Kate Farr discovers what responsible pet ownership takes, and why not everyone wants to see more dogs in DB.
Discovery Bay is known throughout Hong Kong as being a pet owner’s paradise. But while some residents may consider their furry friends part of the family, there are others who would prefer not to share their neighbourhood with other people’s canine companions.
It’s fair to say that Jacqui Green, of animal welfare society PALS, knows a thing or two about balancing the needs of pets and people. PALS has been in operation for nearly a decade, working to rescue and re-home stray animals in DB and South Lantau. At the monthly PALS in the Plaza sessions, residents can meet potential adoptees and learn more about dog ownership.
For anyone thinking of homing a dog this year, Jacqui has this advice: “Think long and hard – responsible pet ownership involves time, effort and money. Consider your accommodation, your family members and your working schedule. And make sure you are 100% committed to taking care of another life for the rest of its natural life.”
Pet owners’ paradise
When it comes to welcoming a dog into your family, Jacqui is adamant that it’s best to adopt, rather than shop. “PALS supports the adoption of tong gau – the local dogs that are indigenous to Hong Kong,” she says. “We are very much against the concept that ‘a breed is best,’ and generally despise the breeding trade as it operates in Hong Kong. Adopting means saving a life, while buying often means putting money in some unscrupulous person’s pocket!
“DB is relatively compact so very large or hyperactive breeds, and obviously those disposed to a poor temperament, should be avoided,” Jacqui adds. “It’s also safe to say that breeds accustomed to a much colder climate, and with very abundant hair, will suffer in the heat without constant air-conditioning.”
So does Jacqui believe that DB’s reputation as a hound heaven is well founded? “Discovery Bay is a safe and secure environment for dog lovers. There is plenty of space, clean fresh air, varied walks and parks – all attractions not found in the urban areas,” she says. “There is also a ready- at-hand support system of dog walkers and sitters, as well as veterinary services close by.”
Hound heaven or hell?
But not everyone shares Jacqui’s enthusiasm for dog-filled DB. Twelve-year resident Vivian (not her real name), who agreed to speak out on the condition of anonymity, has little time for dogs – and is not a huge fan of their owners either. “I think the biggest problem with DB is the number of dogs here,” she says. “They make the area dirtier, noisier and more dangerous for everyone, especially children.”
Never a pet fan, Vivian became even more anti-dog than before after an unleashed dog bit her eight-year-old daughter last year. “The owner didn’t even apologise after it happened, he just pulled the dog away and walked off,” she says. “I was too busy making sure my girl wasn’t seriously hurt to try and stop him.”
Although Vivian contacted the police and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to report the attack, they were unable to pursue the case, as she couldn’t identify the owner. While Vivian’s daughter wasn’t seriously hurt, the experience has left her with lasting anxiety around dogs.
Vivian would now like to see compulsory muzzling for all dogs in residential areas, and thinks that potential owners should be required to have a permit to keep a pet. She points out that while you need a license to drive a car, an out-of-control dog is potentially just as dangerous.
“DB’s pavements are always covered in dog poo, even in the playgrounds,” Vivian adds. “It’s a health hazard, particularly for kids. People see a cute puppy and treat it like getting a new toy, but then they can’t be bothered to clean up after it.”
Not just for CNY…
Jacqui agrees that there is a lot for pet owners, particularly first timers, to learn. “It is said that there’s no such thing as a bad dog, only the human who keeps it!” she says.
“It is absolutely vital that pet dogs are completely socialised with both humans (adults and children), and other dogs from a very early age,” Jacqui explains. “They should be exposed to all and any scenarios that might arise in a calm and comfortable way.” Good training is also vital: “Dogs should walk properly on a lead and respond promptly to commands. They should be walked frequently to expend their energy.”
As for the thorny issue of poo, Jacqui is clear: “Pick it up, scoop it up; use newspaper, plastic bags or leaves if you must. Pour water on it, and leave no trace!”
For families looking to mark this Year of the Dog by adopting a pup, Jacqui has these final words of advice: “Responsible pet ownership means taking care of your dogs as you would a family member – providing them with food, water and a roof over their head, and giving them exercise, stimulus and guidance. Keep them healthy… and mindful of their manners.”
Jacqui Green is the founder of PALS, a voluntary animal welfare society working to rescue and re-home stray animals across Lantau. Visit www.pals.org.hk.
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Images: Baljit Gidwani – www.evoqueportraits.comTags: adopt a pet, dogs in discovery bay, pals, pet ownership