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

Concerns raised at the meeting on 23 July 1999 which require follow up actions by the Administration


On 23 July 1999, four deputations and two members of the public attended the Subcommittee meeting to present their views on the proposed Dangerous Dogs Regulation. A number of concerns were raised. The Administration undertook to provide responses to these concerns for Members' consideration.

Background and statistics

To provide background information on why the United Kingdom (UK) introduced amendments to the legislation on the control of dogs in March 1997, and whether the UK experience can be referred to in formulating dog control measures in Hong Kong.

2. The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act of the UK provided for, amongst others, mandatory destruction of unregistered fighting dogs. The Home Affairs Committee's report of 26 February 1997 concluded that as the Act had "largely succeeded in eliminating the breeding and holding of a kind of dog for criminal or antisocial purposes … the pit bull terrier … which was causing increasing concern to both the public and the police", it was possible to relax the "undoubted harshness" of the original legislation. In March 1997, the UK Government amended the Dangerous Dogs Act to introduce greater flexibility into it's operation. In particular, the Act was amended to:

  1. allow the courts to have greater discretion in sentencing, so that the former mandatory death penalty would not have to be applied to every fighting dog sentenced under the Act; and

  2. allow owners of unregistered pit bull terriers to register their dogs if they could provide legitimate reasons for not having done so previously.
3. The UK legislation was examined in detail in the preparation of the proposed Dangerous Dogs Regulation. The problems caused by lack of flexibility in the previous UK system were noted. To avoid these problems, the Hong Kong proposal allowed owners to keep fighting dogs under controlled conditions and did not provide for mandatory destruction of unregistered fighting dogs, as found in the UK 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act. Since owners of fighting dogs in Hong Kong may continue to keep their existing dogs provided that they are neutered following the new control measures, the 1997 UK law amendments had little relevance to the Hong Kong proposal.

To provide statistics on dog bites in Hong Kong including bites by dogs in the home, stray dogs and large dogs exceeding 20 kg in indoor and outdoor public places respectively.

4. The following tables provide relevant statistics on dog bites in Hong Kong in 1997-98 and 1998-99.

Table 1 Dog Bites Reported to and Investigated by AFD

Dog detained and case investigated1,68768%1,38868%
Uninvestigated cases *79632%66132%
Total dog bites reported2,483100%2,049100%

* Note : Some dog bite cases could not be investigated because the victim could not be located, was uncooperative, or could not identify the dog, or the dog could not be caught.

Table 2 Location of Dog Bites - Cases Investigated by AFD

Location1997 - 98
1998 - 99
In dwelling53332%38528%
Indoor public place23014%28220%
Public Road79947%57641%
Construction site493 %252%
Others764 %1209%

Table 3 Ownership of Biter Dogs - Cases Investigated by AFD

Ownership1997 - 98
1998 - 99
Claimed by keepers1,06463%68649%
Surrendered by keepers24615%27420%
No keepers or keepers cannot be identified (including stray dogs) * 37722%42831%

* Note : This category consists of kept dogs that were unlicensed and unclaimed by their keepers or stray dogs that have no keepers.

According to the Agriculture and Fisheries Department's (AFD's) statistics, local chow and mongrel were responsible for more than 50% of all investigated dog bite cases in the past two years. Based on the typical size of dogs of the relevant breeds, AFD estimated that 74% and 70% of dog bite cases involved dogs over 20 kg in body weight in 1997/98 and 1998/99 respectively.

Issues relating to fighting dogs

To provide the basis for classifying the four types of dogs as fighting dogs in the proposed Dangerous Dogs Regulation (the Regulation), whether more types of dogs will be categorized as fighting dogs in the future, and whether there are sufficient number of experts in Hong Kong who are capable of distinguishing dog breeds.

5. The four fighting breeds listed in Schedule 1 to the proposed Regulation, namely Pit Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentino, Fila Braziliero and Japanese Tosa, are recognised internationally as having been breed for fighting. They have the common characteristic of attacking without being provoked. Once they attack, they will not respond to signs of submission and may continue attacking until the victim is dead. All these fighting dogs are exceptionally strong and have a predisposition for abnormal aggressiveness. Other countries, including UK, Australia, Holland and Singapore, have legislation to control one or more of these breeds.

6. The Administration has no intention of incorporating other breeds into the fighting dogs category, unless there is clear evidence demonstrating a need to do so.

7. AFD advises that in Hong Kong there are experts capable of distinguishing dog breeds and suitable for appointment to the Dogs and Cats Classification Board to identify fighting breeds and crosses. They include accredited judges from kennel clubs and experienced veterinary practitioners. To clarify whether in the case of a fighting dog making a transit and changing flights in Hong Kong, the owner and the operator of the conveyance will commit an offence under section 3 of the Regulation.

8. Section 3 of the proposed Dangerous Dogs Regulation prohibits removal of fighting dogs from a conveyance arriving in Hong Kong. Section 4 prohibits "import" of fighting dogs. "Import" is defined under the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance (Cap 1) as bringing or causing to be brought into Hong Kong by air, land or water.

9. The parties concerned (including the owner and operator of a conveyance) will commit an offence under sections 3 and 4 in case of a fighting dog making a transit with changing flights. In case of a fighting dog making a transit without changing flights, the parties will be liable under section 4.

10. We do not intend to allow fighting dogs to transit in Hong Kong mainly because we do not wish to promote trade in these dogs. There is also a risk that a fighting dog transiting in Hong Kong may be smuggled into Hong Kong.

To explain how the estimated number of 200 fighting dogs to be surrendered for destruction after the commencement of the Regulation was derived.

11. The estimated number of 200 existing fighting dogs to be surrendered for destruction is the sum of the number of licensed "fighting dogs" and the estimated number of crosses.

Issues relating to known dangerous dogs

To provide the rationale for including a dog which has killed or inflicted serious injury on a domestic animal without provocation in the "known dangerous dogs" category. The Administration is requested to take into account dogs' instinct in fighting with other animals such as cats, and it might not be appropriate if only serious injury on an animal will lead to a dog falling into the category of "known dangerous dogs".

12. It is unreasonable to allow people to have dogs in public places in such a way that they may kill or seriously injure other people's pets. It is incorrect to assume that domestic dogs have an instinct to fight with other animals such as cats. A well-kept, well-trained dog is not expected to attack or fight except when provoked. In the interest of public safety, dogs that have killed or inflicted serious injuries on domestic animals in the absence of provocation are dangerous and should be subject to the proposed controls while in public places by including such dogs in the "known dangerous dog" category. It should be noted that the decision to classify a dog as a "known dangerous dog" would be made by a magistrate after consideration of the facts of the case.

Issues relating to large dogs

To respond to comments made by the deputations that weight and size of dogs do not necessarily correlate, i.e. a dog exceeding 20 kg might not be a large size of dog, and the muzzle requirement will increase aggression in dogs.

13. The 20 kg limit is proposed in order to include local chows and mongrels, which were responsible for more than 50% of all investigated dog bite cases. The weight of a dog does have a significant correlation with size, except when severe obesity is the cause of the high weight. The Administration recognises that not all large dogs are dangerous but that the measures proposed will cause little inconvenience to dog owners while enhancing public safety. Owners of large dogs who wish to be exempted from the requirements may be exempted if they demonstrate, through examination, that their dog can be controlled off leash in a public place.

14. AFD is unaware of any scientific evidence that suitable or short-term muzzling increases aggression.

Enforcement of the Regulation

To clarify whether dogs participating in dog shows held in indoor public places are subject to muzzle requirement.

15. Exemptions can be made available for large dogs in dog shows subject to the adoption of adequate measures to protect the public.

To advise whether suitable muzzles are available for all types of dogs including pit bull terriers.

16. Suitable muzzles are available in a range of sizes and shapes for different types of dog, including pit bull terriers. Dogs in the large dogs category are only required to be muzzled while in indoor public places.

To advise whether the exemption examination will be held frequently enough to cater for the demands of dog owners, and whether one single examination required for each dog will be adequate for the determination on whether a dog will not endanger public safety.

17. The frequency of the exemption test will be adjusted to meet public demand. It is generally considered that one test for an individual dog with an individual handler is sufficient, provided that the test is rigorous and well designed. If evidence suggests that an exempted dog represents a threat to public safety, the Director of Agriculture and Fisheries may revoke the exemption and inform the owner accordingly.

To advise whether the Administration would anticipate any difficulties in the enforcement of the Regulation in rural areas, and if so, whether any measures would be in place to tackle the problem.

18. AFD's Animal Management Teams work in both urban and rural areas. AFD does not anticipate any insurmountable enforcement difficulties in rural areas.

Measures to tackle the crux of the dog control problem

To introduce effective measures to control stray dogs such as catching abandoned dogs upon the completion of construction projects.

19. The Administration has drawn up guidelines on management of dogs on construction sites for construction companies. AFD animal management staff visit constructions sites regularly and pay special attention to those sites where construction work is near completion. AFD will continue to work with construction site managers to alleviate this problem.

To impose higher penalties on those who fail to control their dogs.

20. Under the proposed Dangerous Dogs Regulation, those who fail to comply with the control measures are liable to a fine at level 4 ($10,001 to $25,000) and imprisonment for three months (for large dogs and known dangerous dogs) or six months (for fighting dogs). The level of penalty to be imposed in individual cases is a matter for the court to decide.

To control smuggling of dogs from the Mainland.

21. The Administration has exerted considerable effort to prevent smuggling of dogs into Hong Kong. AFD has on-going liaison with the Mainland authorities to prevent smuggling of dogs from the Mainland. In response, the Mainland authorities have targeted Shenzhen pet shops close to the Lo Wu railway station which were believed to be a major source of dogs involved in attempted smuggling. These pet shops have been closed recently. In addition, the Customs and Excise Department, the Police and AFD will continue to work together to combat the dog smuggling problem.

To escalate educational programmes and publicity to promote responsible ownership of dogs and integration of dogs into the community.

22. AFD has implemented a number of measures to enhance public education and publicity on responsible ownership of dogs. These measures include distribution of a booklet on owning a dog in Hong Kong and a promotional campaign on microchips and dog licences later in 1999. Other publications are being developed.

Economic Services Bureau/
Agriculture and Fisheries Department
August 1999