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international

Pets left behind as many flee Hong Kong over COVID rules


As airlines have cut the number of flights to and from Hong Kong because of its tough quarantine requirements, those who want to fly with their pets face fewer options, long waiting lists and costs of up to tens of thousands of dollars. Many choose to abandon their pets instead.

At Hong Kong Dog Rescue, Eva Sit kneels and calls over the shelter's newest residents, "friendly and goofy" Cassius and "shy" Roxy, two mixed-breed dogs left behind by their emigrating owner.

Recent weeks have been hectic for Sit and her colleagues, with government data showing more than 100,000 people have left the global financial hub this year. While most of the world is learning to live with COVID-19, Hong Kong residents have been increasingly frustrated with the city's zero-tolerance policy.

"We have definitely seen an increase in the number of dog owners abandoning their dogs because they are moving out of Hong Kong" Sit said.

Cassius and Roxy were brought to the shelter on March 3 by a domestic helper whose employers flew home to Britain a while back and later decided not to return to Hong Kong.

Sit said Hong Kong Dog Rescue takes in 10 abandoned dogs a month on average, compared with five before COVID-19, and it is running out of space now as fewer people want to adopt.

Claire McLennan, 48, an Australian who moved back home in December for family reasons, has been trying to fly her mongrel Remi from Hong Kong, where she is stuck in a pet boarding house.

She had been planning the logistics of the move for more than a year, including making arrangements for the dog, but was hit at the start of the year by sudden flight restrictions between Hong Kong and Australia, when Qantas suspended pet transfers.

“She’s a member of our family... And so this dog, we will fight to the end of the earth to get her here”, McLennan said about Remi as she choked up in tears.

There are no official figures on how many pets are being abandoned. The number of government-issued animal health certificates, a document needed for pets to travel but not always given out for that reason, surged to almost 9,000 in 2021 from about 3,700 in 2020. About 1,500 such certificates have already been issued in the first two months of this year, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said.

The department did not comment on what may have caused the spike.

Hong Kong has a net outflow of around 40,000 people so far in March, compared with more than 71,000 in February, the most in a month since the beginning of the pandemic, government data show. It is not known how many intend to return.

Published : March 18, 2022

By : Reuters