1. Can I keep 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.

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.

For more details, please refer to Daily Lives Legal Issues > Laws relating to pets > What kinds of pets can be kept? > A. Keeping animals in public housing .

2. How can I know if a private housing prohibits keeping of 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. If the DMC does not mention the keeping of pets, then pets are deemed to be permitted. 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, 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).

For more details about this issue, please refer to Daily Lives Legal Issues > Laws relating to pets > What kinds of pets can be kept? > B. Private housing and pets .

3. If my dog bites someone, what should I do?

If your dog bites a person, as a keeper of the dog, there is a duty on you to report this to the police and to keep the dog in isolation, for such period as may be specified by the officer in charge of the police station (due to the risk of rabies). Failure to comply may result in a fine.

You may be guilty of a criminal offence and be fined if you did not do all you reasonably could to prevent your dog from biting a person. Pursuant to a complaint being lodged, a magistrate may rule that a dog is dangerous and an order may be made that the dog be destroyed or must be kept under effective control.

If you are negligent in controlling your dog, you may also be liable for compensation in a civil action if it bites a human or other animal. Even in cases where you were not negligent in controlling your dog, you may still be liable for a bite if you had previous knowledge the dog was likely to attack.

For more details, please refer to Daily Lives Legal Issues > Laws relating to pets > Duties of pet owners > C. Dogs biting people .

4. I am planning to run a pet shop. What are the things that I need to be aware of?

Under the Public Health (Animals and Birds) (Animal Traders) Regulations (Cap. 139B) it is not legal to carry on a business as an animal trader without a licence. Besides, all premises used for the sale of animals are required to be licensed.

Licences are issued by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and require an animal trader to comply with health and welfare conditions set out by the Department. Primary enclosures, housing facilities and outdoor areas, for example, are required to comply with the Department’s licensing conditions. The sale of diseased animals is prohibited.

The conditions attached to an Animal Traders Licence under Reg 5(3) of the Public Health (Animals and Birds) (Animal Traders) Regulations require that:

  1. All dogs for sale in licensed premises have a microchip device with an individual code number implanted under the skin.
  2. Before sale, dogs of over five months of age must not only have the above mentioned microchip implanted, but must also have a dog licence from the AFCD.
  3. The pet shop or breeder must have a scanner for reading the microchip devices in the dogs for sale available for customers on the pet shop premises at all times.
  4. All dogs must be vaccinated against distemper, parvovirus and infectious hepatitis before they can be legally sold. An animal trader is required to keep certificates for these vaccinations (issued by a veterinary surgeon) for every dog offered for sale. The vaccination certificate must state the dog’s personal microchip number. Similarly, all cats offered for sale must be vaccinated against feline panleukopaemia and feline respiratory disease.

For more details, please refer to Daily Lives Legal Issues > Laws relating to pets > What are my legal rights regarding pet shops?

5. What acts amount to committing the offence of cruelty to animals?

Usually, for a prosecution for cruelty to animals to succeed, unnecessary suffering must have already been caused to an animal. Suffering need not, however, have been prolonged or to have had serious consequences for an offence to have occurred. It is also not necessary to prove the offender intended cruelty to the animal. It is enough that a normal and reasonable person would have realized the risk that the animal might suffer as a result of his actions and would have adjusted his behaviour accordingly. It is also an offence for the owner of an animal to permit another person to treat his animal cruelly by failing to exercise reasonable care to protect the animal.

If you want to know more, please visit Daily Lives Legal Issues > Laws relating to pets > Animal cruelty .

6. I am going to migrate to another country. Other than giving away my dog, what else can I do?

Instead of leaving your dog behind, you may consider taking your dog with you. Overseas countries have their own import requirements and many will require advance planning and vaccinations before the animal can be transported abroad. In Hong Kong there are a few commercial companies that can assist with the logistical arrangements for moving pets to countries abroad. If it is truly impossible to take the animal to the new country and the owner is migrating permanently then careful arrangements should be made for its re-homing with friends in Hong Kong. Giving animals to already overcrowded animal shelters is not usually in the best interests of an animal which has known the security of a private home. Giving the animal to strangers met on the Internet may result in it ending up abandoned or imprisoned in a puppy/kitten breeding farm.

For more information, please visit Daily Lives Legal Issues > Laws relating to pets > Travel and pets .