Update (19 April 2022): The Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department has further explained that as there is little evidence that Covid-19 can be trasmitted from animals to humans (save minks and hamsters), there is a low chance the government will ask pets to be handed over unless there’s sufficient evidence of transmission being a risk. Also, if a pet owner is confirmed positive and needs to be sent into isolation, pets will either be transported to the New Territories South Animal Management Centre with the owner’s permission, or cared for by neighbours/friends.
New amendments to the Hong Kong government’s Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance and Regulation increased fines and prison sentences for anyone who refuses or fails to surrender a pet that is believed to be infected with an animal disease such as swine fever or foot-and-mouth-disease. The amendments to Cap 599 and Cap 599A came into effect on March 31.
Anyone who now refuses to surrender their pet for isolation can be fined up to $10,000 and imprisoned for a maximum of six months. A person or group of people who obstructs or helps to obstruct a health official from enforcing the regulation will receive a $5,000 fine and two months’ imprisonment.
Cap 599 is an ordinance for the control and prevention of disease among human beings. It covers measures to prevent an infectious disease from entering and spreading within the community. It also mentions the source of the infection, which can include an animal or plant. Cap 599A says that police officers or health officials can place an animal that they have reason to believe is infected under isolation. They can also ask the owner to surrender the animal so they can place it under isolation.
Why did the government make these amendments? In January 2022, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) announced that samples collected from hamsters at a pet store in Causeway Bay tested preliminarily positive for Covid-19. As a result, the AFCD requested Hongkongers to give up hamsters purchased in local pet shops on or after December 22, 2021 for “humane dispatch.”
However, some members of the public – including animal welfare groups and animal lovers’ groups on social media – prevented the hamsters from being sent to the AFCD’s New Territories South Animal Management Centre, prompting the government to make these amendments.
Header image credits: Dina Damotseva via Canva