AFP, published on Tuesday, September 06, 2022 at 1:19 p.m.
For three months, Cassius and Roxie have been waiting for new masters in a Hong Kong animal shelter.
Their owners are among the residents of the city who have chosen to exodus in the face of the growing influence of Beijing and health restrictions.
This story is all too familiar to employees of financial center animal shelters.
“We are always full,” laments Eva Sit, communications director of Hong Kong Dog Rescue (HKDR), amid incessant barking and meowing.
“We find it very difficult to say no to placement requests because we are very sad for the dogs,” she told AFP.
When abandoning their pets, the owners fill out a form on which the reason for the abandonment must appear.
If, in the past, departures abroad represented two out of ten cases, “today, it is almost the only reason.”
Over the past two years, many local and foreign nationals have left Hong Kong, in particular due to the reduction of freedoms that residents have long enjoyed and travel restrictions linked to the pandemic.
The population has declined: between mid-2020 and mid-2022, deducting arrivals from departures, the city recorded a negative net migration of some 200,000 inhabitants, according to government demographic data.
Normally, most people would leave with their pets, but since the pandemic, it’s been a real headache.
Hong Kong, which before the Covid was one of the most important airports in the world, now only has a fraction of the flights that landed or took off there.
Many companies have stopped serving the city due to crew restrictions.
In July, only 401,000 passengers passed through the airport, or 6% of the pre-pandemic level.
For comparison, Singapore recorded 3.3 million passengers during this same period, slightly more than half of the levels experienced by the city-state before the appearance of Covid-19.
– Shortage of flights –
The shortage of commercial flights results in a limited number of places to transport pets in the hold or in the cabin, which makes it very complicated or expensive to send them abroad.
The richest have therefore grouped together to rent private planes to bring the animals out, for 150,000 to 250,000 Hong Kong dollars (19,200 to 32,000 euros).
“It’s very expensive, so I respect the people who have done it,” says Olivier, a French dog owner who has seen many friends opt for these private jets.
But many others have to make the heartbreaking decision to leave their pets behind.
Narelle Pamuk, founder of Sai Kung Stray Friends (SKSF), agrees that owners often don’t have a choice.
“They say people are bad when they leave their animals behind, but I have to say not everyone is bad,” she told AFP.
“This whole pandemic has completely pissed people off. They haven’t had time to anticipate, they’ve lost their jobs and they haven’t always been able to take their animals with them, because it’s not easy”.
Others simply couldn’t find a flight or afford one, she added.
Harvir Kaur, a 23-year-old teacher moving to Canada next year, is factoring the needs of her three-year-old Pomeranian, Taffy, into her travel plans.
She does not want her dog to travel in the hold, the only option offered by the Hong Kong company Cathay Pacific, and is trying to have him travel with her in the cabin, whatever the cost.
“I never thought of leaving Taffy behind, it would be against my ethics.”
“When you have a dog, it’s not just a toy for you. Your dog needs you, maybe even more than you need your dog.”