Hong Kong Focus – Increasing the Penalty for Cruelty to Animals

In recent years, there have been many cases of animal cruelty in Hong Kong. Since 2016, an average of 300 cases of animal cruelty were reported each year, of which only one in six cases can be successfully prosecuted. Anyone who contravenes the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance is liable to a maximum fine of HK$200,000 and imprisonment of three years.

If we are to promote the concept of animal rights and equality of life, should we not consider increasing the penalty and make reference to section 17 of the Offences Against the Person Ordinance, which provides for a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for the abuser?

In fact, the Government has already proposed amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, proposing to increase the penalties to a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of HK$2 million, in the hope of enhancing the deterrent effect. The World Dog Alliance (WDA) believes that the government’s proposed amendments are a good thing, even though the penalties are still a long way from section 17 of the Offences Against the Person Ordinance, but it demonstrates the government’s commitment to improving animal welfare.

However, the WDA questions the effectiveness of this amendment in improving animal welfare. Increasing the penalties will not help if the prosecution rate remains low. The Government must also increase the prosecution rate in order to tackle the root causes of animal cruelty, to protect animals and to prevent tragedies from happening.