Face Off: should Hong Kong have harsher punishments for animal abuse?

Face Off: should Hong Kong have harsher punishments for animal abuse?

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week …


Animal abuse is not ok.
Photo: Wan Kam-yan/SCMP

Joy Pamnani, 19, University of Hong Kong

Dogs being hit by metal rods, turtles being thrown off rooftops, people skinning cats to feed their dogs … these are all horrible, nightmarish things that have happened in Hong Kong. Animal abuse is a huge problem in our city, and there is an immediate need for harsher punishments for offenders.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that they handled 5,870 abandoned animals in 2015-16. The number of strays found by the public had increased from 678 to 718 during that period, compared to 2014-15.

This is a result of our outdated laws and the lack of proper enforcement. Under Hong Kong law, anyone who abandons an animal without a reasonable excuse is subject to a maximum fine of HK$10,000 and six months’ imprisonment. However, according to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, there hasn’t been a single prosecution in the past three years.

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Stephen Lo Wai-chung, the city’s police chief, recently announced that a team of officers would be set up to handle animal abuse cases and other criminal investigations. This was in response to growing calls for an “animal police” squad to tackle animal cruelty. The introduction of harsher punishments would lead to a decrease in the number of animal abuse cases, and would allow police to tackle existing cases more comprehensively.

Many owners abandon their dogs because of their behaviour. They bark, pee, and may even bite people. These are things a potential dog owner should consider before buying or adopting one. When you own a pet, you are responsible for taking care of them for the rest of their lives. Harsher punishments for failing to do this would hopefully make a person think twice before getting
a pet.

If a couple decides to have a baby, would they abandon the child if they have to change too many nappies? It’s very rare, and when it happens, there is uproar. So let’s stand up for our furry friends. It’s high time Hong Kong implemented tougher punishments for animal abuse.

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Eunice Yip, 17, Pooi To Middle School

I don’t think Hong Kong should introduce harsher punishments for animal abuse. This is because such a move would not necessarily mean an end to animal abuse.

There’s no denying that imposing longer prison sentences or larger fines would stop many people from hurting animals. But how long would this last? As time passed, people would get used to these punishments and they might start abusing animals again, because they think they won’t get caught.

According to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, animal abuse in Hong Kong can lead to a maximum punishment of three years in jail and a HK$200,000 fine.

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Let’s say the penalty is six years in jail and a HK$400,000 fine. It sounds terrifying now, but people will eventually get used to those numbers.

Harsher punishments don’t have any long-term effects on animal welfare. Such laws don’t raise awareness of animal abuse. They may prevent some people from harming our furry, scaly, or feathered friends, but they don’t really believe what they are doing is wrong.

The only way to get people to change their ways and show them the importance of taking care of animals is by having police officers who are specifically employed to protect our four-legged friends. There needs to be a permanent police team so that people who see them would be continually reminded that abusing animals is a terrible crime and they wouldn’t be able to get away with it.

Edited by Ginny Wong

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Should Hong Kong have harsher punishments for animal abuse?


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