Having a dog in your home can bring many benefits – helping to build a child’s confidence and teaching them how to care for living things, getting more exercise with those daily walkies, not to mention the joy of coming home to a wagging tail and friendly face.
However, if you are considering welcoming a dog into your home, doing your research first is the vital step in ensuring you make the right choice for you and your furry new companion. To help you make an informed decision, we speak to three experts from animal rescue charities across Hong Kong.
First Things First: Why Adopt?
According to Sally Andersen, Founder of Hong Kong Dog Rescue (HKDR), the number of abandoned dogs in Hong Kong is on the rise, partly due to the fact that many people continue to buy puppies from pet shops. She discusses the importance of considering adopting over buying:
“Every year, thousands of dogs are destroyed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), and that doesn’t include those animals who die after being abandoned in the countryside or taken to organisations that are not ‘No Kill’. If you are considering buying – don’t. There are animals of every kind waiting to be adopted, and buying should simply never be an option. If you love animals and you are confident that you can be a responsible and loving pet owner, then why not choose adoption and save a life?
“Rescued dogs are often mistaken as second-hand, broken goods, but the reality is that the majority of them are friendly and healthy dogs and make wonderful companions. If you adopt from a reputable organisation, then you should be given all the information you need, and at HKDR, that also includes free post-adoption training support. Anyone thinking about getting a dog must consider all aspects carefully, especially if they are an expat and Hong Kong will not always be their home. Too many dogs are abandoned when their owners move to another country, and that should never be an option.
Rescued dogs are often mistaken as second-hand, broken goods, but the reality is that the majority of them are friendly and healthy dogs and make wonderful companions.
“The major mistakes people often make when choosing a dog is not thinking ahead, or being too impulsive and not doing their research about the needs of the breed types. Some people get a puppy for a young child and think they’ll take responsibility for it when they won’t – and shouldn’t. Other times, people don’t consider the time involved in taking care of an animal that is totally reliant on you for everything, or the fact that a small puppy can grow into a large adult with greater needs. Here are some important things to consider before you decide to become a dog owner.
Is a dog the most suitable pet for you?
Decide what sort of time you have to devote to taking proper care of an animal and base your decision on that to start with. Dogs are the most work-intensive pets as they not only require your companionship and good exercise, but also training and grooming. If you don’t have the time to train a dog, get an adult. Short-haired dogs are obviously easier to keep neat and tidy than long-haired ones. Dogs are also social animals who don’t handle being alone well, and this can lead to all sort of problems. It’s also just not fair or kind to have a dog that you leave on its own all day. Even cats shouldn’t be left without human companionship for long periods, but at least they don’t need exercising. If you have considered all of the above and want a friend that is loyal, loving, completely trustworthy, and will lay down its life for you, then you need a dog.
Can you give a dog adequate exercise?
Many people think that one 30-minute walk a day is all that’s required, and it’s not enough, no matter the size of the dog. Taking a dog out is great physical exercise, but it also gives a dog a chance to meet dog and human friends, play, and socialise. Dogs that aren’t socialised develop the same sort of issues that people do when kept isolated. If you work and don’t have a helper, or at the very least a dog walker, then don’t get a dog.
Do you want a trained dog or a young puppy?
If you choose the latter, then do you have the time, patience, and knowledge to train a puppy? If you have children, remember that all puppies bite with sharp teeth, and that children must never be expected to be responsible for the care or exercising of a dog, no matter how much they promise to do so.
What breed or breed mix should I get?
Most people will have a mental image of the ideal family dog, and usually that means a preference for a certain breed. What some people don’t realise is that each dog breed has specific character traits; dogs are not all the same. Some people are aware that breeds like Border Collies, Samoyeds, and Huskies need a lot of exercise, but tend to think that smaller breeds are indoor breeds and lap dogs. However, the reality is that many of them – like the Poodle, Jack Russell, Corgi, and Shiba Inu – are actually more energetic than the larger breeds and also need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. It’s important to do your research beforehand to understand the breed’s typical behaviour pattern, exercise needs, and physical features, so you choose a dog that matches your lifestyle. This will save you from a lot of trouble later on. In short: don’t fall in love with a breed, but focus on the dog’s temperament and energy level when you first meet it. Be open to the idea that a mixed-breed dog could be your ideal companion.
Don’t fall in love with a breed, but focus on the dog’s temperament and energy level when you first meet it. Be open to the idea that a mixed-breed dog could be your ideal companion.
Are all family members on board?
You are not the only person adopting the dog, it’s your whole family and this includes your helper and any existing pets. You should make sure that everyone in the family is on board with the decision, and confirm beforehand that no one has any severe pet allergies before bringing the dog home. It’s wise to introduce the dog to all family members, especially your children, to see if the dog of your choice also likes your kids. And don’t forget to involve your helper to see if the dog is also friendly with the household help. It’s also important to understand that all family members should be involved in the training of the dog, not just the person that adopts it – it’s a team effort.
Kirsten Mitchell, founder of volunteer-run animal rescue organisation, Kirsten’s Zoo, points out the importance of ensuring pets are permitted in your home:
Does your building and/or landlord allow pets?
If your building has a ‘No Pet Policy’, then don’t adopt and force a dog to live inside for the rest of his days. Dogs have needs too – they need to meet other dogs, to socialise, play, and interact – don’t try to turn a dog into a person – they are animals! And don’t take a young, energetic dog if you are out all day or can’t commit to two to three walks a day. Aside from this, you also need to consider if you live in an area where you will be able to take your dog for exercise. They need daily exercise, regardless of the weather and whether or not you feel like it.
Dr. Teresa Lee, welfare programme manager at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) raises the issue of home safety and finances:
Is your home safe enough for a dog?
You need to consider if your home is animal friendly or if it needs some alterations to make it safe for your pet – not only a dog. For example, we see a lot of cases of “flying cats” where they have fallen down from a high or even low-rise building because their owner has failed to take the right precautions such as installing window screens. This is actually one of our own criteria for anyone looking to adopt a cat, because we don’t want to run the risk of animals becoming injured or paralysed from a nasty fall.
Can you afford the medical bills?
One reason that people surrender their animals is that they can no longer afford to pay the medical bills, whether the animal is sick or old and requiring medical attention. A pet is like a child, you can’t predict when they might get sick or have an accident, which can lead to financial expenditure. Aside from this, animals need to go through a series of preventative healthcare measures such as vaccines against the most common viral diseases, monthly deworming to prevent heartworm (which is endemic in Hong Kong), as well as monthly flea and tick control. As the animal gets older, we also strongly recommend annual health checks, such as blood work to make sure their internal organs are functioning normally, and dental cleanings to ensure they don’t have dental disease which can occur in later life. It’s far easier and cheaper to prevent diseases than to treat them, but the cost of doing this still adds up, so you need to consider your finances before you commit.
Where to adopt a dog in Hong Kong
There are animals of every kind waiting to be adopted, and buying should simply never be an option. The following organisations have dogs of all ages needing homes, and regularly host events where you can meet a selection of them, or arrange to meet them by appointment.
Hong Kong Dog Rescue
Hong Kong Dog Rescue has reached capacity at 600 dogs and can now take in only as many as they can home. You can find most of their profiles on the Dogs Page. You can also meet a big selection of puppies every Sunday at Whiskers N Paws (from 2pm to 5pm) or any day by arrangement.
SPCA Hong Kong currently has 45 dogs looking for a forever home. Click here to meet them and get in touch to find out more and make an appointment to meet the animals in person at one of the SPCA centres.
Other charities offering adoption
Hong Kong Paws Foundation – click here to find out more
LAP Lifelong Animal Protection Charity – click here for more information
Sai Kung Stray Friends – click here to find out more
Want to foster?
All of the charities listed above offer fostering programmes where you can provide a dog with a safe environment, good food, and lots of love and attention until it finds a permanent home. The advantage of fostering is that you are not only providing a much needed temporary home for an animal, but you also have the opportunity to experience life with a pet, which is particularly valuable if you are unsure about committing to adoption.
“Charities are crying out for temporary foster homes where a dog or cat can learn to be in a home and around people,” explains Kirsten Mitchell. “Adoption is for life – so if you can’t adopt, or you don’t think it will be permanent, then just foster.”
Visit the websites above to find out more about fostering a dog in Hong Kong.
Want to volunteer?
Adopting and fostering aren’t the only ways that you can help make a difference to a dog’s life. From dog walking to bathing, and grooming to playing, there are plenty of ways to lend a helping hand to animal charities. If you would like to know more about the different volunteer opportunities at the organisations featured, click on these links: