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Hong Kong

This week guest writer Daphne Ng, briefly discusses notable differences between Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Ordinance (Cap. 169) (“Cap. 169”) and the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (“AWA”), the two main legislations in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom respectively that govern animal welfare.

Scope of cruelty offences

Section 3 of Cap. 169 penalizes specific offences that relate to (1) animal abuse (in the form of torture, kicking or terrorizing an animal); (2) neglection of an animal (by failing to provide such animal with food and water); (3) transporting an animal with little space so as to cause them unnecessary pain and suffering; and (4) causing, procuring, or assisting fighting between animals. Conversely, section 4 of the AWA provides a more general prohibition on “unnecessary suffering” of an animal thereby widening the forms of animal cruelty which amount to an offence.

Reasonable knowledge of animal suffering

While under section 3 of cap. 169 a person commits an offence if he/she fails to exercise “reasonable care or supervision” of the relevant animal, section 4 of the AWA states that people who “knew, or ought to have reasonably have known” their act or failure to act would cause unnecessary suffering to the animal also commit an offence. This creates a wider offence in the UK to cover what the offender reasonably should have known.

Positive duty of care

In addition to penalizing offenders who actively commit animal cruelty, section 9 of the AWA imposes a positive duty of all persons who are responsible for animals (including pet owners) to provide, among other things, a suitable environment and suitable diet for the animals under their care. This positive duty of care however does not currently exist under Cap. 169.

Reforms of Cap. 169

Although in 2006 Hong Kong took a step forward in animal welfare protection by increasing the sentences under Cap. 169 from six months imprisonment (perhaps modelled after section 32 of AWA) to 3 years imprisonment and increasing the maximum fines from HK$5,000 to HK$200,000, Hong Kong could still widen the scope of animal cruelty under section 3 of Cap. 169.

By amending Cap.169 in line with the AWA it would bring Hong Kong one step closer to advancing its protection of animals to be paralleled to the United Kingdom’s animal welfare system.

Getting Advice

This blog post is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. If you require legal advice on animal protection laws please contact

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