Issue 90 - 2013/5

Issue 90 - 2013/5


  • Latest News at the SPCA   2
  • Cover Story    Weeding Out Bad Breeding  4 - 8
  • Focus              Decoding Shelters  9 - 13
  • Feature           Religious Release  14 - 17
  • Feature           Humane Pest Control  18 - 19
  • Inspectorate   Inspector Profiles  20 - 21
  • Inspectorate   SPCA Case Files   22 - 23
  • Veterinary       Vet’s Case Book   24 - 25
  • Veterinary       Vet Profile: Dr Michael Wilson  26
  • Veterinary       Vet Tips
  • Veterinary       Ask the Behaviourist  27

(text only version)

  • Latest News at the SPCA                                                                           2

    Announcement of “Love Animals – Love Photo-taking” Competition Results

    The photo competition drew a tremendous response, receiving over 600 entries by the end of the submission period. We would like to congratulate and thank all participants for their great display of creativity. Results of the competition will be announced in June on the competition’s official website: Look out for it!


    A Stray Cat’s Life – Tripod

    One of our Cat Colony Care Programme (CCCP) carers, Angel Tam, tells the poignant tale of what life is like in the streets of Hong Kong from a first-“cat” point of view. Tripod is a wonderfully written story and is available in both English and Chinese versions for mail order at for US$7, or at the SPCA Hong Kong Headquarters and Kowloon Centre for HK$60. All proceeds are donated towards the work of these dedicated CCCP carers’ and help them take care of our feline friends in the streets.


    The Animal Friendly Campus Award Reaches Conclusion

    In June, this ten-month education programme will draw to a close. 41 schools have participated in the AFCA, with participating students showing great initiative in their choice of activities to meet the three designated tasks of achievement: learning, social development and volunteering. A closing ceremony will be held on 8 July to award the hard work and effort students have put into making this new programme such a success.


    Celebrate Children’s Birthday the SPCA Way!

    Ever thought about hosting an animal-themed birthday bash? Our Barking Lot Café in Stanley is now open for children’s birthday celebration bookings! A two-hour, fun-filled session with games, handcrafting, adoption animals meet-and-greet and much more, it’s the perfect opportunity for children to have fun whilst learning about animals. For details, please call the Donor Management Team at 2232 5510. 


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  • Cover Story              Weeding Out Bad Breeding                                   4 - 8

    Weed out Bad Breeding Because our dogs deserve it.

    In October last year, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) released a consultation document where they made suggestions to reform the current pet trade laws. During the two-month open consultation period, comments and submissions flooded in from the public, pet trade industry and animal welfare groups, which the AFCD reviewed and summarised for the Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene Panel on Legislative Council in April this year.

    Overall, the proposal has garnered public support despite split opinions on certain measures, most notably the four-licence system. The AFCD proposed to issue four types of permit as a blanket system to licence all pet shops and dog breeders:

    • Animal Trader Licence (ATL) which is already in place, for anyone who sells dogs and/or other animals in a place of business;
    • Animal Breeder Licence Category A (ABLA) for anyone who keeps four or fewer entire female dogs on a premises and sells his breeding dams or their offspring;
    • Animal Breeder Licence Category B
      (ABLB) for anyone who keeps five or more entire female dogs on a premises and sells his breeding dams, offspring of the dams or other dogs;
    • One-off Permit for any pet owner who sells an individual dog that he owns.

    The general debate in the animal welfare community surrounding this licensing system mostly focuses on ABLA and ABLB. While breeders in each category have to comply with a code of practice, some animal welfare groups are deeply concerned about the welfare implications of introducing the ABLA licence category and whether or not it will encourage pet owners making a business out of breeding their own dogs. They advocate for a “one-licence” system instead, which may essentially eliminate all but the commercial, large-scale breeders.


    Big and Bad

    Despite the regulations and standards outlined so far in the consultation documents and proposed to be included in the code of practice of the ABLB, large-scale commercial breeders are almost never good news for the animals. It’s simple logic – the practice of housing hundreds of animals under the same roof, in cages, is essentially factory farming. Over the years, the SPCA has tracked down many irresponsible breeders who keep breeding dogs by the dozens in appalling conditions. These dogs are kept as puppy machines and are forced to mate whenever they come into heat (usually twice a year); in breeding seasons the litters of puppies born put even greater strain on an already ill-equipped facility. Such are the conditions that puppy mills currently operate under.

    A healthy, well-socialised puppy requires careful nurturing and adequate attention from its human carer, so they can integrate into their future homes smoothly. No matter how hard these breeders try to convince you, the operation model of a large-scale breeding facility often does not have good enough welfare standards, and where problems occur huge numbers of mothers and their puppies can be affected. As such these are not a desirable source for pet owners to obtain a puppy.

    With the new ABLB licensing proposed in the tightened regulations, a code of practice will mandate the welfare standard for dogs living in large-scale breeding operations. Currently we feel that the requirements on space, exercise hours and breeding frequency in the proposed code of practice is a far cry from a satisfactory welfare standard, so we will continue to lobby the AFCD to raise the bar. This will hopefully mean more space for each dog, additional regular exercise hours and better access to veterinary care. Dogs that are too young or too old will not be allowed to breed, and breeding frequency will be limited to guarantee sufficient rest after each pregnancy.

    This is all very well – on paper. In fact, puppy mill dogs are currently so severely mistreated that any sort of regulation will be a welcome improvement. However, while some welfare standards can be benchmarked easily, how do we enforce exercise hours, socialisation and attention for a large number of dogs? Even if breeders satisfy the legal requirements, we must remember that dogs are living beings, not products, and they will live with us in our homes. They require individual attention and socialisation to new experiences, a lot more than just food, shelter and veterinary care to maintain their overall well-being.


    Hobby Breeders

    So does that mean the smaller, the better? Not necessarily. Small breeders tend to operate their business in residential units and the irresponsible ones can simply become small-scale puppy mills. That said, when done right, true hobby breeders, can breed healthy, well-socialised puppies for companionship.

    True hobby breeders are just people who are interested in their dogs, often a specific breed, and do not do this for real commercial gain. Also in many cases, there is limitation of space and because hobby breeders want to give love and attention to each individual dog and puppy, they should only keep a handful of breeding dogs – currently the requirements of AFCD’s proposed ABLA state no more than four. To obtain an ABLA licence, they will also have to follow a standard code of practice and a list of requirements, which we hope will give the dogs even higher welfare than those used in the more commercial setting of large scale dog breeding farms. The main advantage of hobby breeders over commercial breeders isn’t anything on paper. Handling fewer animals means the breeder will not be stretched thin taking care of a few hundred dogs, and therefore can offer better care for the dams and puppies. In a true hobby breeder scenario where a dog owner may simply wish to breed from his pets, the dogs benefit from the personal attention from the owner and tend to be better socialised and have a higher standard of welfare.

    While the debate on licensing continues, we have serious reservations about making true hobby breeders illegal, as advocated by some animal welfare groups. With purported hobby breeders making up for more than half of the present supply in Hong Kong, making this source illegal will promote big-scale breeding, which is proven bad welfare for dogs; secondly, we do not believe it would curb true hobby breeding – on the contrary, these breeders may be driven underground, making it that much harder to detect and monitor the dogs welfare, let alone prosecute if problems occur. With its code of practice and other requirements, the legislation will provide a legal framework for monitoring of the welfare standards of breeders. In the interests of animal welfare, licensing all breeders is an essential first step.


    In an Ideal World

    Although we understand that some people might have their hearts set on specific dog breeds because of the limitations of their homes and lifestyle, we strongly encourage potential dog owners to consider adoption before approaching a dog breeder. Reputable animal adoption organisations, such as the SPCA, house plenty of rescue dogs, some of which are pedigrees, all waiting for a good home. And let’s not forget – the lovely mutts of Hong Kong come in all temperaments and sizes, some even as small as your regular cocker spaniel or Sheltie. Read more about the benefits of keeping a mongrel as a pet on page 8.

    If you really cannot find what you are looking for at our Homing Centres, you may choose to purchase a puppy. Here are a few pointers to hopefully help you identify a responsible, good breeder, where you can get a healthy, well-adjusted animal as a companion. 

    A good breeder should:

    • First and foremost, have a valid breeder licence issued by the AFCD.
    • Welcome visits from potential dog owners and willingly show them around the premise (as registered on the licence) where puppies are bred and reared. Breeders who offer to meet you somewhere else often have something to hide. Some bad breeders use a nice house as a front because they don’t want potential clients to know what poor conditions their puppies are bred in.
    • Encourage potential dog owners to meet the mother dog and, where possible, the stud.
    • Only breed from healthy stock. Good breeders should be knowledgeable enough about the breeds they are selling and would weed out any known genetic defects by taking dogs with heritable illness out of their breeding programme.
    • Avoid inbreeding.
    • Keep all dogs healthy and be able to provide proper documentations on health checks, deworming and vaccinations for the puppies.
    • Never keep more dogs than they can provide with the highest level of care, including quality food, clean water, proper shelter from heat or cold, exercise, socialisation and professional veterinary care.
    • Have puppies that are well-socialised and only sell them when they are weaned.
    • Welcome any questions you may have regarding feeding, background, temperament of parents or any other matters pertaining to the puppies.
    • Screen potential clients. They are genuinely concerned for the welfare of their puppies and would make sure they are going to a good home, so expect a lot of questions if you’re getting puppies from a responsible breeder. They would also give proper guidance and welcome any questions even when the puppies are no longer in their care.
    • Make sure the mother dogs are rested after each pregnancy.
    • Have a good plan for retired mother dogs – either find them a good home or keep them as pets.



    The SPCA is launching a campaign to raise public awareness on the issue of dog breeding – look out for it.


    WHEN BREEDING GOES BAD – The Problems with Pedigrees

    When looking to choose a companion animal, it is important to take into consideration the potential problems associated with the various breeds of dog or cat. This is especially true of pedigree, or purebred, animals. Pedigree dogs and cats are a result of selective, restrictive breeding for characteristics that are “aesthetically pleasing”. Unfortunately, these inbreeding policies have resulted in breeds with associated genetic diseases, which can and do have serious impacts on the health and welfare of these animals. Below are just a few examples – sadly there are many more.

    • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels suffer from a disease called syringomyelia where the skull size is too small for the brain, leading to severe pain and neurological problems.
    • A study by Imperial College, London has shown that the 10,000 Pugs living in the UK are so inbred their gene pool is equivalent to only 50 individuals! This has burdened the Pug with facial and airway deformities causing conditions such as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (severe breathing issues) and Entropion (in-turning eyelids).
    • Tracheal collapse is a serious upper airway condition where the cartilage rings which support the trachea weaken, leading to a narrowed airway. This can cause chronic breathing difficulties and coughing, fainting episodes or even death. In severe cases surgery may be attempted, but this can be a risky, painful procedure and success rates vary. Commonly affected breeds include: Pomeranians, Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers.
    • Scottish Fold cats have been selectively bred for the appearance of their ears, but this can be associated with a progressive joint disease called Osteodystrophy. Affected cats suffer from chronic pain, and severe cases may need to be euthanised on humane grounds.


    The above is a small sample of the many diseases breeders have created simply so humans can have dogs and cats we like the look of – with no consideration to the animal’s health or welfare. In addition a look that is appealing now may not be next year, which can lead to many unwanted animals once the fashion ends.


    The Alternative: Hybrid Vigour

    Adopting a mongrel or mixed-breed dog (or your regular domestic short-haired cat) is a better alternative in many ways. Contrary to many people’s opinion, mongrels are not more unhygienic, aggressive or difficult to train than a pedigree animal. Adopting a young mongrel and initiating correct techniques from an early age will result in a faithful, highly intelligent and loving companion for life.

    There are numerous ways in which mongrels are superior to pedigrees. Due to a phenomenon known as “Hybrid Vigour”, where the best of genes from their varied parentage are selected for, these dogs are in general healthier and more resistant to disease than their pure-bred counterparts. They are less likely to suffer from inherited diseases such as hip dysplasia, cataracts, facial/eyelid abnormalities and breathing disorders. 

    Mongrels are generally tougher and more adapted to life in Hong Kong. Many pedigrees are just not suited to live here – Siberian Huskies with their arctic coats and Bulldogs with their narrow airways are prime examples.

    With so many mongrels and mixed breed cats available at the SPCA and other animal charities in Hong Kong, why not consider adopting one of these genetically superior animals and provide them with the loving home they so deserve?


    Dr Chirag M. Patel, MRCVS
    Senior Veterinary Surgeon


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  • Focus                          Decoding Shelters                                                    9 - 13

    Decoding Shelters

    It’s not an unfamiliar term – but do you know what an animal shelter is, and what it actually does? 

    You’ve seen them on Facebook, forums or even the newspapers. Photos of rescuers catching cats and dogs in the streets and sending them to shelters; stories of how shelter workers struggle to ensure that their charges are fed and kept safe and sound under a roof. You may have made a donation to a shelter at some point, volunteered at one, or may even have adopted your pet from one.


    What are Shelters?

    Some people think of shelters as a happy place where animals escape the sad fate of living out a short life in the streets and keep fellow animals company for the rest of their lives. The idea of unwanted, unloved animals finally finding collective happiness at shelters is very appealing, but that image often strays quite far from the truth. 

    The ideal definition of a shelter is a place of temporary residence for a (companion) animal before it finds a permanent home. Where possible, their time within a shelter should be minimised (which will be explained later). In Hong Kong, there are a range of facilities that provide housing and care for “unwanted” companion and other animals. We can loosely categorise shelters into four broad groups:

    • Animal sanctuary – low adoption rate, high number of long term residents
    • Re-homing centre – higher adoption rate and proactive adoption programme, fewer long term residents
    • Private shelter – no or little adoption
    • Hoarder / animal collector – a number of animals under the control of an individual or group of individuals without the skills, capability or resources to ensure good welfare

    It is very difficult to estimate the number of shelters that are actively operating in Hong Kong. Many are run privately and may not publicise their existence for various reasons. The way each shelter is run may differ from place to place, but they all aim to provide a home for unwanted animals. These might be surrendered pets or strays abandoned on the streets. Whichever the case, the usual ultimate goal of a well-run shelter is to help the largest number of animals possible, hopefully by giving them a happily-ever-after scenario through adoption.

    In the streets, animals are vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and road accidents. Many shelters aim to improve their lives in the short term by providing feeding and care. Some can also provide proper socialisation and basic training so these animals can integrate more easily into a home, and thus become more “adoptable”. When these animals are placed in homes, others can then be helped.


    Why do Shelters Exist?

    It is the reality of sheltering animals: when animals are held together in large numbers, any small hiccups could potentially turn into a major problem. In an ideal world, shelters should not exist – every animal should have a home and when owners can no longer care for their pets due to unforeseen circumstances, they should be responsible for placing them. In reality, however, that responsibility is often transferred to a third party such as the SPCA or groups of volunteers.

    Shelters have always had an inseparable relationship with human settlements. Wherever there is a sizable community, there will be some form of an animal sheltering system to cope with the countless unwanted animals. If we ponder on the implications, it says a lot about our society. Proper shelters are supposed to operate in such a way that they adopt out the most animals possible and in the most efficient manner, but the animals that go through their doors do not originate from there. Pet owners surrendering their pets, unwanted litters of kittens and puppies, stray animals who used to belong to somebody – they’re all by-products of humans’ irresponsible actions.


    Overwhelmed Shelters

    Shelters often start off as small operations, run by compassionate and dedicated individuals. They pay for the expenses out of their own pockets and care for the animals themselves. Working at a shelter can be hard work – feeding, cleaning cages and letting the animals out for exercise are all part of the daily routine. Most shelters find that the animals in their care inevitably increase for several reasons – shelter owners may actively acquire animals from the streets, or from other rescuers who keep sending animals their way, or animals are simply abandoned at their doorsteps. Shelter owners will try to accommodate as many animals as they can, until one day they suddenly realise it is no longer possible to cope. In some cases the shelter operator may not realise or recognise the problem and the animals can start to suffer as a result. In unfortunate cases, animals can die of neglect. This is often referred to as animal hoarding.

    Running a shelter is very time consuming and requires many resources. Rent, food, water and veterinary care are all basic expenses that add up, not to mention building maintenance and staff to give the correct level of care for the animals. Each month, a shelter has a long list of bills to pay and needs many man-hours to operate. Unless the shelter is sustainably funded and operated, shelter owners soon buckle under the financial and other pressures. The most common solution is to appeal to the public for monetary, in-kind and service donations, but this is only a temporary fix. 

    For shelters, publicity can be a double-edged sword that attracts help as much as trouble. After publicity they may receive an increasing number of enquiries from pet owners who plan to give up their pets or “board” them long term as they can no longer look after them, promising to pay a monthly “boarding” fee until they can figure out a better arrangement. Often, visits from these pet owners become few and far between and payments stop. Shelter owners are left with more animals in their hands. Publicity may also trigger complaints – people may be unwilling to be neighbours of shelters.

    The scale of the operation is also restricted by the size of premises – there are only so many animals you can house within a given area. When the animal density increases, the quality of care and the welfare decreases. Animals are kept in groups as individual housing is no longer possible. The arrangment works for some but could be problematic for others. Dogs develop a pack hierarchy and fight for resources, and it can result in aggression, fighting and injuries. Attention from the caregivers is spread thinner and thinner as the carer to animal ratio keeps decreasing. Inevitably, human socialisation becomes minimal. All of these could hurt the chances of these animals and reduce the likelihood of adoption, as integration into a domestic setting becomes harder. If a shelter does not have a clear idea of what the minimum standard of care is, and how many animals they can cope with without falling below that standard, shelter owners can end up with a huge problem in their hands – a shelter with limited resources, a continuous influx of animals and a low adoption rate.

    Therefore, it’s is important that animals with good health and temperament find homes quickly. Not only is this better welfare but it also helps control the number of animals holding in these facilities. To avoid returns, shelters often screen their adopters with their own sets of rules, some stricter than the others. However, adoption still only accounts for less than 10% of all pet dog and cat acquisition in Hong Kong – people generally prefer to buy pets from pet shops. In other instances, unwanted pets are “gifted” to friends and family by their original owners. Subsequently, the receivers who tried to help also found that, they too, didn’t want the responsibility, so they “gifted” the animals on to the shelter operator. Many pet owners expect shelter owners to assume the responsibility of giving their unwanted pets a home because “shelter owners love animals”. 

    Even the most dedicated shelter owners who do everything in their power to make sure that shelters are managed well often lack a contingency plan. It is difficult to find other suitable and well-resourced people to take over, as running a shelter is expensive and labour intensive. Thus, when a person is no longer fit to run a shelter and a successor can’t be found or isn’t named, animals are at risk. Emergencies such as fire and eviction orders are not unheard of, if there is no disaster management plan in place, all the animals in the shelter could face an uncertain future.

    Over the years, the SPCA has seen many cases of problematic shelters and tried to help some to improve welfare in different ways. These efforts have achieved a variable degree of success. Firstly, shelter owners must agree to stabilise their population of animals by desexing. They also need to recognise their shelter has a carrying capacity, i.e. the number of animals that can acceptably be handled. They also have to work with the SPCA to improve their adoption rates and discuss disaster management planning. Continued growth is often detrimental to both the welfare of the animals and the shelter owner. With a cap on intake, desexing for all shelter animals and regular support, shelters should see improvements immediately.

    We should all remember that the need for an animal sheltering system arises from the problem of having unwanted animals in our society. Sheltering is a reactive, firefighting measure – resources are much better spent in preventing or reducing the problem of unwanted companion animals in the first place. Hence, much of the SPCA’s work is aimed at preventing this problem with education campaigns and desexing programmes, running in parallel to our adoption programme.


    How You Can Help

    • Educate your friends and family and ask them to consider the lifelong commitment required before taking on the responsibility of a new pet.
    • Get your own pet desexed – pet overpopulation and unwanted litters are still a problem in Hong Kong.
    • Adopt an animal – many shelter animals deserve a second chance at a family.
    • Help promote animal adoption.
    • Volunteer and get directly involved with an already established organisation.
    • Donate – monetary and in-kind donations (such as towels and bedding) are always welcome.


    Cautionary note:

    No matter how resourceful you are, we ask that you do not attempt to start your own shelter at the outset.  If you truly want to help animals, reach out to shelter caregivers and find out what kind of help they need. It is often a far more effective and efficient use of resources to help and improve existing shelters.

    If you own a pet, remember it is a lifetime responsibility. Abandonment is irresponsible and only adds to the burden of already overwhelmed shelters.


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  • Feature                                   Religious Release                                        14 - 17

    Religious Release:  Act of Mercy?
    Where good intentions go horribly wrong.

    With the Buddha’s birthday celebration just behind us, many of you might have seen or even partaken in a ritual known as “religious release” (fong sang, literally “release lives”). Tens of thousands of Buddhists practise the ritual to commemorate special Buddhist occasions. It involves the purchase and release of animals in captivity and is recognised as an act of good deed. While their intention is undoubtedly admirable, the practice itself as well as the issues associated with such activity on the environment, human health, and whether the practice really is still an act of compassion for the captured animals, are widely criticised by animal welfare groups from around the world.

    Although the tradition of releasing animals for Chinese Buddhists has been going on for centuries, its exact origin is unclear. It is considered by Buddhists to be an act of compassion as it intends to release captured animals that would otherwise be slaughtered (for example for consumption) back to nature.

    Chinese Buddhists have adopted animal release as one of their most practiced rituals, with Buddhist masters eagerly encouraging their followers to participate in the act themselves. Evidence has shown that animal release was mentioned exclusively in Chinese apocryphal compositions, making it an indigenous Chinese practice, which then later influenced Buddhist practices in neighbouring Buddhist countries such as Tibet, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, and in modern times, Taiwan. In fact, the practice has become so widely adopted in Taiwan that it is not only seen amongst Buddhist and Taoist communities, but has also permeated into practitioners of Christianity and folk religions (practiced by the local aboriginal groups).

    The practice of releasing animals and its increasing popularity has proven to be problematic on many fronts. One of the major issues concerns the commercialisation of the practice and its ethical and welfare implications. Supposedly, release is strictly limited to animals captured for consumption, but the huge demand from Buddhists wishing to partake in these rituals has fuelled the wildlife trade that caters specifically for religious release. The trade dates back to as early as the fourth century and its profit-driven practice directly contradicts the principles of religious release. From a welfare point of view, vendors care little about the well-being of the animals for sale and often mistreat them, causing many to die in the process of capture and transportation. Birds, fresh water turtles and fish are often transported in jam-packed small cages or containers, resulting in poor health and welfare for these captured animals. In fact, the death rates of released birds from the ceremony are also known to exceed 90%. They would have been far better off if they were not captured for sale and release in the first place.

    The act of religious release also affects animal welfare on a macro level, and its impact is far greater than just affecting the animals captured and released. Releasing animals into their non-native environment results in the introduction of an alien species, which will most likely cause disruptions in the local ecosystem where native species can be outcompeted and possibly driven into extinction. In Taiwan, the intentional introduction of invasive species has largely been a result of animal release in which practitioners lack knowledge of what constitutes local species in their natural habitats.

    It is estimated that half a million to one million birds are imported into our city every year for the sole purpose of religious release in these Buddhist ceremonies. The most common type of birds released in Hong Kong is the pigeon. Pigeons are one of the most common wildlife birds and attempts are often made to control their numbers. To call pigeons “wildlife” isn’t entirely accurate as they mostly thrive in urban areas such as city parks and rooftops. Pigeons are persistent birds and will take over areas, covering them with their waste, defecating on buildings, automobiles, sidewalks and benches. When pigeons move in, nearly everything else moves out and thus they are perceived to be a threat to other bird species and wildlife in Hong Kong.

    Many other animals apart from birds are imported for the purpose of religious release and they are a concern for the wildlife and natural environment in Hong Kong. Alongside pigeons, Hong Kong also sees a large number of fish and fresh water turtles (turtles represent longevity to Chinese) being released. Although seemingly harmless, these species have the ability to devastate the areas in which they are released. This includes rivers, ponds, and reservoirs but can also have an impact on the seas. An example would be the non-native Brazil turtles released into a lake in Guangzhou. They have been reported to contribute to the near extinction of native fresh water turtle species in the lake and are now the second most common turtles in all rivers surveyed in China.

    The threat of released animals may even carry over to humans. Health issues can arise from such practices because many aggressive diseases are passed from animals to humans. A notable contemporary example is the avian flu epidemic, which may resurface again at any time, especially with the introduction of a virus into new and expanded environments (potentially leading to more dangerous mutations and increased virulence). Unvaccinated birds are found more frequently in Hong Kong and close proximity with these animals to humans have, in the past, resulted in illness and death that can otherwise be more easily prevented. Pigeons released religiously in Hong Kong may pose such threats, as they are capable of spreading a large number of diseases. 

    The current form of Buddhist release practices raises many questions as to whether it can indeed be viewed as an act of compassion. Some forward-thinking Buddhist groups are already encouraging followers to adopt an animal, make a donation or even plant a tree to replace religious release as a way to “accumulate merit”. Alternatives such as these are still in line with Buddhist ideologies and is truly an act of compassion towards animals which are abandoned.


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  • Feature                                   Humane Pest Control                                   18 - 19

    Humane Pest Control

    The sight of these four-legged intruders is cause for alarm, but they still deserve our respect. Pest control never has to involve cruelty.

    As the sizzling summer is well on its way, animals that share the city with us are also becoming more active. The change in weather and food supply can lure some of these uninvited visitors indoors, and the rat is probably one of the most feared and unwelcome of all. Seeking an effective rodent control solution is one of the biggest concerns for people living in rat-infested areas.

    Earlier this year, residents of Lai On Estate in Shum Shui Po were supplied with “glue traps” by the Housing Authority (HA) for rodent control. Glue traps, though cheap, are not a humane method of rodent control, so the SPCA wrote to the HA and suggested they review their pest control policies and take into account the welfare of the rodents targeted. Though rodent control is necessary as rats and mice do carry dangerous diseases that pose a serious threat to public health, the method of control chosen should be humane, i.e. result in a quick, as painless as possible death to avoid any unnecessary suffering.

    When faced with a rat or mouse infestation, the first question to ask yourself is “what is the source of the problem?” This will help you determine your subsequent course of action. Given a serious infestation, or in a commercial setting (such as a restaurant), it is always advisable to engage the local authority (for example, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department) or a professional pest control agency. Even if you think you can manage the problem yourself, the pest control measures must be carried out humanely.


    Prevention is Always Best

    A rodent infestation is an indicator of a larger hygiene or waste disposal issue. Without access to food, water, shelter or nesting sites, rodents cannot flourish. Carrying out pest control when there’s already been an infestation is costly and messy. Therefore, the first step is ALWAYS to prevent it in the first place. Preventing access, especially to food storage areas, is of utmost importance. Making food and waste inaccessible is essential. Another way to prevent a rat invasion is to block the access points where they can enter. Materials such as wire wool can be obtained easily to block rodent entry into buildings through cracks and holes.

    If any rats or mice have been trapped inside of the premises at the time of rat-proofing, they should be caught/killed humanely (see below). Also, rat-proofing works should not be completed until the site is rodent-free. Otherwise, rats and mice trapped inside are likely to continue breeding and cause damage.


    The Ultrasonic Rat Repellent Scam

    Back in 2010, there were reports of hawkers selling a device that they claimed to effectively repel rodents by emitting ultrasonic sounds. These hawkers used live white mice in their demonstration. When the device was turned on, the mice would run around in their cages, evidently in pain and distress. The hawkers were later arrested for suspected animal cruelty and illegal animal display. The device also turned out to be an elaborate hoax – ultrasonic sound has been proven an ineffective rodent control measure. In the hawker’s demonstration, the base of the cage had been wired so that the mice would be electrocuted whenever the hawkers needed to prove the “effectiveness” of their device. The frantic reaction of the mice was to the pain of being shocked, rather than from the “ultrasonic sounds” being emitted.

    • Killing Kindly

    Mice are very effective at overcoming different forms of prevention. If they continue to be a problem, swift and humane forms of catching/killing mice should be performed to minimise the suffering of the animals.

    • Rodenticides

    Rodenticide is the most widely used approach to control rats and mice because it is cost-effective and can tackle substantial infestation. They are easily obtainable at stores and are often used in bait stations. Depending on the active chemical, a lethal dosage can cause internal bleeding, anaesthesia and digestive tract disturbance, all of which subsequently leads to death. Animals that have ingested rodenticides can suffer for days before death and thus it is not recommended as a humane pest control measure. It is also important to understand what rodenticide you are using, in case it is accidentally ingested by children or pets.


    Disposal: rodents killed by rodenticides should be disposed of carefully because their carcasses carry residues of the rodenticides used. This can present serious risks to wildlife, pets, stray animals and even children. The same goes to bait stations and uneaten bait. When in doubt, refer to the advice on the product labels or contact local authorities for advice.

    • Live-capture Traps

    Because the trap captures animals alive, it can be a humane way to control pests as long as they’re handled correctly. When traps are not checked often, rodents captured risk injures (from escape attempt) and compromised welfare (exposure to elements, hunger and thirst). If the intention is to kill live-trapped rodents, the following methods are considered to be humane:

    • Destruction of the brain by a strong and accurate blow to the head
    • Lethal overdose of appropriate gaseous or injectable anaesthetic (this technology is not available for general use – a professional pest control service must be engaged)


    • Glue Traps

    Glue traps can be cruel as they do not kill rodents immediately. If left unchecked, rodents trapped can starve to death over a number of days. Glue traps also trap non-target species – the SPCA has rescued many kittens and birds caught in glue traps.

    • Spring Traps

    An effective spring trap breaks the neck and spine of the rodent and as such is a humane control measure. Again, traps must be checked frequently in case trapped rodents do not die immediately.


    Remember This!

    Without relevant experience and skills, it is very difficult to catch/kill rodents humanely. Where possible, we ask that you engage a professional pest control agency to handle the problem and avoid carrying out rodent control measure yourself.

    Pests abound because of human activity and it is important to address the root cause of the problem. Rodent control, rat-proofing and prevention should be combined together as a holistic solution to tackle an infestation.


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  • Inspectorate               Inspector Profiles                                                      20 - 21

    Quenevere, Chan Man-tuen - Animal Rescue Inspector

    As the only female Inspector in the operational team, Quene has been working with us for two years. Before her time at the SPCA, she was working at another animal organisation as an adoption manager, where she ran an animal adoption centre. She was manager, kennel keeper, salesperson and cleaner all combined in one; naturally it gave her the job satisfaction she needed, particularly when the animals she cared for found loving homes. But she decided to take on a different set of challenges – to become an Animal Rescue Inspector.

    As one can imagine, Animal Rescue Inspectors come across all sorts of cases, and the things they see on the job are often grim, involving injured, sick and sometimes even dead animals. Dealing with this side of work is always a major challenge for someone fresh on the job, and it was no exception for Quene. It was her patience and enthusiasm that finally got her over the first hurdle.

    Throughout her two years with the Inspectorate, Quene has made countless rescue attempts but she recalls one incident particularly clearly. For some reason, the picture of a naughty but very cute Shih Tzu keeps popping up.

    About a year ago, Quene responded to a scene at Tsim Sha Tusi where a Shih Tzu was stranded on a window ledge outside the ninth floor of a building. Having sneaked out of the window, the small dog had no clue how to get back inside but was smart enough to stay put and keep barking. Eventually the noise caught the attention of a passer-by who reported the case to our hotline. As the first responder, Quene immediately knocked on the door but didn’t get any response, so she quickly made a call to request backup from the Fire Services.

    Teetering the edge, the canine seemed to understand the bespectacled woman on the hydraulic platform was there to help and started wagging it tail in anticipation. At such a great height, any sudden movement could have had a serious consequence, so Quene approached the Shih Tzu gingerly, and finally got hold of the miniature dog. It licked the back of Quene’s hands happily, almost as if to say, “Thanks for saving my life but please don’t tell my Mama anything!”


    Kelvin, YIP Shing Kam - Volunteer Inspector

    When Kelvin left the Hong Kong Police Force to pursue a different career in 2007, he was already looking into ways to serve the community using his unique knowledge and experience. “The SPCA Inspectorate immediately came to my mind because I would love the opportunity to work with animals. At that time the Inspectorate did not have a volunteer force so I submitted an unsolicited application and was invited to a meeting,” says Kelvin. The interview was nothing short of taxing – the Chief Officer Inspectorate, Tony Ho, and the Superintendent, Bobby Wong, asked tough questions about the feasibility of a team of volunteers handling work that requires very specific skills. It took a lot of convincing before they agreed to conduct a feasibility research. Kelvin spent two years assisting the Chief Officer Inspectorate in the research, ensuring that all points were thoroughly considered and properly managed. In 2009, the SPCA Volunteer Inspector Cadre was officially established, and Kelvin became its first team member, taking up operational duties. 

    Kelvin’s experience as a Detective Inspector is invaluable to the team, so apart from routine rescue missions, he is also involved in developing the Inspectorate Manual and basic training package, as well as sourcing and arranging external management training courses for the Inspectors. To gain a better understanding of the subject, he volunteered to go with Tony and Bobby on a duty visit to RSPCA Australia. He paid for his own expenses and said the trip was well worth it. “After the trip I can appreciate more the unique challenges faced by our Inspectors. They have to carry out investigations and rescue missions in a densely populated city on a daily basis,” says Kelvin.

    When asked how he feels about the job after six years, Kelvin says he enjoys doing “policing work” and helping animals at the same time. “Admittedly, much like any other city, there is a dark side of Hong Kong where animals are subjected to abuse, but on this job I can see the compassion shown towards animals by most citizens. Hong Kong is fortunate enough to have a professional Inspectorate to protect our four-legged friends and I would encourage anyone who has the necessary law enforcement knowledge and animal handling skills to join the Inspectorate either as a regular or a volunteer!”


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  • Inspectorate               SPCA Case Files                                                    22 - 23

    “Animal Cruelty is a Crime! ”

    Inspectorate Figures at a Glance:      January – March 2013

    Hotline calls received            8,893

    Animals handled                    1,027

    Animals rescued                    417

    Complaints investigated         280

    Pet shops inspected               63

    Wet markets inspected           141


    01 Convicted (January)

    Five cats were left behind in a village house in Tin Shui Wai without food, water and shelter, resulting in the death of one cat. The owner was later arrested and prosecuted. She was convicted and sentenced to four months imprisonment in March.


    02 Convicted (February)

    In September 2012, an owned dog inside a dog kennel in a village house in Tuen Mun was burnt by a man and sustained severe injury. The man later surrendered himself to the police and was prosecuted. He was convicted and sentenced to eight months imprisonment in February.


    03 Collected (February)

    A cat was found lying in a backstreet in Mongkok after it was hit by a taxi. SPCA Inspector collected the injured cat and took it back to SPCA hospital for immediate treatment. Unfortunately it was severely injured and was euthanised on humane grounds.


    04 Rescued (February)

    An owned cat escaped onto a ledge outside of the 13th floor of a residential building in Hammer Hill and was trapped right beneath a window. It was eventually rescued by SPCA Inspectors and was returned to its owner on scene.


    05 Rescued (February)

    A kitten was found with its hind leg stuck in a gap between a wall and a metal gate on the staircases in a school in Ho Man Tin. SPCA Inspectors loosened all the screws on the gate and made the gap a little bit wider. The frightened kitten was finally freed but it managed to escape before anyone could catch it.


    06 Rescued (February)

    A puppy was trapped in a water catchment of approximately five meters deep outside a residential garden in Tseung Kwan O. SPCA Inspectors climbed down the water catchment and successfully rescued the puppy. After that, it was taken to the SPCA hospital for treatment and care.


    07 Collected (March)

    An injured porcupine was found lying outside a house in Deep Water Bay Road. SPCA Inspectors were called to the scene to collect the animal. It was taken to Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden for immediate veterinary care and treatment.


    08 Rescued (March)

    A falcon was caught by a chain on a tree branch about six meters above ground on an artificial slope at the Service Reservoir in Ho Man Tin. Assisted by AFCD officers who chopped down the tree, the bird was eventually saved by SPCA Inspectors. It was collected by the Conservation Department of AFCD for custody.


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  • Veterinary                  Vet’s Case Book                                                      24 - 25 

    Patellar Luxation in a Seven-Month-Old Poodle


    What is patellar luxation?

    The patella (or kneecap) is a small bone buried in the tendon of the quadriceps (thigh) muscle. It sits in a boney groove of the femur (thigh bone) and there is a tendon (fibrous band) which leads from the patella to a boney crest on the tibia (shin bone), these landmarks help keep the patella in place. The quadriceps muscle, the patella and its tendon form an “extensor mechanism” to extend the knee and should be aligned with each other. Patellar luxation is a condition where the patella “flips out” out of its boney groove when the stifle is flexed.


    What causes patellar luxation?

    It is an inherited condition due to bad breeding and is particularly common in Poodles, Pomeranians and Yorkshire Terriers. In 50 % of cases it can affect both stifles and in the majority of cases the patella will “flip” medially (inwards).

    The groove into which the patella normally sits is commonly too shallow or absent. In addition there may be a misalignment of the “extensor mechanism” (patella, quadriceps muscle and tendon insertion on the shin bone) placing the patella outside the groove.


    Exam, screening tests, and imaging

    The diagnosis of patellar luxation is essentially based on palpation of an unstable kneecap on orthopedic examination and radiography of the stifles and hips to confirm the physical findings. Other clinical signs that affected dogs can exhibit include a characteristic skipping step or flicking the leg, however, in extreme cases the dog may be unable to walk.


    What Options are Available for Treating Patellar Luxation?

    If there are no clinical signs, consider monitoring the dog. It is important to note that some dogs appear “normal” to their owners because they have had the problem in both legs for a long time and have learnt to compensate! They can however have serious issues and painful knees. 

    One or several of the following strategies may be required to correct patellar luxation:

    • Reconstruction of the soft tissues around the knee.
    • Trochleoplasty: deepening of the boney groove in the femur so that the patella can sit more securely in its normal position. 
    • Tibial crest transposition: cutting and moving the boney crest of the tibia onto which the tendon of the patella attaches below the knee. This will realign the quadriceps muscle, the patella and its tendon.
    • In some cases, correction of an abnormally shaped femur (bone) is required.


    Case Report

    A seven-month-old female toy poodle called “Dolly” was presented to our hospital with walking difficulties including shuffling and shortened steps affecting both hind legs.  Palpation of the stifles revealed mild pain and identified patellar luxation in both joints, the right side being the worst.

    Surgery was performed on both stifles to correct the patellar luxations (trochleoplasty and tibial crest transposition). Four weeks post surgery, Dolly was moving well and had no problems with her implants. Radiographs confirmed that the patellas are in the correct position and the bone is healing as expected. Dolly started to gradually increase her exercise and it is anticipated she will make a full, pain-free recovery with a promising long-term outcome.



    What is the prognosis?

    Over 90% of owners are satisfied by the progress of their dog after surgery. But there is never a 100% guarantee!


    What are the complications?

    Complications occur infrequently but can include osteoarthritis, persistent instability, migration or breakage of surgical implants and infection.


    When to seek veterinary advice?

    You should seek veterinary advice if you have any concern about the gait of your pet. The severity of patellar luxation has been graded on a scale of zero to four, based on orthopedic examination of the knee. Surgical treatment is typically considered in grades two and above.


    What will happen if patellar luxation is not treated?

    Every time the patella rides out of its groove, cartilage (the normal lining of bones within joints) is damaged leading to osteoarthritis and associated pain. The patella may move more and more out of its normal groove, eventually exposing areas of bone. In addition this instability of the stifle predisposes the dog to other ligament damage such a cranial cruciate rupture.


    How to prevent patellar luxation?

    As this condition in inherited from dogs with these problems affected dogs (even mild cases) should NOT be bred from.


    Adapted from American College of Veterinary Surgeons


    Dr Leonard Hamilton, BVSc (Hons) MANZCVS (Surgery)
    Senior Surgeon


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  • Veterinary                  Vet Profile: Dr Michael Wilson                                 26

    Dr Michael Wilson
    Veterinary Surgeon, Australian



    Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc), Graduate Diploma in Veterinary Clinical Studies (GradDipVetClinStud) in Bovine Medicine and Surgery, University of Sydney, Australia.



    Since graduating I have worked in many fields of veterinary science, from large animal practice and intensive dairy work to small animal and animal welfare positions. I have also acted as a clinical tutor to veterinary students at the University of Sydney. One of my most recent posts was as a reptile and wildlife veterinary surgeon, treating pythons, lizards, kangaroos, possums and koalas!



    I have a special interest in reptiles, small mammals and veterinary dentistry.



    I have a strong background in animal welfare, and I believe this brings a lot of extra meaning into my working life. The working environment and policies of the SPCA mean it is an incredibly rewarding place for me to work, and even better, it is in Hong Kong!



    I have a cat and dog, both adopted strays. Gypsy, my 15 year old cat, was rescued from the RSPCA in Sydney. She is an amazing cat that has lost one eye to cancer, and has been through three intensive courses of chemotherapy to date. She’s a real inspiration! Jilly, my dog, is a 5 year old Jack-Russell cross terrier that I rescued from the streets of Sydney. 



    I’m a keen portrait and event photographer. I love travelling, and most days I’m happy to wander around exploring new places and meeting new people. I also enjoy life’s simple pleasures, great wine, good coffee, delicious food...



    During my time as a clinical tutor, we would visit farms to treat sick animals and run “herd health” programs. One morning we were called to a small farm to treat a “downer cow”. This poor old dairy cow had fallen in some muddy water and in her thrashing to get up she was digging herself deeper and deeper. We suspected that she had “milk fever”, a condition where the milk producing glands take so much calcium from the body, the cow cannot function properly. On examination, her heart was weak and rapid, consistent with “milk fever”. So with the help of two students wallowing in mud, we sat her up in the mud, and resting on the only dry place – her back. We gave her intravenous calcium, listening to her heart to make sure we weren’t giving too much or too rapidly. Soon, her heart became louder and stronger, and with almost no warning, she jumped up, and ran, with myself and two students bouncing off her back rodeo style! 


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  • Veterinary                  Vet Tips                                


    Think Before You Commit

    Choosing a dog requires careful consideration. Sadly from the number of dogs abandoned each year, it is a task that too many people take too lightly, soon finding out they have made the wrong choice. Things to consider:



    Will you have time to walk or jog with your dog every day? Dogs can exhibit “boredom” behaviour if they are not exercised enough. They may become destructive, aggressive, disobedient and obese. Dogs don’t take holidays, so you must be able to look after your pet in sickness and in health, weekdays, weekends and public holidays.


    Room to move

    Do you have the space for a dog in your flat? Depending on the type of dog, do you room to run, room to toilet?



    Veterinary care is not cheap, high quality medicines and procedures come at a cost. It is not just when they are sick, preventative medicine such as vaccination and heartworm prevention are essential. Food can also be expensive, especially for larger dogs!



    Taking on the responsibility of a pet is a huge commitment in time, physical space and money. Can you afford all these?


    Is my future dog healthy?

    Insist on seeing vaccination cards from a veterinary clinic. Ensure any potential dog receives a health check from a registered veterinary surgeon in your presence, checking for evidence of health issues such as congenital problems as well as infectious disease. This check does not mean the puppy will not get sick, it means there is no evidence of illness or issues at the time of examination. Infectious disease can take up to 10-14 days to show.


    Why should I adopt a dog, instead of buying from a breeder or pet shop?

    Many pet shop dogs come from puppy farms and are bred in less than desirable conditions with poor hygiene, inadequate nutrition and little room to move. Infectious disease, such as canine distemper and ringworm, spreads easily in these conditions and in some cases can even lead to death. Dogs from re-homing centres such as the SPCA have regular veterinary checks, are vaccinated and in general are a lot healthier… although it is never possible to give a 100% guarantee!


    Dr Michael Wilson,
    BVSc GradDipVetClinStud  


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  • Veterinary                  Ask the Behaviourist                                     27 

    Hot on Your Heels

    Q. I adopted a dog a few months ago and he follows me from room to room, even to the bathroom. Is this a problem?

    A. Dogs are social animals and develop strong emotional bonds with members of their family. If your dog follows you from room to room and always wants to be close to you, this might not in itself be a problem. In fact an owner may initially find this behaviour endearing as they see it as a sign that the dog loves them very much. However many dogs come to rely on their owners entirely for their emotional stability and this can lead to over-attachment. When dogs become too dependent on their owners, they may start to exhibit varying degrees of anxiety when separated from them, even for very short periods.


    Unfortunately this anxiety can escalate over time and result in problematic behaviour such as house soiling, destructiveness, digging and scratching near the door, barking, whining and, in extreme cases, even self-mutilation. Dogs also quickly learn certain cues that alert them to the fact that their owners are leaving, such as putting on certain shoes or getting their bags or keys, and they become anxious even before the owner has left. Some dogs may even actively try to prevent their owners leaving by tugging at clothing or blocking access to the door. Anxiety when left alone is not only very distressing for the dog but it also becomes a problem for the owner when their daily activities have to be planned to avoid leaving the dog alone.

    Dogs that have been adopted, especially if for one reason or another they have had several homes, may feel quite insecure and it may take a number of months before he starts to feel more confident. However, to prevent the onset of separation-related anxiety, it is important to teach your dog to spend time on his own. Start off by leaving him in another room for very short periods of time, even just a few seconds, and then slowly increase the time you are able to leave him without him becoming distressed. Leave him with something delicious to eat such as a food-filled kong so that he starts to associate being alone with something positive. When you do have to go out, do so without making a fuss or trying to reassure your dog. When you come home, ignore his excited greeting behaviour, but give him plenty of attention when he is calm and relaxed.


    Dr Cynthia Smillie runs the Animal Behaviour Veterinary Practice in Hong Kong.

    More information online at


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