Jacqui Green, winner of the Around DB and Life on Lantau International Women’s Day Competition, is an inspiration – for her animal activism, her self-deprecating charm and her willingness to ruffle a few feathers. Samantha Wong reports.
The founder of Protection of Animals Lantau South (PALS), Jacqui Green has been rescuing and re-homing animals on Lantau and Peng Chau for the past 20-plus years. Few islanders were surprised when the Mui Wo resident romped home as the winner of the Around DB and Life on Lantau International Women’s Day Competition in April, or when she modestly accepted the award on behalf of others: “I feel blessed for the support. It’s not just me. It’s all the supporters and volunteers, all the people who foster and adopt. PALS is the sum of the parts of all the people that help.”
The statuesque, silver-haired Brit moved to Hong Kong in 1979, and settled in Mui Wo 27 years ago. Jacqui recalls seeing “kittens in rubbish bins and puppies in paddy fields or cardboard boxes” and that was when the activism began. “It wasn’t intentional, it just started in a very small way and escalated,” she says.
Rescuing, re-homing and LegCo
A familiar face in DB thanks to all the pet adoption and fostering days PALS holds in DB Plaza, Jacqui’s main focus is rescuing and re-homing abandoned and/ or mistreated cats and dogs. In her bid to create awareness, she is not adverse to rubbing people the wrong way and calling out slack pet owners.
Animal returns are a particular bugbear. “PALS has quite a detailed questionnaire that tries to prevent such an event but we are constantly being asked to ‘re-house’ pets that have come from other sources. It’s incredibly depressing and happening more and more often,” she says. “The reasons [for returns] are endless and not a single one surprises me anymore. But I’m not the most tactful and I have gotten abuse.
“There’s a lot of politicking that goes on, and it’s true: You can’t please all the people all the time,” Jacqui adds, referring to her support of less popular, media-unfriendly animal-welfare positions like euthanasia. “People don’t understand about homing. Unless you want overcrowding and animals suffering, euthanasia is an alternative. It’s quite contentious.”
Getting new regulations for breeders pushed through LegCo – putting an end to puppy mills – is high on Jacqui’s agenda, something PALS is fronting along with 18 animal charities and societies, including the SPCA. “We’ve been talking for years,” she says, “and now we have a chance to get this into legislation in September.”
PALS has taken up most of Jacqui’s time and energy for the past 20 years and now, aged 66, she is considering retiring to the UK. Whether this actually comes to pass remains to be seen, however. “I’ve been ‘leaving’ for about a decade”, she admits with a laugh.
Right now, it looks as if PALS will close down if Jacqui relocates. “There is no one else. It’s just the way it is,” she says. “It’s very stressful and time-consuming, and no one else wants to do it.” Time will tell – a successor may declare themselves – but one thing is certain, Jacqui will stay on long enough to see the policy changes she’s dedicated to, made into law.
• Protection of Animals Lantau South (PALS), www.pals.org.hk