A photo posted online showing the dog which had arrived in Hong Kong on a cargo vessel from Thailand. (Photo by South China Morning Post)
Hong Kong authorities have sparked outrage for putting down a dog which had hitched a ride on a cargo vessel arriving from Thailand.
On Wednesday evening, animal rights activists were up in arms after the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department euthanised the canine before its owner – who had been contacted by online users – could claim it.
The four-legged stowaway reached a port in Tsing Yi on Tuesday morning after a six-day ride on board a cargo ship from Laem Chabang, about 120km south of Bangkok.
Crew members alerted the department, believing it was the relevant authority and that it would take care of the animal. The dog was then taken away by its officers, according to online media Hong Kong Animal Post and Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu.
On the same day, a dog lover who worked at the port posted an online appeal on Facebook to locate the owner in Thailand.
His post was widely circulated and received with enthusiasm from animal welfare groups. A woman in Bangkok was eventually identified as the owner and alerted.
Realising the department might euthanise the dog in four days according to its policy of handling unclaimed stray animals with an unknown health history, Kwong wrote to department chief Dr Leung Siu-fai on Wednesday morning.
But in a sad twist, authorities said the animal had already been put down.
The department said in a statement that the dog was found to have no identifying microchip that could reveal its health record. Thailand was identified as a region with a high rabies risk.
Authorities said public health and security as well as animal welfare was considered, before vets euthanised the dog.
Kwong expressed anger with the department’s “unacceptable” move. He challenged its justifications and whether it was fully aware of the dog’s background.
Together with Hong Kong Animal Post, Kwong launched an online petition, urging the department to explain and apologise for the incident.
As of Wednesday night, Kwong said about 10,000 signatures had been collected.
“The case will turn Hong Kong into a laughing stock internationally,” he added.