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Press Release - Ombudsman probes into regulatory work on dog keepers’ obligations by Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department

30 November 2020

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The Ombudsman, Ms Winnie Chiu, today (30 November) announced the launch of a direct investigation into the effectiveness of regulatory work on dog keepers’ obligations by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).

Findings of the Thematic Household Survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department between March and June 2018 show that there were about 147,000 families keeping more than 220,000 dogs as pets in Hong Kong. Even though the AFCD has reminded the public from time to time that they should take proper care of their dogs, cases of lost and abandoned dogs and occurrences of dogs creating a nuisance are not uncommon. Pursuant to the Rabies Ordinance and its ancillary legislation, the AFCD manages the prevention and control of rabies and other related matters by requiring dog owners to apply for a dog licence for keeping any dog over the age of five months, and have the dog vaccinated against rabies and microchipped. Moreover, the AFCD imposes liabilities on animal keepers under other animal-related legislation such as the Public Health (Animals and Birds) Ordinance, Dogs and Cats Ordinance and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance to safeguard public health and animal welfare.

The Office’s preliminary inquiry has revealed that most prosecutions instituted by the AFCD against dog keepers in the past five years involved the keepers’ violation of the Rabies Ordinance or Rabies Regulation from failing to exercise proper control over their dogs in public places, not having a dog licence or allowing their dogs to cause injury to others. The Office is concerned about the effectiveness and adequacy of the AFCD’s enforcement and follow-up action against offenders.

The system for dog licensing in Hong Kong was originated by the Government to prevent and control rabies with the aim of safeguarding public health. In addition to identifying the source of rabies, requiring dog keepers to license their dogs and have the dogs microchipped can help the AFCD to trace those who abandon their dogs or fail to properly manage and control their dogs. Given the growing public concern over animal welfare in recent years, the Office considers it worthwhile to examine the effectiveness of the AFCD’s regulation of dog keepers under the existing dog licensing system.

Ms Chiu said, “By law, dog keepers are under a set of statutory obligations which include having their dogs vaccinated against rabies, microchipped and licensed. As the Government department managing animal welfare, the AFCD should exercise the legal powers conferred upon it to strictly enforce the relevant legislation imposed on dog keepers so as to achieve effective regulation with deterrent effect on offenders.”

This direct investigation will examine:

(1) the effectiveness of the AFCD’s enforcement actions regarding regulation of dog keepers under the Rabies Ordinance and its ancillary legislation;

(2) whether the AFCD’s handling of cases involving dog abandonment and claiming of lost dogs by dog keepers is appropriate;

(3) whether the AFCD’s application and management of the dog licensing system is adequate; and

(4) any area for improvement and enhancement.

The Ombudsman now invites members of the public to give their views on this topic. Written submissions should reach the Office of The Ombudsman by 30 December 2020:

Address: 30/F, China Merchants Tower, Shun Tak Centre, 168-200 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong
Fax: 2882 8149
Email: complaints@ombudsman.hk

Office of The Ombudsman

For media enquiries, please contact the External Relations Section at enquiry@ombudsman.hk

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