I. What kinds of pets can be kept?
Generally, a person has the right to keep domestic animals as pets. A domestic animal is one that by habit or training normally resides with humans. It is an offence to keep certain wild animals that are protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap. 170 of the Laws of Hong Kong) or the Protection of Endangered Species and Plants Ordinance, (Cap. 586) which gives effect to the CITES treaty (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). The Protection of Endangered Species and Plants Ordinance prohibits the import, export and possession of certain endangered animals (or their parts) without a licence or exemption. These are listed in Part 2 of Schedule 1 of the Ordinance. The Wild Animals Protection Ordinance prohibits hunting any wild animals in Hong Kong. Furthermore, certain protected wild species cannot be disturbed or taken from the wild. These are listed in Schedule 2 of the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance.
Some CITES listed animals require the owner to get a licence from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) for possession of the animal in accordance with section 23 of the Protection of Endangered Species and Plants Ordinance. Failure to get a licence may result in a fine of $100,000 (section 28 of the Protection of Endangered Species and Plants Ordinance) and the animal may be confiscated. Any person who buys a CITES listed species in Hong Kong should get a copy of the original import permit for the animal from the pet trader. The purchaser should also get a receipt from the trader showing the details of the animal’s species, identifying number and date of purchase. This information is required to apply to AFCD for a licence to possess the animal legally in Hong Kong. The AFCD website has further information on which species require licenses.
Licensing requirements should be checked with the AFCD before the animal is purchased.
A. Keeping animals in public housing
The keeping of dogs has been banned in public housing since 1 August 2003. However, dogs of less than 20kg in weight that were kept before that date have been permitted to remain in public housing until their natural demise. Dogs kept with permission must not cause a nuisance to other residents. Any claim of nuisance would need to have been investigated and found to be substantiated twice before permission to keep the dog may be withdrawn by the Housing Authority. If animals are kept without permission from the Housing Authority, points may be deducted from the Marking Scheme. Points may also be deducted for creating a noise nuisance(e.g. the dog barking) or allowing a dog to foul a common area with faeces. For more information about the Marking Scheme for Estate Management Enforcement, please refer to the topic “Public Housing Issues” on the Senior CLIC website.
Small household pets
The Housing Authority has granted general permission for keeping small household pets including de-sexed cats. However, the keeping of wild animals, exotic animals and farm animals is not permitted.
B. Private housing and pets
In private housing, pets may be kept as long as they are not prohibited under the Deed of Mutual Covenant (DMC). A Deed of Mutual Covenant is a document that is signed by the developer and the first owners of a building after the building has been erected. The DMC is binding on all successors in title, that is, on all present and subsequent owners of property in the building. If the DMC does not mention the keeping of pets, then pets are deemed to be permitted. Judicial authority in Hong Kong has established that the keeping of pets is a normal part of the enjoyment of private premises.If pets are prohibited, the DMC should specifically say so. Keeping pets in breach of the DMC may result in legal action being taken by the Incorporated Owners (IO) against the owner of the unit concerned. However, permission to keep pets may be granted by thecurrent IO, even if the DMC does not allow them. Where such permission is sought, the IO has a duty not to refuse permission unreasonably.
The DMC must be distinguished from House Rules and similar documents drawn up by owners committees after the building is erected. Such Rules cannot invoke an outright ban on the keeping of pets if the Deed of Mutual Covenant did not prohibit pets from being kept. The Deed of Mutual Covenant overrides House Rules and similar agreements between owners. However, where animals kept in private premises cause a serious nuisance to other owners, their keeper may be liable for causing a nuisance (even where the DMC allows the keeping of pets). In such a case, action may be taken by the IO against the owner of the unit where a pet(s) is kept for causing/permitting a nuisance.
For more details about nuisance caused by pets, please refer to another topic “Neighbourhood disputes”.