I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…
For two years I lived in the heart of the pet district on the cusp of affluent Ho Man Tin. Here I saw how, for many locals and expats alike, pets have unfortunately become semi-disposable fashion accessories and status symbols (big dog = big flat = big money!) Whether it’s the latest trend in exotic reptiles or dressed up designer puppies in pimped up prams, the pet market is booming in a city hardly suited to domestic animals.
It’s left to the government to destroy around 10,000 dogs and 4,000 stray and unwanted cats annually- all are put down within 3 days whilst stretched animal charities receive no state support. HK Dog Rescue particularly suffered during the recession, and what with the Pokfulam kennels landowner evicting the charity in February, it appears 200 more dogs may be destroyed unless homes are found or the government steps in (Read more or donate at hongkongdogrescue.com).
Meanwhile, the dumping of alien reptiles increased this year. The dinosaur-esque, 3-metre carnivorous alligator gar is one “eel-like fish” (complete with ‘double alligator jaws’) I’d prefer not to encounter on a dark night. Diminutive versions of this aquatic embodiment of Beelzebub can be purchased for $38 in Mongkok, but they grow quickly and are often dumped in public ponds where they play Pac-man with other unsuspecting pond dwellers. Piranha infestations, metre-long ball pythons and countless exotic lizards have also been discovered roaming free, presumably wondering which district of Nicaragua tropical Yuen Long is in.
In addition to a change in attitudes, a tightening of pet import, sales and ownership laws is overdue. Animal abandonment results in big fines, prison bouts and community service in the US and UK. Similar carelessness here gets you a comparatively dreamy fortnight in jail or a bargainous HK$2000 fine – less than the smoking penalty. It is time that greedy pet traders and ill-informed owners took responsibility, and anyone found liberating former pets should end up in a cage themselves!