Injured (July)

    A dog was hit by a bus on San Tin Highway and got stuck under the front wheel. Police provided assistance and sealed off the road, and after much effort SPCA Inspectors managed to free it from under the bus. The dog was immediately rushed to the SPCA hospital for treatment, but injuries sustained were so serious it had to be euthanised on humane grounds.


    07 Rescued (August)

    A cat was found with its head stuck up-side-down in a hole in a wall in Stanley. By lubricating the cat’s fur around its neck using some cooking oil, a SPCA Inspector tried to push its head out of the hole. To everyone’s relief, it was eventually freed but became very aggressive and escaped quickly.


    08 Collected (August)

    In Tui Min Hoi Village in Sai Kung, a young wild boar was found with two small holes on its back. Suspected to be bitten by dogs, it was collected by SPCA Inspectors and later taken to Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden for treatment and rehabilitation.


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  • Veterinary                  Vet Profile: Dr Tanya Master                                               28


    Dr Tanya Master
    Veterinary Surgeon



    Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine & Surgery (BVM&S),

    University of Edinburgh; Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS), UK



    While studying at Edinburgh University I observed practice in a variety of veterinary clinics in Hong Kong (including the SPCA) and the UK. After completing my degree I moved back home and in September 2012 was lucky enough to be offered a position with the SPCA’s veterinary department.



    Small animal internal medicine and exotic animals – in particular, snakes, lizards and chelonia.



    There is rarely a quiet day at the SPCA and I enjoy and relish the opportunity to see and learn from the diverse caseload. I find the welfare work such as our Cat Colony Care Programme (CCCP) very rewarding and feel privileged to have the chance to be a part of it. The SPCA also has so many great vets with special interests in different aspects of veterinary medicine and surgery, allowing me to further my knowledge in a variety of areas.



    A domestic shorthair cat called Tiger, adopted from the SPCA two years ago. He is undoubtedly the world’s most handsome cat, but then I might be slightly biased!



    Outside of work I spend a lot of time playing sports; in particular tennis and golf. Otherwise I enjoy a relaxing night in, with TV, good company and lots of food! 


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  • Veterinary                  Vet Facts                                

    Snakes, Lizards and All Things Scaly

    It is important to understand that keeping a reptile is not as simple as many may think. In fact the vast majority of medical problems seen in reptiles are caused by poor husbandry and/or diet. Despite our best efforts, it is impossible to accurately mimic their natural diet and habitat, which is why we do not recommend keeping snakes and other reptiles as pets.



    Whilst mammals, like dogs and cats, are able themselves to maintain a constant body temperature; reptiles rely on external heat to regulate their own body temperature. Each species or group has their own ideal environmental temperature. Heat is best supplied via a ceramic lamp. We advise against heat rocks or pads as these can cause serious burns. Regardless of the heating source, it is essential to have a thermometer to measure the temperatures within the vivarium.


    UV Light

    Most reptiles also require a source of UVB for vitamin D and calcium metabolism. UV rays cannot penetrate glass, so leaving the vivarium beside the window is no better than closing it in a cupboard. The bulbs need to be changed every six months minimum and must be placed within 30cm of the reptile to be effective.



    Reptiles can be insectivores, carnivores, herbivores or a mixture, but most of our pet snakes are carnivores, and should be on a diet of at least 90% whole-animal prey. It is not advisable to feed live animals to your reptiles because of the welfare implications to both.


    The Vivarium

    The enclosure design will vary greatly depending on the species of your reptile. Ground-dwelling species require lots of floor space, whereas tree-living species need tall cages with lots of furniture to climb upon. Semi-aquatic species will need water deep enough to completely submerge themselves as well as the standard dry area for basking. All non-aquatic species, especially snakes, require a shallow bathing area for proper hydration and to aid in skin shedding.

    The substrate they are kept on is equally important; small bedding, like sand, can lead to serious intestinal obstructions if eaten. Paper, astroturf or large rocks are suitable choices, but the vivarium should be cleaned out regularly to stop the build-up of parasites and fungus.



    All reptiles need attention paid to their humidity requirements, and these can vary throughout the year. A humidity or damp box, easily made out of a plant pot, is an efficient way of providing moisture without having to humidify the entire enclosure.



    All reptiles can potentially carry Salmonella, which can be transmitted to people, so good hygiene after handling reptiles is essential. Generally washing your hands with soap is adequate, but there are commercially available alternative disinfectants that can be used.

    All reptiles benefit from regular check ups – please consult your veterinary surgeon for further details and information.


    Dr Tanya Master, BVM&S MRCVS 


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  • Veterinary                  Ask the Behaviourist                                     29

    Behaviour 101

    As a behaviourist I am often asked, “What is the difference between a behaviour problem and a training problem?” It is an interesting question because in many cases the two overlap. However, broadly speaking, the problems you may experience with your dog fall into three groups.


    1. Temperament Problems:

    These include aggressive behaviour such as biting which may be directed both towards people or other dogs, fear and anxiety around people or other dogs, overattachment leading to separation anxiety as well as certain unruly or hyperactive behaviour.


    2. Behaviour Problems:

    These include inappropriate toileting, barking, jumping up and destructive behaviour such as chewing or digging.


    3. Obedience Problems:

    These include poor recall, not walking to heel, pulling on the leash or running off. 

    Some temperament problems are inherent in that they have a genetic component. For example in Hong Kong, many of the puppies that are adopted come from feral or semi-feral mothers. The predisposition to being fearful comes through the mother and if you think about it, this makes a lot of sense in terms of survival, as the only thing that may keep a dog safe out in the wild is a natural wariness of potential threats, which obviously include people and other dogs. However temperament problems can also develop at any stage of a dog’s life, especially if it has not been well socialised as a puppy or has had bad experiences that teach it to be fearful and which may lead to aggressive behaviour. Aversive experiences include such things as physical punishment which can create fear of people or being attacked by another dog which leads to defensive aggression directed towards any dog.  

    It is very important to understand what is motivating or driving any behaviour problem but particularly temperament problems that involve aggression. The behaviour is usually driven by fear and anxiety and generally will not be resolved by training alone. A more successful outcome will usually be achieved by a combination of behaviour modification, training and management.

    However, preventing temperament problems so that the animal develops a sound temperament and good disposition should be our goal, rather than trying to solve them when the animal is older. This is best accomplished in puppyhood through training, socialisation and play using plenty of reward-based positive reinforcement that continues throughout the dog’s life. However if problems do develop, then behaviour modification combined with training is more likely to result in a successful outcome. 


    Dr Cynthia Smillie runs the Animal Behaviour Veterinary Practice in Hong Kong. More information online at


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  • Veterinary                  Vet’s Case Book                                                      30 - 31

    Conjunctival Island Graft in a 10 Year-Old Chihuahua 


    Traumatic ocular (eye) ulcers are not uncommon in small animal patients. Very small, superficial wounds with limited intraocular (internal) inflammation may be successfully managed with medication alone. However, in dogs these types of ulcers may become difficult to manage, especially in brachycephalic (“squashed-faced”) breeds such as Pugs, Pekingneses and Chihuahuas. The ulcers can become complicated by infection, tear and eyelid abnormalities and an almost self-destructive inflammatory process as they eye attempts to heal the wound. Subsequently, the inflammation and infection can adversely affect internal structure of the eye causing pain and loss of vision; if the process is not halted the animal may end up losing the eye. In these complex cases some form of surgical support is warranted. There are a large number of surgical techniques to choose from, but the main aims are to provide an adequate blood supply to help heal the ulcer and thereby reduce the destructive inflammation/infection that is occurring.


    Case Report

    “BoBo”, a ten-year-old, male, neutered Chihuahua presented with an ulcer in his right eye. Some form of trauma occurred two weeks previously and subsequent medical treatment had not resolved the condition. On slit-lamp microscopic examination the ulcer was approximately 2/3rds thickness, with marked corneal inflammation and evidence of infection and tissue damage. The options were discussed with the owner, who elected surgery to help heal the ulcer and save the eye.


    Surgical Technique

    Using fine ophthalmic instruments and magnification a circular conjunctival tissue graft was harvested from the inside of the upper eyelid. The ulcer was gently debrided of all unhealthy tissue and the conjunctival tissue graft was sutured (stitched) in place. The suture material used has a diameter of 0.04mm, which is five times smaller than the average skin suture in dogs and cats. This graft had a circumference of approximately 30mm, and 18 separate sutures were placed with great care taken on handling the corneal tissue to prevent penetration of the globe’s anterior chamber. 

    Post-operatively topical and oral medications were used to counter the infection, reduce inflammation and pain; additionally the dog had to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent self-trauma.


    Outcome and Future Surgeries

    At the last revisit, which was four weeks post-surgery, the eye was comfortable, visual and the graft is well placed and healthy (Fig. 5). The graft will gradually shrink over the next one to two months and should not interfere with the dog’s vision greatly.

    Whilst these conjunctival surgeries are very good at saving eyes and healing deep/infected ulcers; their main drawback is the lack of transparency which is likely to result in a degree of visual defect. Future/additional surgical options include grafting adjacent, clear corneal tissue (if enough is available) into the defect or even canine stem cell-derived tissues sutured into the ulcer which have been shown to result in a much clearer post-operative cornea.


    Dr Chirag M. Patel, MRCVS
    Senior Veterinary Surgeon 


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  • Happy Ending                                                                                              32

    Around the World in 12 Years
    The story of Gel-Li – an unexpected journey.

    Kwok and Charlotte Li are a well-travelled couple, and so was their dog. For over a decade, Gel-Li had followed her masters moving from country to country, leaving behind a trail of paw prints. Last Christmas drew the final curtain of her remarkable life, so her owners got in touch with us to share the heart-warming tale of this globetrotting mongrel. 

    The story began in 2001 when Kwok and Charlotte decided to get a young puppy. Knowing that there were so many dogs looking for a good home at the SPCA, they didn’t want to buy a puppy from any of the local pet shops. So on a fateful Friday, they came to our headquarters in Wanchai and visited the homing dogs. Strangely enough, what caught their eye was not a puppy but a yellow mongrel the size of a small Labrador. Kwok recalls that the 18-month old was very shy. “When we were put in a room with her for assessment, she tried to run away from us and was very frightened, shaky and timid; not an ideal start but there was something about her that attracted us.” The pair was advised by the homing staff to sleep on the decision, and they came back the next day to finish the paperwork.

    “We decided to call her Gel-Li, a combination of my surname and the word ‘jelly’ as she shook like a frightened jelly when we first got her,” Kwok recounts how Gel-Li got her name. They arranged for her to take behaviour training classes at the SPCA and learn some English commands. Gel-Li proved to be one for the outdoors – Tai Tam Country Park and the hike along the Dragon’s Back to Shek O became her favourite, so much so that masters and dog made it a weekly ritual to lunch at the Thai restaurant there.

    Kwok and Charlotte knew that eventually they would move back to the UK where they originate from. As Hong Kong was not on the Pet Passport Scheme at the time, Gel-Li would have had to spend six months in quarantine. As such, the couple made a decision to move to Singapore first, which is on the Scheme and only require 30 days of quarantine. Gel-Li adapted well to this tropic city and slowly lost her nervousness and timidity. She also developed a taste for spicy food and was caught eating all the chillies off the chilli plant in the Lis’ garden! Seeing how Gel-Li had become a wonderful dog, the Lis adopted another dog at the Singapore SPCA as her companion.

    In the summer of 2003, they eventually all moved back to London, where Gel-Li saw snow for the first time. Three years later, they all relocated to the extreme heat in Dubai for Kwok’s work. The constant heat was difficult to adjust to and the dogs ended up going for walks at 5am in summer as it was the coolest time of the day. As she got older, Gel-Li finally saw snow again in the UK in 2010. The Lis enjoy a serene life in the beautiful English countryside. The woods and fields of Bedfordshire was heaven for the dogs.

    Having lived a long and full life, Gel-Li passed away just before Christmas last year, leaving Kwok and Charlotte heartbroken. But they were still grateful to have Gel-Li in their lives. “She had an exceptional life and travelled, saw more sights and flew more miles than most people do in a lifetime,” says Kwok. “Never in this life have Charlotte and I received so much joy brought to us by Gel-Li.”

    To all the aspiring dog owners out there, Kwok has this to say. “Our beloved Gel-Li is gone, so Charlotte and I will speak on her behalf… we are certain that Gel-Li would like others to be given the same chance that she had, and we would like that to be her legacy.”


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