According to a survey conducted by the Veterinary Surgeons Board of Hong Kong back in 2016, there were over 500,000 family dogs and cats in our city, up 23 percent compared to 2010.
To put that in perspective, on average one in every nine households has kept pet dogs or cats.
However, even though there are so many pet owners in Hong Kong, the city is far from being a pet-friendly place. For example, dogs and cats are still banned from transport systems such as buses and trains as well as most public leisure facilities, not to speak of retail outlets.
Take my constituency Tai Hang, for example. Despite the fact that there are so many pets in the neighborhood, there has been an acute shortage of basic facilities for the pets over the years. We have often received complaints about dog waste odor. And some people simply told me that they felt nervous whenever they walked past some big dogs.
That explains why dog owners in the district can only walk their furry friends along the Fire Dragon Path, which was created after the Tai Hang nullah improvement works. The improvement works, completed in 2012, mainly involved construction of a 250-metre-long twin-cell box culvert and widening of a footpath.
However, the footpath is also a popular route for residents in the neighborhood.
In order to address the concerns and facilitate an environment under which both pedestrians and pet owners can enjoy the public spaces, I have been pushing, since 2016, a proposal to open up the nearby Lin Fa Kung Garden for pet owners within the Wan Chai District Council, only to meet with skepticism from some of my conservative colleagues, as well as being confronted with foot-dragging and stalling in the district council.
As a result, my proposal has seen very little progress, despite the fact that 90 percent of the constituents in Tai Hang are in favor of the plan.
According to a study carried out by two academics from the University of Waterloo in Canada in 2014, pet parks can benefit the community as a whole.
It is because the parks can serve as a public platform through which pet owners, or non-pet owners, can meet one another in a relaxing environment and enhance their friendship.
And such friendship can often go beyond the pet parks and extend into the other parts of the community, plus social media platforms, thereby fostering cohesion and harmony in society in the long run.
I believe there are a lot of people out there who are also striving to create a more pet-friendly environment in our city. I am looking forward to joining forces with them in order to make Hong Kong a better place to live in for both our people and our pets.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 22
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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