On a Sunday afternoon in February, as soon as shoppers set foot in the outdoor area at the third floor of TKO Spot, all they could hear was the sound of children laughing and dogs barking joyfully. As it turned out, many parents brought their families to this spacious and colourful patio to interact with the dogs. And both groups were clearly having fun!
And no, this was not just another new dog park. Shoppers were actually in the middle of an adoption day hosted by the HK Saving Cat and Dog Association. This was already the second such event this year – an adoption day was held in January at Lok Fu Place. The association had brought more than ten dogs to allow the public the chance to interact with human beings' furry friends. The ultimate goal is to find suitable homes and reliable owners for as many of them as possible. In addition, the association also organises free talks on tips for new dog owners and dog interaction sessions. Through these activities, it hopes to improve public understanding of its work, and also to raise awareness and knowledge about pet care and pet training.
Inspiring people to “adopt, don’t give up”
According to Ko Po-yuk, the event organiser and a professor at The Education University of Hong Kong, the association sees the “3Rs” as its core mission: Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Rehome. “We rescue cats and dogs from the streets and those abandoned by their owners. Furthermore, we provide medical care and rehabilitation services until they recover. Our end goal is to find reliable new homes for them.”
“Through adoptions days, we hope to help more people understand the principle of ‘adopt, don’t give up’, and to raise public awareness about animal protection. We thank Link for opening up their outdoor patio for our activities, which makes it easier for us to let the public interact with the animals. The patios are spacious enough to allow the dogs to relax, making the experience more enjoyable for both dogs and human,” said Professor Ko.
Sad stories of abandonment look for a happy ending
Having volunteered at the association for six years, other than picking up dog care tips, Professor Ko has also witnessed numerous cases of adoption and abandonment. She said that the association is currently looking after about 150 cats and 50 dogs, with most being housed at cat and dog shelters or foster homes. With the pandemic and emigration wave in recent years, there has been an increase in animal abandonment. “Many owners who have left Hong Kong for good didn’t even bother to pass the pets to other people to look after or surrender them to rescuers. They simply abandoned them on the street. These are lives we are talking about and pets have feelings too. They are not used furniture.” According to Professor Ko, abandoned “furry friends” often show signs of emotional trauma and recovery can take months or years.
Three years ago, Becky, a six-year-old stray mongrel, was rescued to the association. “When Becky first came to the shelter, all the volunteers thought she was a bit of a loner. She didn’t like to be cuddled by people nor would she socialise with other dogs. Every time we tried to get close she would hide in the corner. She hated her collar as well. These were all signs that she had little trust in people.” Luckily, after two years of being looked after by Professor Ko, Becky has gradually loosened her guard. “These days she enjoys walking a lot more and bouncing around cheerfully. Sometimes she doesn’t even want to go back.” The ultimate goal is to find her a permanent and reliable home. “We’re waiting for the right person. Having a new home will of course be most ideal. But even if it doesn’t happen, the association will keep looking after her.”
Adoption saves lives
We also met Cheryl Lee and her nine-year-old Shiba Inu Car Car, whom she adopted through the association two years ago. Cheryl now wants to share her experience to help promote the message “adopt, don’t give up.”
Cheryl recalled how Car Car was placed in a foster home by the association two years ago, after the pet shop that had kept her went out of business. “I saw the messages on the association’s social media. Even though I had no experience with pets, I really wanted to give Car Car a home, and that’s why I applied for adoption.” What followed was two weeks of home visits and phone interviews by the association. After that, the decision was made for Cheryl to become Car Car’s new family. To Cheryl, it is important for an adopter to keep an open mind and be caring. When you feel confident enough to take the first step, the association will follow up and assist you in the process.
Other than providing the venue for this activity, in the year 2022/2023, Link is working with the association to train a new generation of dog volunteer leaders under the sponsorship from Link Together Initiatives. With the application of animal-assisted intervention (AAI), real life animal stories will be shared in education seminars to spread positivity. Trained AAI dogs will be brought into schools and the community to help the community relieve stress and enhance their emotional well-being.