Adventures in Shelter Medicine: Hong Kong

Published: June 19th, 2012

Category: Blog

Shelter Medicine Resident Dr. Katherine Polak reports from her externship in Hong Kong.

Dr. Polak with veterinary nurses from the Hong Kong SPCAGreetings from Hong Kong!

Since arriving in this bustling city that seems to never sleep, I’ve been amazed at the dedication and commitment of members of the Hong Kong SPCA to promote kindness to animals and prevent animal cruelty in a region of the world where animal welfare is often overlooked.

I’ve been spending my time in the Animal Welfare Division of the SPCA, which targets its efforts on the implementation of a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program for stray dogs and its Cat Colony Care Programme (CCCP).

The CCCP was established in August of 2000 and consists of a large network of cat caretakers who feed and care for stray cats. There are currently over 450 active registered caretakers in Hong Kong and the surrounding islands. Caretakers are provided traps and free de-sexing surgery. Furthermore, the SPCA provides general medical treatment for these cats when needed and places friendly cats and kittens into an adoption programme.

There are currently over 450 active registered caretakers in Hong Kong and the surrounding islands.

All cats that graduate the program are ear-tipped and microchipped which allows the SPCA to track colony location and the caregiver who looks after a particular cat. Microchipping is a key component of the program as the microchip is a ticket out of the government-run shelters should a CCCP-graduate enter one, as these facilities don’t always employ such a liberal catch and return policy.

The Hong Kong SPCA has a robust TNR program.Yesterday I had the pleasure of traveling with SPCA welfare technicians to Cheung Chau, a small island 10 kilometers southwest of Kong Kong. This island, also known for its annual lucky bun festival, is home to many cat caretakers in addition to animal hoarders. There, we walked the entire island in the sweltering heat and humidity, to track down the home of a suspected hoarder who has been the subject of many complaints in the community.

A cat peers from the roof of a suspected animal hoarder's home.

At this home, SPCA welfare officials had found dozens of cats in the past and have attempted to trap and de-sex the cats. Unfortunately in response, the overwhelmed caretaker moved the cats with previous outdoor access into cages in his housing structure, leading to compromised welfare for all of the animals.

Since we were not allowed into the building, our mission for the day was to locate any kittens that may have escaped the building for de-sexing surgery. Despite our best attempts in our search and questioning of local children nearby regarding the whereabouts of any kittens, we were unsuccessful in locating any. But rest assured; the SPCA Welfare members will be back to capture these kittens to prevent future breeding!

My international experiences to date have led me to the belief that animal hoarding is truly a universal phenomenon, no matter what city, state, or country you’re in.

My international experiences to date have led me to the belief that animal hoarding is truly a universal phenomenon, no matter what city, state, or country you’re in. The problem is much more complex than a person simply accumulating an overabundance of animals. Intervention strategies must be equally complex, requiring knowledge of a person’s circumstances, history, and medical and psychological diagnoses.

Dr. Katherine Polak

Katherine Polak, DVM, MPH
Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Resident, First-Year

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