AFP, published on Tuesday, September 06, 2022 at 1:19 pm.
For three months, Cassius and Roxie have been waiting for new owners at an animal shelter in Hong Kong.
Their owners are among the city’s residents who have opted out in the face of Beijing’s growing influence and health restrictions.
This story is very familiar to the employees of the financial center of animal shelters.
“We’re always full,” muttered Eva Sit, Hong Kong Dog Rescue (HKDR) communications director, amidst the incessant barking and whining.
“It is very difficult for us to say no to placement requests because we feel sorry for the dogs,” he told AFP.
When abandoning their pets, the owners fill out a form in which the reason for the abandonment must be shown.
If, before, departures abroad represented two out of ten cases, “now, it is almost the only reason.”
In the past two years, many local and foreign nationals have left Hong Kong, mainly due to the curtailment of freedoms long enjoyed by residents and travel restrictions linked to the pandemic.
Population decreased: between mid-2020 and mid-2022, subtracting arrivals from departures, the city recorded a negative net migration of about 200,000 inhabitants, according to demographic data the government.
Normally, most people leave with their pets, but since the pandemic, it’s a real headache.
Hong Kong, which before Covid was one of the most important airports in the world, now has very few flights landing or taking off from there.
Many companies have stopped serving the city due to crew restrictions.
In July, only 401,000 passengers passed through the airport, or 6% of the pre-pandemic level.
For comparison, Singapore recorded 3.3 million passengers during the same period, more than half the level the city-state experienced before the appearance of Covid-19.
– Lack of flights –
The lack of commercial flights results in a limited number of places to bring pets in the hold or in the cabin, making it more complicated or expensive to send them abroad.
So the very rich group together to hire private planes to release the animals, for 150,000 to 250,000 Hong Kong dollars (19,200 to 32,000 euros).
“It’s very expensive, so I respect people who do it,” said Olivier, a French dog owner who has seen many friends opt for these private jets.
But many still have to make the heartbreaking decision to give up their pets.
Narelle Pamuk, founder of Sai Kung Stray Friends (SKSF), agrees that owners often have no choice.
“They say people are bad when they abandon their animals, but I have to say not everyone is bad,” he told AFP.
“This whole pandemic has completely upset people. They don’t have time to wait, they’ve lost their jobs and they can’t always bring their animals, because it’s not easy”.
Some never find a flight or get one, he added.
Harvir Kaur, a 23-year-old teacher who will be moving to Canada next year, puts the needs of her three-year-old Pomeranian boy, Taffy, in her travel plans.
He does not want his dog to travel in the stable, the only option offered by the Hong Kong company Cathay Pacific, and tries to accompany him in his cabin, no matter the cost.
“I never thought of leaving Taffy, it’s against my morals.”
“When you have a dog, it’s not just a toy for you. Your dog needs you, maybe more than you need your dog.”