What at first promised to be a heartwarming story of a pet reunited with its owner after an accidental ocean sojourn of nearly 2,000 kilometers quickly curdled into tragedy yesterday after it was discovered that Hong Kong authorities had put down a dog that stowed away on a cargo ship from Thailand this week.
According to Apple Daily, a port terminal worker called Ha Wing-kin posted on Facebook on Tuesday that a dog had been found on a boat that had just berthed in Tsing Yi that morning. The crew believed the dog came from Thailand and had gotten onto the boat while it was docked in Laem Chabang — more than 120 kilometers away from Bangkok — just a few days prior.
The captain of the cargo ship called the Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFCD), who then took the dog, setting off a frantic social media search for the dog’s owner by netizens afraid that the dog could be euthanized. AFCD procedures state that stray animals may be put down after four days to give their owners time to claim them.
The social media sleuthing paid off: a woman in Bangkok was identified as the dog’s owner, and one Facebook user posted yesterday that her older sister was currently living in Hong Kong and could claim the animal. Others also volunteered to look after the dog until the owner could fly to Hong Kong to retrieve it.
Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong even stepped in on Wednesday, writing a letter to the AFCD urging them not to put down the dog.
Unfortunately, as it turned out, it was already too late.
Responding to Kwong’s letter later that day, the AFCD confirmed that after failing to find a microchip, health certificate, or any other medical records pertaining to the dog — and given that Thailand is considered a “high rabies risk area” — the authorities had already put the dog down.
An AFCD spokesperson told Coconuts HK via email that they received a call from a shipping company on March 11 and 12 saying that a dog had boarded their ship and that the company believed it was a stray.
They also added that the four-day rule only applies to local stray animals, as opposed to animals that were “illegally imported.”
The spokesperson also said the department would review the procedures used for handling non-local stray animals that have been illegally imported into Hong Kong with a view to improving the relevant processing procedures.
In a phone interview with Apple Daily, the owner’s older sister, identified only as “BoBo,” said her sister was incredibly upset with the news.
“My sister says it was reckless; it wasn’t even four days. They said the dog would be killed if the owner could not be found in four days, and it was killed before four days had passed.”
Kwong, meanwhile, took to Facebook to express his anger at the handling of the situation, and urged Hongkongers to sign a petition demanding that the AFCD “apologise for this irresponsible and ridiculous action.”
It was unclear as of press time how many signatures the petition had received.