Last week, animal welfare groups in Hong Kong received several reports about stray dogs hurt by traps.
In one case, the right front leg of a four-month-old mongrel in Fanling was seriously injured.
Mark Mak Chi-ho, executive chairman of the Non-Profit Making Veterinary Services Society Ltd. (NPV) believes the dog was caught in a snare trap (an anchored cable or thin wire noose that tightens to catch animals) and lost its paw while it struggled to run away.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) introduced the trap to the city aobut 10 years ago.
Animal organizations and some legislative councilors question the use of snare traps to catch stray dogs, saying they will cause unnecessary pain and suffering to the animals.
But the AFCD insists these traps won’t cause serious injury to the captured animals.
The department said its staff will monitor the trapping process from close by. If an animal is trapped, it will be released at once.
But is the AFCD speaking the truth?
We learned there were at least four other similar cases, indicating that snare traps have proved to be as bad as landmines to animals.
In other countries, snare traps are used only to catch animals that are harmful to humans.
For example, Britain uses them to capture wild rabbits and foxes, and Australia uses them to catch large wild carnivores, like dingoes. Such devices are rarely used to deal with non-aggressive animals, like stray dogs and cats.
To reduce the problems caused by stray animals, rather than killing them, animal welfare organizations are working hard on the TNR (trap, neuter and return) program.
Under the scheme, stray cats and dogs are humanely captured, sterilized and medically treated and then returned to the outdoor locations where they were found.
It is the most humane, effective and financially sustainable strategy for controlling free-roaming populations of stray dogs and cats. The program can also reduce the disturbance caused by the stray animals to the communities.
The TNR program is a way to show respect for life. The Hong Kong government should keep up to date on animal rights issues.
At present, the AFCD eventually kills most of the animals it captures.
The AFCD also lends its traps to housing estates and schools when needed.
But the department doesn’t provide guidance on how to use these traps, so captured animals could suffer unnecessarily.
A month ago, a cat was caught and caged in a Fanling estate.
The kitten was left outdoors in freezing weather, with no food or clean water.
Luckily, it was saved by animal rights supporters.
Lack of proper monitoring often makes the AFCD an accessory to the crime of animal abuse.
The AFCD should reform how it deals with stray animals. Murdering them is clearly not a solution.
Education is also important — teaching people they should not discriminate against the animals but have to learn to live with them.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 26.
Translation by Betsy Tse
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