For caring for an injured stray dog, Sue Cuthbertson faces a fine from the Hong Kong government. The South China Morning Post reports that she has been charged with breaching the Rabies Ordinance for not having a license, for not having the dog vaccinated and for failing to have the dog on a leash in a public place. She faces up to HK$4,000 in fines.
Cuthbertson, who volunteers for the group Sai Kung Stray Friends, had dubbed the stray Red Dog for his coppery fur.
Earlier this year, Red Dog had been injured after being caught in traps set by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. The first time was back in May. While he was able to run off, the trap was still attached to his leg.
Cutherbertson had known Red Dog (whom she described as the “alpha male” of his pack) for two years when he got caught in the snare. As she said, ”obviously the dog was in pain. He disappeared for a few days, and then he came and part of his leg was missing”; she also figured that he had not eaten during that time. In July, Red Dog got caught in a trap again.
Fearing that Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department officers would euthanize Red Dog, Cuthbertson claimed that she was his owner. She had previously claimed ownership for another stray two years ago. Then, she was able to plead guilty via a letter and did not have to pay a fine. This time, she has been summoned to court.
Cuthbertson says that Red Dog dog is healthy, even with his partially missing paw; he has been living at the Friends’ kennels in Sai Kung. She emphasizes that, while he might look “big and ferocious,” he is actually a “gentle giant.”
Red Dog’s case more than shows the need for the Hong Kong government to quickly implement a “trap, neuter and return scheme that would reduce the number of strays.”
A spokeswoman for Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department says that two sites have been identified for a trial trap-neuter-return scheme, in Yuen Long and Cheung Chau, and that one of the two could begin operating as early as next year. But the department is also contending that its traps — which were introduced from Australia ten years ago — did not cause Red Dog’s injury and that the snares have been “endorsed by the Animal Welfare Advisory Group.”
Animal rights advocates dispute such claims. As another volunteer, Poh Kim-keow, said back in July, the traps actually “contravene the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, which has a broad definition of animal cruelty.” Under this ordinance, anyone who “terrifies or causes any unnecessary suffering to an animal” can be penalized.
Not only are the government’s own traps indeed causing “unnecessary suffering” to animals, but Sai Kung Stray Friends points out that they could cause injury to humans. Specifically, someone “walking on Clearwater Bay’s popular Lung Ha Wan hiking trail, where the dog that chewed off its paw was trapped the second time” could just as easily step into a trap.
Cutherbertson’s court date is set for December 4. She said that she plans to plead guilty, as she did two years ago. Noting that there really is “no other option,” she says “if you want to save these dogs you have to say you own them” — and if Hong Kong wants to be serious about its own Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, it will stop using the traps immediately.
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