When the Wan Chai Waterfront Promenade was launched with a 'Happy Pet' Family Fun Day on April 1, 2007, it was welcomed by city dog lovers.
After all, the harbour-front promenade lining Hung Hing Road touted itself as one of the few green public areas in Hong Kong that welcomed dogs. It had water taps they could drink from and provided bio-degradable bags for their waste. The promenade was one of only six dog parks in the city.
Now, after less than three years, it will close on January 27 to make way for the long-planned Central-Wan Chai Bypass. Dogs housed at the SPCA headquarters will be most affected, as they will no longer be able to enjoy shoreline walks.
But Michael Wong Ho-ming, deputy director of community development at the SPCA, says the promenade was always intended as a temporary solution, and the government is planning other parks. 'The government has realised how popular the pet parks are since the opening of the Wan Chai pet park, and it has decided to open five more in different areas,' he says.
Wong says pet-friendly parks have already opened in Sheung Wan and Yau Ma Tei, while three more are slated to open soon in Tai Po, Sham Shui Po and Tseung Kwan O. He says the main problem now is a lack of publicity. The SPCA is planning to organise events in the new Sheung Wan park soon to get the word out.
In the meantime, Wong says the organisation is pushing for the government to open other parks to pets. 'We hope the government will open part of Victoria Park for dogs - the location is accessible and the park is roomy, with grass and water, making it a great outdoor area for dogs.'
Vivian Wong, owner of Bun Bun, a goldendoodle, agrees there is not enough space in Hong Kong for dogs to run around. "I don't know anywhere else with this much space for dogs," she says, referring to the Wan Chai Waterfront Promenade. Another dog lover, Jasmine Au Ka-lee, who lives in Tsing Yi, says she sometimes has to walk her dogs in car parks because most pet parks are difficult for her to get to.
And it is not only dog lovers who are upset about the imminent closure of the promenade.
Yam Kai-ming, owner of Gum Gum, an orange tabby, is disappointed to lose such a beautiful spot to give his cat some exercise and fresh air. 'The area is spacious and it's totally pet friendly. Dogs and cats both get their own space,' he says. 'It's the best place in Hong Kong to spend some time with your pet. I've even seen people taking their hamsters for a walk.'
Like the SPCA's Wong, Randy Au Fung-lin, chairman of Green Animals Education Foundation, says the answer is to promote the city's new pet-friendly parks.
'Although a new pet park opened in Sheung Wan recently, very few people know about it,' she says, adding that the government also needed to consider access to pet-friendly parks.
'We need to bear in mind that pets cannot ride on public transportation and not everyone owns a car,' she says. 'We hope the government will take care of us pet lovers.'
Additional reporting by Chris Taylor