A woman looking after a Pembroke Welsh Corgi saved from smugglers said the animal was still jumpy, a month after being rescued by Hong Kong police.
The one-year-old dog was recovered from a business in Tuen Mun by officers investigating an illegal operation that used Hong Kong as a base from which to transport the pets of people returning to mainland China.
Her owner, a university student studying in California, had returned to Tianjin, a major port in Northeastern China, and had expected to be reunited with his pet, named Ching Huang, after a character in the Cantonese version of the Japanese cartoon Doraemon.
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After learning that smugglers fleeing police were believed to have drowned 15 cats and dogs that washed up on Hong Kong beaches, he called the agent entrusted to transport the corgi for help, but had no response.
The student then called the city’s police, and asked a family friend based in Hong Kong, Miss Chow, for help.
“Ching Huang is still afraid now,” said Miss Chow, who claimed the dog from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), and is looking after it.
“She follows me wherever I go,” she said. “Any sound or movement can scare her. She particularly likes tall men, as her owner is tall.”
The corgi arrived in Hong Kong via Taiwan on August 27, after flying all the way from California. She was among the 22 dogs and 26 cats rescued by police and agricultural officers who swooped down on Pet Oasis, on Hing Fu Street, on August 28.
Officers arrested a 54-year-old man and 29-year-old woman on suspicion of conspiracy to smuggle, and animal cruelty. The pets were all microchipped – a legal requirement in many countries – and were believed to be destined for the mainland.
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The raid was prompted by about 20 complaints made by pet owners after animals went missing.
While no signs of animal abuse were detected at the Tuen Mun business, the SPCA said some pets were found covered in excrement, while others were trapped in cages.
Staff needed to feed the pets to make them feel better, while some needed a few days to settle down.
“Emigration is a huge challenge for pets,” said Vivian Or Wai-yin, the SPCA’s welfare practice manager. “Keeping them in a cage for a long time could bring them fear and anxiety, as they don’t even know where they are heading to.
“Worse still, pets could be very emotional. Some refused to go to the toilet, to eat, or to drink. A few had infections in their eyes, and were kept in the cage for too long.”
Senior inspector Tam Hon-wing said police had so far arrested nine people responsible for animal trafficking, while 53 rescued pets had been claimed by owners or their authorised representatives.
He said animal smuggling was rare, but became a business during the coronavirus pandemic, as many owners, believed to be mainland Chinese working or studying abroad, had since returned and paid around 40,000 yuan each to an agency to have their pets sent back to them.
“As pet emigration requires complicated procedures and documents, the agencies usually lured owners by claiming a legal one-stop service, including buying flights and securing health certificates,” Tam said.
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On August 21, at Mui Wo on Lantau Island, police and customs officers seized goods worth HK$37 million (US$4.8 million) including abalone, electronics, red wine and cosmetic products on a speedboat in one of the biggest smuggling cases of its kind this year
Four travel crates carrying 12 microchipped dogs of various breeds, including Labradors, Pomeranians, poodles, Yorkshire terriers, and Maltese, were also among the seized items. Two mainland men were arrested.
The case took a grim turn on August 26 when a crate containing the badly decomposed carcasses of three microchipped dogs was found washed ashore near St Stephen’s Beach in Stanley, in southern Hong Kong Island.
Another two crates with 12 dead cats were found on a Lamma Island beach the following day. Law enforcement sources suspected the animals were thrown overboard by smugglers to destroy evidence.
Constable Anson Kwok Chi-kin urged pet owners to choose a reputable agency, and believed more arrests would follow.
“We can make a choice but the animals cannot,” he said. “A hasty decision by the owner is enough to affect the pets’ life.”
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