Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1) 1848/98-99
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)

Ref: CB1/SS/10/98/1

Subcommittee on Resolution under section 3 of the Dogs and Cats Ordinance (Cap. 167) and Dogs and Cats (Amendment) Ordinance 1997 (97 of 1997) (Commencement) Notice 1999

Minutes of meeting held on Tuesday, 6 July 1999, at 2:30 pm in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP (Chairman)
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon HUI Cheung-ching
Hon Christine LOH
Hon CHAN Kwok-keung
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP

Public officers :

Miss Dora FU,
Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic attending Services

Assistant Director, Agriculture and Fisheries Department

Dr Thomas SIT,
Veterinary Officer, Agriculture and Fisheries Department

Miss Marie SIU,
Senior Government Counsel, Department of Justice
Clerk in attendance :
Ms LEUNG Siu-kum,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)2
Staff in attendance :
Ms Bernice WONG,
Assistant Legal Adviser 1

Miss Becky YU,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)3


I Election of Chairman

Nominated by Mr HUI Cheung-ching and seconded by Mr James TIEN, Dr TANG Siu-tong was elected Chairman of the Subcommittee.

2. Messrs James TIEN, David CHU, Michael HO, HUI Cheung-ching, CHAN Kwok-keung and Ronald ARCULLI, Ms Christine LOH and Ms Emily LAU declared that they had pet dogs and cats at home.

II Meeting with the Administration
(Legislative Council Brief (Ref. ECON 63/3231/49(99)), LC Paper Nos. LS 211 and 224/98-99, CB(1) 1649/98-99(02), (03) and (04))

Dogs and Cats (Amendment) Ordinance 1997 (97 of 1997) (Commencement) Notice 1999

3. No particular comments were made on the Notice.

Resolution under section 3 of the Dogs and Cats Ordinance (Cap. 167)

4. Before commencing discussion, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services (PASES) advised that the Administration had withdrawn its notice to move the motion on the proposed Dangerous Dogs Regulation (the Regulation) made under section 3 of the Dogs and Cats Ordinance originally scheduled for 7 July 1999.

5. PASES said that the proposed Regulation aimed to safeguard members of the public from serious attacks by dangerous dogs. She then briefed members on the Regulation which provided for the control of various categories of dangerous dogs, namely,

-"fighting dogs" which would consist of Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, Fila Braziliero and their crosses;
-"known dangerous dogs" which would consist of individual dogs which had killed or inflicted serious injuries on persons or domestic animals without provocation and had been classified as known dangerous dogs by magistrate's orders; and
-"large dogs" which would consist of dogs, except fighting dogs or known dangerous dogs, each of a body weight of 20 kilograms (kg) or above.

The level of control to be applied to each of these categories would vary. The Regulation also created an offence in relation to causing, suffering or permitting a fighting or known dangerous dog to enter or remain in public places without being securely fitted with a muzzle or held on a leash. Large dogs would be required under the proposed Regulation to be kept on a leash and muzzled when in indoor public places and to be kept on a leash while in outdoor public places except in country parks or special areas as defined in the Country Parks Ordinance."

"Fighting dog" and "Known dangerous dog" categories

6. Mr CHAN Wing-chan noted that it would be an offence to keep a "fighting dog" for more than 120 days or a "known dangerous dogs" for more than 90 days unless it was neutered. He enquired about the rationale for applying transitional periods of different durations on the two types of dogs. The Assistant Director of Agriculture and Fisheries (ADAF) explained that the 120 days referred to the period within which all existing fighting dogs should be neutered after the commencement of the Regulation whereas the 90 days referred to the period within which individual dogs should be neutered after they had been classified as known dangerous dogs by a magistrate. Mr HUI Cheung-ching was concerned about the aggressive behaviour of known dangerous dogs despite they being neutered. He asked if there were statistics showing that aggressive dogs could be better controlled after being neutered. ADAF advised that although neutering could not change the temperament of dogs which was greatly determined by environment and training, it could stop them from passing such aggressive tendencies to their offspring. As to whether persons who were attacked and injured by dogs could claim damages against the dog owners, ADAF confirmed that the victims concerned could seek legal remedies against the dog owners through civil proceedings.

7. Referring to the submission from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals tabled at the meeting, Ms Emily LAU shared the Society's concern that the amount of ex-gratia payment of $3,000 for each fighting dog surrendered for destruction would encourage unscrupulous persons to deliberately begin to breed fighting dogs with a view to making profit from them. In reply, ADAF stressed that not all fighting dogs were eligible for the ex-gratia payment. Only those fighting dogs present in Hong Kong before the commencement of the Regulation and with a valid dog licence would be eligible for the ex-gratia payment when they were surrendered to DAF for destruction during the transitional period of 120 days. It was anticipated that about 200 fighting dogs would be surrendered by their owners for destruction based on existing records. To avoid possible abuse of ex-gratia payment plan, DAF had also alerted the Customs and Excise Department to curb smuggling of fighting dogs into Hong Kong. The Veterinary Officer supplemented that the chances for people to breed fighting dogs for profit would be slim given the high breeding and maintenance cost for fighting dogs.

8. On classification of fighting dogs, ADAF advised that the Dogs and Cats Classification Board would be responsible for determining whether a dog was a fighting dog.

"Large dog" category

9. PASES remarked that when the original draft regulations for control of dangerous dogs were presented for scrutiny by the then Bills Committee on Dogs and Cats (Amendment) Bill, members did not support the introduction of a "potentially dangerous dog" category since it did not reflect fully the types of dogs from which the public should be protected. It was suggested that this category should be replaced by a "large dog" category comprising dogs of all breeds exceeding a certain body weight because the size of a dog alone was perceived to be a threat by the public. Taking into account the comments of the Bills Committee and views collected during a public consultation, the Administration redrafted the Regulation to create a "large dog" category which consisted of dogs of a body weight of 20 kg or above. ADAF said that it was anticipated that the change would affect approximately one-third of dogs in Hong Kong. As the Chairman of the then Bills Committee, Mr Michael HO recalled that the Administration had been requested to consult relevant parties on the classification of large dogs. ADAF confirmed that the Animal Welfare Advisory Group and various kennel associations had been consulted in this respect. Ms Christine LOH asked if reference had been made to overseas experience in setting the weight limit of 20 kg for large dogs. ADAF replied that although there was no specific regulation in overseas countries governing the body weight of dogs, they had more stringent restrictions on the keeping of dogs. On the basis upon which the 20 kg limit for large dogs was arrived at, ADAF said that this was established after reviewing statistics on the breeds of dogs responsible for dog bites in Hong Kong as well as information on the weight of these breeds. The review showed that large dogs were responsible for the vast majority of serious bite wounds. To facilitate a better understanding, the Administration was requested to provide for members' reference a table showing the regulatory measures on the control of dogs in other densely populated cities.

(Post-meeting note: The required information was circulated vide LC Paper No. CB(1) 1741/98-99(08).)

10. As large dogs were not necessarily more dangerous than small dogs, Ms Emily LAU held the view that it would be unfair to require large dogs, in particular those which were known to have mild and even temperaments, to be held on a leash and muzzled in public places. While recognizing that not all large dogs were dangerous, ADAF pointed out that large dogs were generally more powerful than small dogs and would inflict a more serious bite wound if provoked. If children were bitten by large dogs, the wounds were more likely to be in the region of the face and neck which might lead to permanent disfigurement. He clarified that large dogs were only required to be restrained and muzzled in indoor public places such as lifts, corridors, lobbies etc where humans and dogs had to share confined areas. In most situations, large dogs would only need to wear a muzzle for a short period of time while they were taken from their places of residence through the common parts of buildings to outdoor public places, where muzzling would no longer be required and they would only have to be held on a leash not exceeding two metres in length. To strike a balance between animal welfare and public safety, large dogs would be allowed to be exercised off leash in areas which were not so congested such as country parks or other special areas as defined in the Country Parks and Special Areas Regulation. As to whether large dogs could be off leash inside dog gardens, ADAF advised that he had to check with the two Municipal departments to see if there were still dog gardens in Hong Kong before reaching a decision on the issue.

(Post-meeting note: The Administration's response was circulated vide LC Paper No. CB(1) 1741/98-99(08).)

11. Given that the Administration had identified four types of fighting dogs which were unsuitable for keeping in Hong Kong, Mr James TIEN asked if the Administration could similarly identify a number of breeds of large dogs which could be exempted from the Regulation. ADAF considered the suggestion not feasible as this would involve the identification of numerous types of breeds including crossed breeds such as mongrel dogs which were difficult to differentiate. Nevertheless, the Administration was prepared to grant exemption to trained dogs if they could demonstrate through examination that they would remain under control off leash in a range of standard day-to-day live situations. Mr CHAN Kwok-keung however opined that the examination might not be fair to some large dogs which were old and were less receptive to new things. ADAF advised that although the exact scope of the examination had yet to be worked out after consultation with professional dog trainers, it was expected that the examination would only require the dogs to demonstrate that they had no more than a casual interest to other dogs in confined areas and were capable of walking through a crowd without showing signs of fear or aggression. As regards the frequency of the examinations, ADAF advised that they would be held at least twice a year either as an independent event or in conjunction with major dog events such as dog shows. Exempted dogs would be given special collar tags to distinguish them from other dogs. Their exemption status would also be entered in their microchip licensing records.

12. Noting that 30,000 out of 100,000 dogs in Hong Kong would be classified under the "large dog" category, Ms LOH was doubtful if there were sufficient training courses available for these dogs. In response, ADAF admitted that the existing training courses organized by various kennels might not be adequate to meet the demand which was expected to rise after the passage of the Regulation. He however stressed that training was not a pre-requisite for the examination. Some dog keepers might also prefer to train their own dogs or to observe the requirements of the proposed Regulation without asking exemption. On the cost for training of dogs, ADAF advised that it would be a few thousand dollars per course.

13. On the level of penalty, ADAF advised that compared with that of the existing laws for control of dangerous dogs, higher penalty was imposed under the Regulation to deter occurrence of tragedies arising from dog bites.

14. Members generally expressed reservations at the Regulation. They held the view that the provisions on large dogs were too restrictive and would not be fair to those dogs which were known to have mild and even temperaments. To facilitate future discussion of the Subcommittee, members considered that there was a need to invite views from relevant parties, including the Police Dog Unit, on the proposed classification of dangerous dogs. To this end, the Administration was requested to provide a list of interested organizations which had been consulted by the Administration on the Regulation.

(Post-meeting note: Letters to the interested organizations suggested by the Administration were issued on 8 July 1999.)

III Any other business

15. Members agreed to hold the next meeting on Friday, 23 July 1999, at 10:45 am.

16. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 4:20 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
2 September 1999