Issue 91 - 2013/8

issue 91 - 2013/8issue 91 - 2013/8

Issue 91 - 2013/8

Contents

  • Latest News at the SPCA 2
  • Cover Story  Boycott the Bad Breeder: Behind the Scenes 6 - 9
  • Focus  A Day Out in the Field 10 - 13
  • Focus  Good Intentions Gone Bad 14 - 18
  • Inspectorate  Inspector Profiles 19
  • Inspectorate  SPCA Case Files 20 - 21
  • Veterinary  Vet Facts 22 - 23
  • Veterinary  Vet Profile: Dr Isobel Jenkins 24
  • Veterinary  Vet’s Tips 25
  • Veterinary  Vet’s Case Book 26 
  • Happy Ending  Everybody Loves Fei Jai 27 - 28
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(text only version)

  • Latest News at the SPCA                                                                           2

    Special Clinics for Members: Exotic Animals

    The SPCA strives to promote a broad depth of knowledge amongst our veterinary team through special interest clinics. As such we have recently started to offer regular clinics catering to the needs our more exotic pet owning members from rabbits and hamsters to snakes, reptiles and birds!

    We can now provide consultations to plan dietary and environmental requirements for your exotic pet. If your pet is sick, investigations including blood tests and radiographs are available at our centres. Treatment plans will be discussed and explained to you and can be tailored to suit your pet’s condition. We are fortunate to have a team of four veterinary surgeons with a special interest in exotics covering a wide number of our clinics. Dr Isobel Jenkins heads up our team and is available for consultation as follows:

     

    Wanchai 24-hr Hospital:
    Every Wednesday, for bookings please call: 2802 0501

    Kowloon Hospital:
    Every Thursday, for bookings please call: 2713 9104

     

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  • Cover Story          Boycott the Bad Breeder: Behind the Scenes         6 - 9

    Boycott the Bad Breeder: Behind the Scenes

    Pawprint goes behind the scenes of the SPCA’s campaign against unethical breeders and find out how the concept has been brought to life.

    You might have noticed the innocent puppy’s eyes in the ads we run in the newspapers, or seen the campaign videos of two individuals nonchalantly talking about a purchased puppy, in the cinema. On 15 July 2013, the SPCA rolled out a citywide campaign to educate the public on how bad breeding practices are cruel to dogs and urge everyone to sign a petition that calls for tougher laws to help end the cruel puppy trade.

    With the Hong Kong government’s plan to revise and upgrade pet trade laws, the idea of launching a campaign against bad breeding was in the works earlier this year. At the SPCA vet clinics, we face the horrific outcome of irresponsible dog breeding on a daily basis – purebred dogs riddled with hereditary diseases, not to mention the suffering we see in confiscated dogs from suspected illegal breeders. It is also our experience, however, that most dog owners are unaware of the risks involved in buying a puppy of dubious origin. But it was independent Creative Director Bob McNab who freely gave of his talents and developed the idea of drawing the audience into a purebred puppy’s haunting eyes behind bars – and that’s where the campaign started.

     

    From Concept to Reality

    Once the concept of the campaign was formulated, the team was faced with the biggest challenge – finding the right puppies for the job. Cute pedigree puppies are not hard to come by, but finding one to keep still long enough to face the camera is quite a different story! With our budget and welfare concerns, getting professional dog models was out of the question, so we enlisted our foster parent coordinator Lucy Wong to help.

    With her wide network of foster parents and adopters, Lucy managed to find us quite a number of pedigree dog owners who would gladly participate in our campaign. So on the day of the audition, the photographers had some great fun at the studio shooting these cute pups. While all of the puppies are photogenic and great to work with, we picked Tigger, Jojo and Rocky, all adopted from the SPCA, to deliver the greatest visual impact possible. Lovely as they are, the genetic illnesses that are associated with their breeds are a looming threat that can adversely affect their health, and the signs could begin to manifest at the age of three to seven.

     

    Tigger is a Miniature Poodle.

    His breed can suffer from a literal grocery list of hereditary diseases, including optic nerve hypoplasia which effects the eye and can lead to blindness in one or both eyes, joint disorders such as patellar luxation (loose kneecaps) and Legg-Calve-Perthes (LCP), blood disorders, allergies, epilepsy, and many others.

     

    Jojo is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

    His breed often suffers from a disease called syringomyelia where the skull size is too small for the brain, leading to severe pain and neurological problems. Jojo could also suffer from severe breathing problems due to brachycephalic “short nose” airway obstructive syndrome (BOAS), valvular heart disease, hip dysplasia and deafness.

     

    Rocky is a Golden Retriever.

    His breed suffers from hip dysplasia, where the hip joints of a growing puppy do not develop properly. This eventually will cause chronic joint pain and disability which may require long-term medication or even surgery. Goldens are also prone to cancer, digestive disorders, epilepsy, skin disease, other joint problems e.g. elbow dysplasia and heart disease.

     

    Buy the campaign t-shirt!

    Let everyone know you support our campaign. Buy a Boycott the Bad Breeder t-shirt and wear it whenever you have the chance. At HK$120 each, the t-shirts are available at all SPCA centres and charity sales booths across Hong Kong.

     

    Have you signed the petition?

    Please help us put an end to this trade of cruelty. We are aiming at presenting the collected signatures to the Secretary for Food and Health and the Legislative Council when the bill to amend pet trade law is opened for floor debate. The more signatures we get, the stronger the message we send.

    Sign the petition, and put the word around – ask your family and friends to sign, explain to them how important it is for the welfare of pet dogs in Hong Kong, and when there are questions, you can always get in touch with us on Facebook. Remember, our canine friends deserve our support!

     

    Acknowledgements

    Our greatest thanks go to independent Creative Director, Bob McNab, who donated his time, expertise and creativity, which will hopefully bring about a better tomorrow for Hong Kong’s dogs. We would also like to thank Timon and Jon of Red Dog Studio for their professional art direction in taking the still shots of the stars of our campaign; Pete and Alan of Drum Music for sound recording, effects and mixing of the campaign videos.

    “Boycott the Bad Breeder” was made almost entirely for free by many more wonderful people who donated their time and artistic talents because they believed in it. We would like to thank everyone who helped make it happen.

    Last but not least, the vision of our campaign would not become a reality without “Tigger” the Poodle, “Jojo” the King Charles Spaniel, “Rocky” the Golden Retriever. Our sincere thanks go to their adopters for their time and devotion to our campaign.

    Watch the three campaign videos at www.boycottbadbreeder.com

     

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  • Focus                          A Day Out in the Field                                              10 - 13

    A Day Out in the Field

    Pawprint follows the SPCA’s Community Dog Programme coordinator to the worksites and villages in the New Territories.

    As Al Chan navigated the roads in the New Territories, we ventured into a less-travelled part of the region, where the surroundings are increasingly rural and the sightings of feral dogs more common. In the back of the car were a few travel carriers for dogs, along with bags of dog treats, all of which are essentials for our Community Dog Programme (CDP) coordinator. On the day we shadowed Al, her responsibilities ranged from site visits to dog pickups for desexing procedures in our centres. Needless to say, she spends more time in the field than at the office.

    In the New Territories, dog overpopulation is prevalent. Feral dogs aside, owned dogs are also allowed to roam freely, many of which are undesexed. Their owners feed them regularly but rarely take any legal responsibilities for these animals – most do not license their dogs and few vaccinate them to prevent rabies and other diseases. These loosely owned dogs create a serious problem as they produce thousands of unwanted puppies each year. The majority of these litters cannot find homes and are either dumped on the street or at rubbish collection points. Once on the street, they are at risk of injuries, illnesses, starvation, traffic accidents, predation and an inhumane death.

    Therefore, the objective of the CDP is to provide assistance to dog owners in these areas, encouraging them to desex and license their dogs. Enquiries and requests for assistance about desexing do come through the CDP hotline, but we also try to reach out to the locals to see how we can help. With worksites and villages scattering throughout the New Territories, canvassing the area can be ineffective, yielding little results. Over the years, however, the programme has developed some good contacts in the area. Many dedicated volunteers keep a watchful eye on their neighbourhoods and when they know of any sites with groups of undesexed dogs, they inform the CDP coordinator. “Because these volunteers have a relationship with the community, it’s easier to get through to them. They act as a middleman, sometimes approaching the clients first – most of the time these people take a bit of warming up to and it takes a few visits before we can get more details on the dogs they own,” Al says. As a result, the bulk of her cases are referrals from the volunteers.

    As we pulled over at the first site for a preliminary visit, our friendly volunteer had just arrived, chatting with the manager, but it wasn’t the first time she visited this warehouse. “Living in the area, I’ve passed by this site many times and I can see they have more than a dozen dogs roaming around, some were even pregnant.” Sure enough, as Al surveyed the premises, which was quite sizable and consisted of a few warehouses, she found two pregnant bitches resting in the shades and estimated a total of 13 dogs roaming in the area. The manager gave us a tour and introduced us to the many dogs that have lived there, some well past their prime. Most dogs were clearly friendly with the workers (although slightly guarded towards strangers like us) and looked well fed. As expected, none of them were licensed. The manager also spoke of litters of puppies their dogs gave birth to before.

    The purpose of this visit was more than just counting dogs. Because of the unwanted litters their dogs have had, the site owner (who was not present) was more than willing to have his dogs desexed. Having said that, in Al’s experience, persuading owners to license their dogs is usually a much more difficult challenge. Although a legal requirement to keeping dogs, most are apprehensive of the legal implications, especially when the dogs have been allowed to roam freely. In this case, we were lucky enough to be dealing with a responsible owner, and a volunteer that really works hard to make him realise the various advantages of desexing. Given the number of dogs involved, engaging our Animal Welfare Vehicle would be the most efficient way to help this owner. Al explained the procedures to the warehouse manager briefly and promised to come back again with paperwork.

    After stopping by a scrapyard in the area for a similar visit, we arrived at another worksite where Al had scheduled to pick up two mongrels, a fully-grown female and a six-month male, for desexing. With a leash and a few pieces of dog treats, we were able to coax the female into the carrier without much problem. The young male was an entirely differently story – it was a lot of chasing and waiting around before Al could get him in the carrier. In a case where fewer dogs are involved and transportation assistance is needed, the CDP coordinator would make multiple trips to the site to pick up dogs for surgery in one of our centres and transport them back once the dogs are in condition to travel.

     

    SPCA’s Community Dog Programme (CDP)

    Note that CDP is NOT to be confused as a TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) programme. Similar to CCCP (Cat Colony Care Programme), TNR for dogs targets feral dogs for vaccination and desexing – dogs under this programme will be microchipped but remain unowned and feral. The CDP, however, targets owned dogs mainly in worksites or villages in the New Territories.

    The CDP coordinator will review each case and assess what form of assistance (financial, transportation or others) can be offered, but all dogs desexed under this programme must be microchipped and licensed – we are helping dog owners desex their dogs but an even more important component of this programme is to educate and promote the importance of responsible dog ownership, as well as to have the owners legally responsible for their dogs.

    If you are caring for a group of undesexed dogs or know of someone who is, please don’t hesitate to contact our CDP coordinator at 2232 5511 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

     

    Interesting Observations

    The targeted dog owners of CDP are from a very specific demographic – unlike dog owners in the city who primarily keep dogs as pets, most worksite workers and villagers keep their dogs as guard dogs. As such, most are in favour of “fiery” dogs and believe that desexing, whilst giving the dogs a milder temper, renders them undesirable gatekeepers.

    Curiously, most also believe that male dogs are more suitable for the job. If a case involves both female and male dogs, the owner is more likely to desex the females because, while unwanted pregnancy is a potential problem, desexed male dogs don’t seem to bring any immediate benefits.

     

    New SPCA Desexing Centre

    To better our desexing efforts in the New Territories, the SPCA is building a new mongrel desexing centre near Fairview Park. Stay tuned for more news of this new centre!

     

    The Standard Process of Following up on a CDP Case

    1. Enquiries through hotline or referral
    2. Prilimiary site visit
    3. Case evaluation
    4. Owner to sign paper works for licensing and surgery agreement
    5. Dog pickups where transportation assistance is necessary
    6. Surgery at one of SPCA’s centres
    7. Return dogs to owner

     

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  • Focus                          Good Intentions Gone Bad                                     14 - 18

    Katherine Polak, DVM, MPH
    Dr Katherine Polak, an animal welfare veteran, talks about the perils of animal hoarding.

    For those of us who love animals, it’s natural to want to provide a loving home for all unwanted animals. But what happens when your well-intentioned passion to save lives becomes an uncontrolled obsession?

    In the United States alone, it is estimated that up to 250,000 animals are victims of a phenomenon known as hoarding. When most people think about animal hoarding, they recall shocking news stories about the crazy cat lady who feeds 100 cats or an overcrowded trailer filled with animals, faeces, and trash. Unfortunately, news stories such as these are becoming frequently more common. While the exact number of hoarding cases is difficult to estimate, records from the non-profit organisation Animal Legal Defense Fund indicate that they are on the rise. In the US, the number of reported cases of animal hoarding has doubled in the last four years. Hoarding is considered to be the number one animal cruelty crisis facing communities nationwide.

     

    What is Animal Hoarding?

    The term “animal hoarding” refers to a compulsive need to collect and keep animals without the ability to properly care for them. While the number and species of animal can vary, hoarders own more than what would be considered the “typical” number of household pets. Not uncommonly, hoarders will amass hundreds of animals in their possession and fail to provide the most basic of necessities such as clean food or water. Animals in such situations are often found dead, starving and with diseases so severe that they easily constitute animal cruelty. 

    Conditions for both the animals and humans are typically deplorable. The accumulation of waste caused by animal overcrowding poses an array of health risks. As dictated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, ammonia concentrations of 50 parts per million (ppm) or higher is an extreme respiratory irritant and is deleterious to one’s health. In many hoarding homes, ammonia levels measure above 150 ppm, even after the homes have been opened and ventilated.

    From an animal care perspective, hoarding leads to severe medical and behavioural problems. Excessive confinement and lack of socialisation, food, water, sanitation, and veterinary care lead to undue suffering and often death for animals involved. Even after these animals are seized by local authorities after a rescue, they are at significant risk for being euthanised due to their health and behavioural issues.

     

    Case Example:
    27 February 2012
    Caboodle Ranch, Madison County, Florida

    In February 2012, 693 cats were seized from a property posing as a cat sanctuary. At Caboodle Ranch, investigators found hundreds of cats with severe respiratory disease, emaciation, and eyes matted shut. Dead cats were found scattered on the property. Cat faeces and vomit covered the floors of the buildings. The conditions found on site were in stark contrast to the images portraying this as a safe haven for cats on their website. Promotional video put out by the organisation showed cats frolicking outside in the sunshine.  Instead, most cats were kept in overcrowded and unsanitary trailers.

    Sadly, most of the cats at Caboodle Ranch had been dropped off by people and animal shelters that had the best of intentions, trusting that their cats would be well taken care of. After months of documentation and investigation, the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) launched a large-scale rescue and sheltering operation to seize the cats and take care of them for over five months, due to ongoing legal issues. Over US$1.7 million dollars was spent on the case to feed, water, and care for these cats until they could be placed in adoptive homes. 

    Animal hoarders generally fall into one of these three categories:

    The Overwhelmed Caregiver

    This is the typical pet lover who passively acquires pets. This person may have recently suffered from unfortunate changes in life circumstances which have led to he or she being unable to provide proper care to the animals. In this person’s eyes, pets are family members. He/she may be aware of the reality of animal suffering, but fails to pursue alternatives to improve the conditions. This hoarder is often socially isolated and his/her self-esteem is linked to their role as a caregiver. 

    The Rescuer Hoarder

    This hoarder originally began rescuing animals with the intention of adopting them into good homes but somewhere along the way made the decision that he/she alone can provide the best care for the animals. This person actively seeks out animals in a compulsive nature. He/she may have people that enable him/her to acquire animals.

    The Exploiter Hoarder

    This type of hoarder is perhaps the most difficult to work with. Animals are merely property to this hoarder and he/she frequently lacks guilt or remorse for the degree of animal suffering. This person has sociopathic tendencies and may be manipulative and cunning, often exhibiting superficial charm and charisma.

    While the psychological impairment associated with this behaviour has not yet been completely established, most experts agree that there is a mental health component. Similar to obsessive compulsive disorder. Perhaps one of the most disturbing and upsetting characteristics of hoarders is their gross inability to recognise the effects of their hoarding on the animal’s welfare. A hoarder often proclaims, “No one can care for my animals like I can!” while standing in room filled with garbage, dirty litter pans, and sickly cats.

     

    Hoarder or Rescuer?

    There is no such thing as a typical hoarder. Demographically, studies have found that hoarders are often middle-aged woman who are retired, disabled, or unemployed. However, animal hoarders can come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds as some of the worst cases have been found in the homes of professionals including lawyers and doctors. These examples demonstrate the variety of people that have been found guilty of hoarding in the US:

    • Vickie Kittles, a homeless woman, was found guilty of travelling across the country in a school bus carrying 115 dogs, 4 cats, and 2 chickens. Rescuers were forced to wear ventilators when entering the bus due to the overwhelming stench of animal waste.
    • Marilyn Barletta, an upper-class wealthy educated woman, bought a quarter million dollar house (HK$2,000,000) in California for the sole purpose of housing her collection of 200 cats, many of which were found to be hiding in cupboards, walls, and drawers. A total of 5 dead cats were found decomposing on the property.

     

    Hoarding has also been discovered among groups operating under false pretences of legitimate animal welfare groups such as animal shelters and sanctuaries. The ASPCA has reported an increasing number of animal hoarders operating as animal rescue operations.

     

    The Shelter’s Role

    Most investigations of hoarding situations are prompted by an initiating event such as a barking dog or stench of ammonia. Neighbours may contact their local animal control or shelter who uncovers a situation much more catastrophic than simply a barking animal.

    Upon uncovering a hoarding case, a legal investigation is typically undertaken to determine the severity and logistical considerations of the situation. Legal and humane interventions in large-scale cases can be procedurally cumbersome and costly, often requiring a multi-faceted response involving representatives from animal control, humane societies, public health, codes enforcement, social services, and law enforcement. The communities themselves are often forced to bear the burden of hoarding cases.

    When the number of animals and severity of conditions exceeds the response capacity of local agencies, such as a small animal shelter, a collaborative effort between local and national agencies is often required. When animals are removed from a hoarding case and taken to a shelter for care, the shelter typically bares the financial responsibility for food, veterinary care, and housing, which can easily bankrupt a small organisation.

    Historically, the high prevalence of disease and lack of socialisation of animals seized in large-scale cases often resulted in mass euthanasia in shelters already crowded by pet overpopulation. In recent years, responding agencies have invested in the physical and behavioural rehabilitation of seized animals to reduce their euthanasia. This has increased the number of animals eventually placed in homes and the cost of intervening in suspected cruelty cases. The costs may exceed US$1-2 million in the largest cases.

     

    Case example:
    Small shelter tackles goat hoarding case

    In 1997, a non-profit shelter with an annual intake of around 12,500 animals tackled a hoarding case involving 240 goats. Because many of the goats were pregnant, the number of goats quickly grew from 240 to 340 within months. Shelter staff and volunteers were pushed to their limits trying to care for these animals every day. Many of them needed extensive medical treatments for diseases such as Q-fever, a zoonotic disease that ended up infecting over 50 shelter staff members. When all was said and done, the shelter ended up spending an immense amount of resources on this case and decreased their overall lifesaving capacity for the other animals coming into the shelter.

     

    The Legal Process, or Lack Thereof

    Hoarding cases are very difficult to process in court and most agencies are confused as to how to legally address them. Most states have no legal definition of animal hoarding and courts assign low priority to animal abuse cases. It is easier for most agencies to simply turn the other way and ignore hoarding situations. In the US, most states do not explicitly define hoarding in their animal protection statutes. This means that most situations leave room for interpretation and difficult to prosecute. For instance, a hoarder may, by legal definition, provide water for her 300 cats through an open toilet bowl but few would argue that this constitutes appropriate care.

    Some municipalities attempt to implement a variety of laws including pet limitation, animal licensing, rabies vaccination, and microchipping mandates. However, these efforts often fail to address the scope and complexity of animal hoarding.

    Because recidivism rates for hoarders are almost 100%, meaning that nearly all hoarders will continue to hoard in the future, most experts agree that traditional means of punishment through fines and jail time are insufficient in combating the problem. Often times the only long-term solution is to keep hoarders from ever owning animals and to implement a system for continuous monitoring and supervision to ensure the hoarder does not collect more animals. Unfortunately, this is rarely performed and convicted hoarders will frequently flee to another state and begin hoarding again.

     

    Is There Hope?

    It’s important to recognise that there is light at the end of the tunnel for many animals, such as Petunia and Moo, who are victims of hoarding.  These kitties were abandoned on a veterinarian’s doorstep and brought to a hoarder posing as a rescue. Petunia was blind and Moo was considered to be her “guardian angel”. After living at the sanctuary for years in deplorable conditions, both were eventually rescued and adopted to a loving couple who cherishes every day with their new companions. There’s also hope for hoarders as well. In many countries and municipalities, communities are forming hoarding task forces so that housing and health departments can coordinate their responses to hoarding and get the hoarders the psychological help they need. On the mental health front, the revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V, considered to be the bible of mental disorders, will now recognise hoarding as a distinct disorder increasing awareness of the problem in the medical community.

    While we may have only just begun to scratch the surface on effective ways to address hoarding, one thing is certain: there is still much work to be done.

      

    About the contributor:

    Dr Katherine Polak works for the University of Florida, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program and is a strong supporter of the Hong Kong SPCA. Her research and clinical interests focus on the health and welfare of animals in shelters, international trap-neuter-return programmes and veterinary forensics. She graduated Magne Cum Laude from Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in the US and completed a shelter medicine and surgery internship at Colorado State University. She has also completed a Master of Public Health from the University of Iowa and a Master of Forensic Science from the University of Florida.

     

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  • Inspectorate               Inspector Profiles                                                      19 

    Fai, Cheung Ka Fai - Animal Rescue Inspector

    2008 was the year Fai joined the SPCA Inspectorate. As with any new member of the team, he took a year-long training to learn relevant skills, including animal handling, rescues and related legal knowledge. Upon accumulating enough experience and passing an internal assessment, he has officially become an SPCA Animal Rescue Inspector.

    The bulk of an Inspector’s job is to travel to all parts of Hong Kong and rescue animals in distress. The situations animals get themselves into, especially in an urban environment, can be unfathomable to some. But most of the time, a combination of luck and timely rescue is what they need!

    Fai’s years of experience as an Inspector have seen him working in all sorts of odd situations. The most difficult and trickiest rescues of all, however, remains to be highway rescues. Often times, dogs get lost and venture into highways, and it’s one of the most common rescue missions our Inspectors encounter. Fai recalls a nightshift he was on some time ago, where our hotline received a report of a wandering puppy on Fanling Highway. As it was approaching daybreak, Fai responded to the scene immediately in hopes of rescuing the puppy before traffic got busy. What was reported as a puppy, as Fai found out, was actually a fully-grown Rottweiler which was slightly on edge as it watched the man in uniform approaching. Taking refuge in the roadside shrubs, the Rottweiler’s eyes were darting between the road and Fai, tempted to run into the highway traffic.

    Seeing that it’s only a matter of time before the Rottweiler ran off, Fai called in the police for backup and requested that they blocked access to that road section temporarily. Once the road was sealed off, Fai tried reaching out to the scared canine again and instantly started a tiring chase. In the end, with both man and dog exhausted, the Rottweiler finally surrendered and let Fai take it back to our centre for a veterinary exam. On scanning its chip, we even managed to reunite the dog with its owner – the naughty dog sneaked out of home the day before and while lost on the road, had found its way to the dangerous highway. 

    On the day of our interview, Fai had just finished a nightshift and from his bloodshot eyes, we could see that it had not been an easy night. The job satisfaction and the endless adventure stories he gets to tell his daughter have been driving him to work hard every minute on the job, because at the end of every animal rescue story, there is a little girl waiting to say, “Dad, you’re truely a hero!”

     

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  • Inspectorate               SPCA Case Files                                                    20 - 21 

    “Animal Cruelty is a Crime ! ”

    Inspectorate Figures at a Glance: April – June 2013

    Hotline calls received            9,898

    Animals handled                    1,498

    Animals rescued                    522

    Complaints investigated         332

    Pet shops inspected               70

    Wet markets inspected           105

     

    01 Rescued (April)  

    Whilst taking her three dogs out for a hike in Sai Kung, a lady had to call in for help because one of the dogs collapsed. Weighing at 40kg, it was impossible for her to carry the bulldog back to the main road all by herself. Having located the dog after an hour of search on foot, Inspectors immediately poured water on the dog to cool it down and carried it for about 30 minutes along a very steep and slippery path. It was immediately taken to a private veterinary clinic in Sai Kung for veterinary care.

     

    02 Rescued (April)  

    An owned cat escaped from the window of a 48th floor flat in Tai Kok Tsui and was trapped. A total of four SPCA Inspectors arrived on scene to help. After assessing the situation, the team decided to abseil down the building to the cat’s rescue – a move not without risk. With careful maneuvering, the cat was finally reunited with its very happy owner.

     

    03 Rescued (May)  

    A young egret was found tangled in a net in the middle of Shing Mun River. Upon arrival, SPCA Inspectors saw that the egret was over 50 metres away from shore and had to request assistance from the Shatin Rowing Centre. A rowing trainer took the Inspectors out in a small boat to where the egret was, finally freeing it from the net. After getting it back on shore, however, the Inspectors found that it as sustained injuries in the wings and therefore took it to Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden for treatment and rehabilitation.

     

    04 Convicted (May)

    In February, a dog was found with its right front paw tied up tightly with a cable tie to the fence of a village house in Ping Che. In the same house, another dog was kept in a rabbit cage so small it was unable to move. The owner was arrested and was later sentenced to 160 hours of community service and a HK$6,000 fine in May. One of the dogs has been rehomed while the other is still awaiting adoption.

     

    05 Rescued (June)  

    A cat was found trapped on a tree branch about seven metres above ground outside Wang Tau Tong Estate, Tai Po. SPCA Inspectors responded to the scene but no ladder was high enough to reach the cat. Inspectors then called in Fire Service for assistance. With the help of a hydraulic platform, they were able to rescue the feline and send it to the SPCA hospital for custody and care.

     

    06 Convicted (June)           

    Last December, four dogs were found with their snouts bound shut with plastic straps in Shau Kei Wan. Their owner claimed to have done so to prevent them from barking and was later arrested and prosecuted. In June, she was sentenced to 140 hours of community service. One of the dogs has found a new home while the others are still waiting to be rehomed.

     

    07 Convicted (June)           

    In January this year, five Beagles were discovered to be locked in a cage without food and water. The cage was so cramped that the dogs were unable to turn around. The owner was later arrested and charged with cruelty to animals. In June, he was fined HK$3,000. All five Beagles were happily rehomed afterwards.

     

    08 Rescued (June)     

    A pangolin was found hiding in a corner in a public housing estate in Choi Hung. Our Inspectors responded to the scene and carefully picked up the frightened animal. It was then transferred to Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden for care and rehabilitation.

     

    Cat Owners Beware!

    Despite repeated reminders, we still see pet cats stranded in high places on a weekly basis – most of the time because owners have neglected to prevent their cats from exploring dangerous places. If you own a cat, make sure you take the necessary precautions!

     

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  • Veterinary                  Vet Facts                                                                    22 - 23

    Keeping Exotics!

    Keeping exotic species can be more complicated than you think; they actually require a more specialised environment and care than a dog or a cat! Firstly, if you choose to look after such a pet, it is vital you ensure it has been bred in captivity and not taken from the wild. Secondly, research the needs of the animal before acquiring and carefully consider if it is really the right or best type of pet for you.

    All new pets should have a health check by a vet who can also help advise on care instructions.

    At the SPCA, we do not recommend keeping dangerous species or venomous pets. 

    Here are a few basic but vital facts to consider:

     

    Birds

    Birds can be very intelligent and, like people, they need company. As such if you work long hours, a bird is not an ideal pet for you! 

    • Because of their intelligence, teaching commands and playing games with your bird is very important and can reduce boredom. Birds live in a “structured society” and it is important to keep your bird below shoulder height while handling and teaching to ensure a hierarchy is maintained, i.e. who’s boss?!
    • A bird should be free to fly, ideally in an aviary as being in a cage can lead to stress and institutionalised behaviour. Issues such as feather plucking unfortunately occur all too often in captivity.
    • Natural sunlight or an avian UVB lamp is important to prevent mineral deficiencies. However, just like all animals, no bird should be exposed without a shady spot to retreat to if necessary!
    • Make sure you feed a good quality diet such as the Harrison’s brand. Seed based diets can lead to diseases such as liver diseases or fungal infections. In addition, they lack essential vitamins and minerals.
    • Birds do not mix well with cats or dogs as they are natural prey.
    • Birds can carry diseases such as Psittacosis (“Parrot Fever”), which can lead to serious illness in humans, so they are not recommended for houses with children, the elderly or people with health problems.

     

    Reptiles

    Reptiles can make great pets, but all too often people are unaware how much care and attention they actually need. Experience shows over 80% of “sick” reptiles seen in veterinary practice are sick due to an inappropriate living environment, and can be treated by educating their owners!

    • Most reptiles find manipulation stressful. They are not domesticated like cats or dogs, they do not seek comfort from humans or expect petting!
    • Reptiles need broad-spectrum lighting including UVB wavelengths, without this some will develop vitamin deficiencies and become sick.
    • Reptiles have specific dietary requirements, sometimes that include food that you might find gross (dead rodents or insects) or may be hard to find.
    • Some species will drink from a bowl whereas others may only take water from droplets on plants or decorations!
    • Reptiles need hiding spots, they will become traumatised if they have no place to retreat to.
    • Reptiles have specific temperature, humidity and size requirements for their living environments. It’s a common misconception that reptiles stop to grow when they live in small tanks! They don’t stop growing… they just get sick from the stress!
    • If you have an aquatic species, make sure that they have access to water, and enough to swim in.
    • So if you are not able to invest time and money to prepare your reptile’s environment, think again! It is essential your budget will cover the costs for an adapted tank, a hiding spot, specific light bulbs, sources of heat, some form of humidity control and a water filter (for aquatic species).

     

    Small Mammals

    Whilst being small, cute and fluffy, many of our “pocket pets” require a lot of care and if kept improperly, will rapidly fall ill. Additionally, as they are a prey species, they tend to hide disease, so the first time you see any signs you must act quickly!

    • For rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas, eating hay or grass is essential for maintaining gastrointestinal and dental health and should make up most of their diet.
    • A rabbit should eat its own body size of hay in a day! A tablespoon of pellets can be offered, as well as fresh vegetables and a very small amount of fruits (though not fruits high in simple sugar such as lychees or bananas).
    • Hamsters in captivity can be fed commercial rodent mixes with additional fresh vegetables.
    • Guinea pigs have an essential dietary requirement for Vitamin C, which can be easily supplemented through fresh vegetables, in water or through tablets.
    • All species require fresh and clean water at all times.
    • Rabbits and guinea pigs should be housed in hutches or cages, as large as possible, and away from wind, rain, predation and direct sunlight (as they can suffer from heatstroke). If housed indoors they may need air-conditioning during the hot months.
    • Always provide bedding of newspaper or wood shavings, not sawdust.
    • Chinchillas are very active and destructive so should be housed in multi-level wire cages to allow natural jumping and climbing behavior. A dust bath should be offered daily.
    • Hutches should be cleaned out at least once a week to prevent disease. Toilet training rabbits to use a litter tray can make cleaning easier!
    • Guinea pigs, rabbits and chinchillas are social animals and are best kept in same sex groups. If opposite sexes are kept together the animals should be neutered to prevent unwanted breeding. Chinese and Russian hamsters can also be social but Syrian hamsters are solitary animals and will fight if kept together!

     

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  • Veterinary                  Vet Profile: Dr Isobel Jenkins                                              24

    Dr Isobel Jenkins
    Veterinary Surgeon, British

     

    ACADEMIC QUALIFICATION:

    Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (BVetMed), Royal Veterinary College, University of London, General Practitioner Certificate (Exotic Animal Practice) & Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS), UK.

     

    CAREER PATH:

    At the age of fourteen, I started my “career” gaining work experience at our local practice which introduced me to the world of exotic pets. I rapidly became fascinated by the birds and reptiles. At university, I followed this interest with a research project investigating the prevalence of a parasite Trichomonas in pigeons in London. Upon graduation in 2008, I worked in a small animal and exotic clinic in Kent, England where I stayed for almost three years. The clinic treated a wide variety of unusual pets from degus (small rodents) to monitor lizards. My favourites were our rabbit and “pet” chicken patients! I spent a short time locuming in the UK before I moved to Hong Kong and commenced my career at the SPCA in April 2012.

     

    VETERINARY INTERESTS:

    Exotic pet care and welfare. I am particularly interested in our small furries including rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs. However, I still enjoy cat and dog medicine and surgery.

     

    REASONS FOR WORKING AT THE SPCA (HK):

    I want to help improve the lives of as many animals as possible. The SPCA is the perfect job to help in all areas from pet animal disease prevention and treatment to wild/feral animal management and even education. For this reason I jumped at the opportunity to work in such an impressive organisation!

     

    PETS:

    “Udon” my ginger rescue cat who has ventured all the way to Hong Kong with me.

     

    INTERESTS:

    Crafts, arts and hiking.

     

    MOST UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE:

    One morning in Kent, a cute black rabbit was presented to me by his observant owners who had noticed he was not passing faeces well, and that those he did pass were very small and hard. He was suffering from ileus, i.e. his “guts” had just stopped moving! A common cause of ileus is dental pain but upon examination his teeth were normal, and weirdly his stomach was completely full! We started medications and care to stimulate his bowels to resume their normal motion, but after a couple of hours, there was no improvement and he was becoming unresponsive and very weak. His stomach was still very full!

    Gastric impaction can occur with rabbits due to blockages in their small bowel or stomach “exit”. The only way to save the rabbit was to perform surgery to relieve the impaction (a risky procedure!). On removal of the stomach contents, there was nothing abnormal blocking the stomach or bowel (such as a hairball). Despite improving after the surgery and eating well, his guts were still not moving normally! There is a parasite of rabbits (E.cuniculi) which is spread by rabbit urine which can cause damage to kidneys, nerves and eyes. I suspected this parasite was involved with my patient’s poor gut function and started him on treatment. His owners monitored his faeces carefully, collecting each day’s faeces in a ziplock bag! He responded well and despite needing to remain on medication to help his gut function he returned to his normal happy cheeky self, much to everyone’s relief!

     

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  • Veterinary                  Vet’s Tips                                                                  25

    Playing games
    The secret to keeping your bunny happy.

    “House rabbits” are becoming  popular pets because they enjoy companionship and can be very inquisitive. Most rabbits should be kept in pairs, but make sure you have them desexed to prevent unwanted litters. Even same sex groups can have arguments, so make sure they are compatible as friends!

    Make sure your house is rabbit proof and protect electric wires and precious objects from becoming toys. Offering safe, alternative objects to explore will reduce any damage that a curious rabbit can do. As rabbits love to play and explore, simple fun toys and games are great to keep them amused and are also very entertaining to watch!

    • The Tunnel

    Some rabbits love to dash from place to place through a tunnel. Make the tunnel out of an arc or cylinder of cardboard. You can stuff some shredded newspaper in the tunnel for them to rearrange or dig in for added interest.

    • Ball Games

    Believe it or not, rabbits can play football… but they may not follow the rules! Find a lightweight children’s ball about half the size of your rabbit and see if they like to push it around with their nose. Experiment with different sizes as some rabbits like balls even bigger than they are!

    • Digging Box

    Find a box that’s a few inches deep and fill it with strips of newspaper or “carefresh” bedding. Then just stand back, let your bunny dive in, make a mess and dig… excellent fun!

    • The Box Castle

    Take a simple cardboard box that will fit your rabbit (plus a little space to move around) and cut rabbit-sized holes in the sides so they can hide and play in it. A couple of boxes can be fun as you can hide a vegetable treat in one for them to find as a reward!

    • Chase

    Some brave rabbits will even enjoy a game of chase. If your rabbit likes to run at you, try running away and letting them catch you. It’s now your turn to chase your bunny a few steps, and then turn and run away. Remember this is a game for an outgoing bunny, so don’t keep running if they don’t respond or seem scared!

     

    Most of all spend time relaxing and watching you furry friend for opportunities to join in their games! Friendly play will strengthen your bond and give you both a rewarding and companionable relationship.

     

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  • Veterinary                  Vet’s Case Book                                                      26

    Snake Surgery
    A Slithery Problem

    In January 2013, a corn snake was surrendered to the SPCA’s Hong Kong Centre. On veterinary exam, the snake was thin and dehydrated and had a large gash in his skin from apparently trying to squeeze though an air-conditioning vent.

    Over the next 10 days, he was nursed to better health by Dr Michael Wilson (one of the SPCA vets with a special interest in exotics). When a stronger surgery was performed, however, once the damaged tissue was removed, it left a gaping hole as big as a $2 coin which when cleaned and stitched, resulted in an obvious large “kink” in his body.

    After a further two weeks of intensive care and tube feeding, the wound finally healed and the snake began to eat on his own and shed his skin (a sign of good health). After several more weeks, the stitches were removed, and since then the snake has grown and shed again! He is now looking good despite the big scar on his skin  and has finally lost the kink and is moving around normally (Fig. 4), all in all a much happier snake. He has been adopted by Dr Sylvain David (another of the SPCA’s “exotic” vets) and is enjoying his new home!

     

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  • Happy Ending                      Everybody Loves Fei Jai                           27 - 28

    Everybody Loves Fei Jai
    Our chubby long-stay cat finds love in a house full of animals.

    Here at the SPCA, sometimes our staff still talks about animals that no longer inhabit our catteries and kennels. As the keepers clean out the cages or pick up a donated toy, old, fond memories flood back and remind them of their favourite charges, often animals with distinctive characteristics.

    This time, the story centres a handsome, “big-boned“ tabby who came to us in May 2011 via a CCCP volunteer. Given his size, our hero has been aptly named “Fei Jai” (chubby boy). Slightly grumpy in nature, Fei Jai has adopted a sombre outlook on life, like a cat that had seen too much street life. Just when the folks at our cattery began to worry about the future of this grumpy old cat, one of our homing assistants, Ah Man, fell in love with him and started a fan club.

    Recounting her love for Fei Jai, Ah Man couldn’t really put her finger on why she was so attracted. “He’s somewhat grumpy, but does all sorts of silly things from time to time. I just became completely fascinated and started to keep an eye on this special guy.” Throughout his stay at the SPCA, Fei Jai has transferred from centre to centre in hopes of finding a new home. We featured him in newspaper articles; we made special appeals to our members; his posters were plastered everywhere in our centres. 

    Unfortunately, nobody could give him a permanent home, not until about 18 months later.

    In December 2012, Michelle Chan was looking for another adult cat to keep her cat, Toby, company. She had recently lost her 11-year-old British Short Hair and was afraid that Toby was lonely, as they had spent many years together. Knowing full well the cruelty that exists in the pet trade, as her British Short Hair was purchased from a pet shop and had suffered from long term skin problems, Michelle wanted to adopt from the SPCA and give an adult cat a chance at a good home. 

    That was when she spotted Fei Jai on our website – and joined the fan club instantly. Eager to meet, Michelle hurried down to our Sai Kung Centre, only to find that Fei Jai had just been transferred to our headquarters. She remained undeterred, and followed him to our Wanchai centre a few days later. When the two finally met, Fei Jai’s grumpy temperament surprised Michelle. Formerly a street cat, Fei Jai, though friendly, did not really like being touched or groomed a lot, something that concerned her.

    Ah Man, on the other hand, had noticed Michelle’s interest in Fei Jai. Coincidentally, she was there both times when Michelle visited our centres. So she encouraged Michelle to spend time with Fei Jai and learn about what he liked and what he didn’t like. As a general rule, Ah Man asked Michelle to go hom and think long and hard about the adoption.

    After a few days, Michelle returned to our homing centre with her husband to decide if Fei Jai would be a good match for their family. Her husband, to her surprise, felt that Fei Jai would do well in their multi-animal household of two dogs, one cat and two birds. They both felt strongly that Fei Jai deserved a chance. On 9 January 2012, Fei Jai was officially adopted by the Chans.

    Upon arriving home, Fei Jai made himself comfortable almost immediately. Within a few weeks, Fei Jai’s behaviour changed dramatically for the better, tolerating contact, grooming and even hugs!

    However, Michelle’s other cat, Toby, took great exception to this new interloper. Acquired from a pet shop, Toby has had long-term health problems. Fei Jai’s sudden appearance literally put him off his food. After two days, he had to be sent to the vet as he refused to eat. The vet cautioned Michelle that she should reconsider keeping Fei Jai, as his presence may be at the expense of Toby’s health. However, the vet also provided some suggestions to ease Toby’s anxieties about Fei Jai.

    Fei Jai was then confined to one room in the house, out of Toby’s sight, for two weeks as Toby regained his health. Fei Jai, as usual, took this in his stride. Gradually, Michelle let Toby see Fei Jai through the safety of a baby gate and eventually, Toby was willing to go into Fei Jai’s room to look at him. Though Toby still did not like this new intruder, he seemed to tolerate his presence.

    To Michelle, that moment was a major victory, so she got in touch with Ah Man to share the good news. “Fei Jai is settling well into our home. He is always very curious and not afraid of anything. Our dogs and cat are also gradually getting used to him. He is so much more easy-going now, almost like a different cat, which I hadn’t expected, and am very happy about. All I can say is, it has been a really tough time for us. Luckily, things seem to be going for the better now.”

    Fei Jai was here to stay.

    It has now been more than two years since Fei Jai became part of the Chan’s family, and believe it or not, Ah Man is still his biggest fan. Apparently, Fei Jai has become fitter and is now quite the leader of the pack. “Even the dogs won’t dare getting him crossed,” Ah Man says. She still keeps in touch with Michelle and find out how the formerly grumpy cat is doing. As for Michelle, with patience and persistence, she finally has a peaceful household of placid adult pets.

     

    Words from Michelle:

    Michelle encourages more people to consider adopting an adult cat, especially if they do not have cats at home. She cautions people who would like to introduce two adult cats to be prepared that fur might fly. 

    From her own experience with pet shops as well as adoption, she is now a strong supporter of adoption and hopes more people will have the pleasure of sharing their homes with an adopted adult pet. 

     

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