Firefighter Given Lenient Penalty for Animal Cruelty

On 29th December, 2020, a firefighter was found throwing his dog onto the floor twice. He was later charged with cruelty to animals. On 21st October, 2021, the firefighter was only fined HKD 4000. The judge recognised his services in the Fire Department, and said an imprisonment sentence would put her in a very difficult position. The verdict has attracted criticism from animal right activists. The other spotlight of this case was the ownership of the dog. The Department of Justice believed that the firefighter’s ownership of the dog should be deprived according to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance. However, the judge decided to preserve the defendant’s ownership in fear that the dog may be euthanized. In response, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggested that there was a very high chance for the dog to be adopted.

As a senior fire station officer, the firefighter earns over HKD 80,000 a month. A penalty of HKD 4000 is considered too low by many. The World Dog Alliance (WDA) is not convinced that animal justice is upheld. The verdict does not live up to public expectations. Firefighters have a high approval rate in Hong Kong because of their job nature of saving lives. The fact that a firefighter would hurt an animal greatly disappoints the general public.

As per the ownership of the dog, WDA believes that there are loopholes in the current regulation. The government should list out negative behaviours of pet owners, which can help judges decide whether animal abusers are still qualified to keep pets. This also gives convenience to animal welfare organisations or pet shops when arranging adoptions and sales. In this case, the ownership of the dog is given back to the firefighter. The government should set up a follow-up mechanism, which regularly monitors the behaviours of the firefighter and ensures the dog is treated well.