Monday 11 December 2023

Conflicting cat and dog ownership policies between Singapore and Hong Kong

The vast majority of Singaporeans live in publicly owned accommodation in high-rise flats (HBD) where cats have been banned for 34 years but not dogs. Now, at last, Singapore has decided to lift the ban on cat ownership in these flats. The ban on cats "was first introduced in 1989 because they are “generally difficult to contain within the flat”, according to the Housing Development Board's (HDB) website".

The cats and dogs of Singapore and Hong Kong are owned under different rules. Image: MikeB

That is probably very fair but there are downsides because it means lots more cats living in small flats which places an added and quite demanding responsibility upon the caregiver to ensure that the environment is as enriched as possible because a cat living in a one-bedroom flat while the owner is away at work is going to be catastrophically bored and it might result in stress leading to cystitis among other stress-related diseases.

But that is another issue. It just shows that Singapore now has consistency between dogs and cats in respect of ownership in these flats. The same cannot be said about Hong Kong at the moment as in 2003 due to the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in Hong Kong, dogs were banned from public housing complexes except for rare exceptions. They can currently keep small pets such as cats and birds but not dogs I'm told.

Notwithstanding the ban, people apparently flout the regulations by secretly keeping dogs and it also seems that they get away with it a lot of the time.

This policy seems to be in conflict somewhat with another policy about educating young people about companion animal caregiving as delivered by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong. They are learning about how the take dogs for walks and to groom them et cetera.

Hong Kong has seen an increasing number of pet owners and the government open 54 parks for pets in Hong Kong where there are now 170. And there is a pet friendly shopping centre. It seems that the Covid-19 pandemic created a heightened interest in pet ownership because during those long lockdowns, pets helped people deal with loneliness and stress.

All this is inconsistent with the restrictions on dog ownership in public housing. It's interesting that in Hong Kong dogs aren't allowed in public estates while in Singapore, in the past, cats weren't allowed in public estates but dogs were. A very confused situation.

As you might expect, there have been calls for the ban on dogs to be lifted in Hong Kong. Rather disturbingly, it is reported that Hong Kong Housing Department staff provoked dogs into barking by playing barking recordings and making a noise outside homes to provoke the dogs into barking to allow them to catch those who were in breach of the regulations. 

It's caused some distress among the tenants with one reportedly slitting her wrists because the Housing Authority kept pressing her to get rid of her dog.

In Hong Kong, also, there are many private housing estates were there are strict regulations on keeping companion animals. It is believed that if the authorities allowed pets in public housing estates it may change the attitudes of landlords who own the private housing estates.

P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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