Seven senior citizens – several with walking aids and a couple in wheelchairs, from the Asilo Vila Madalena retirement home, accompanied by the facility’s director and their family members, submitted a petition Thursday addressed to Chief Executive Chui Sai On, urging him to stop Macau (Yat Yuen) Canidrome from moving over 500 greyhounds to a plot of land just a few metres away from their dormitories due to hygiene and noise concerns.
The home near Coloane village has about 80 residents.
The home’s director, Sister Ip Pui King, told reporters after handing in the petition to an official outside Government House yesterday that Yat Yuen had only contacted her after workers had almost finished transforming the previously vacant plot of land into a “temporary greyhound adoption centre” where about 100 air-conditioned shipping containers have already been installed for the roughly 530 greyhounds to live in.
“It’s [the temporary greyhound adoption centre] literally right next to our home, with the [former] Canidrome, at least there’s some distance away [from residential buildings],” Ip said, adding, “They took some greyhounds there [into the containers] a couple of days ago, and it’s been so noisy. When they bark, our [two] dogs and other dogs in the area start barking, how can our elderly sleep.”
Despite the fact that the Lands, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT) said in a statement last week that no construction permit had been issued for Yat Yuen to use the plot of land as a greyhound adoption centre, Ip said that construction was still going on.
“I think that plot of land is really too small for so many dogs there, there’s not even space for the dogs to go for walkies,” Ip said.
“Especially as the kennels are close to our kitchen and dormitories for frail elderly, hygiene is really a concern. If there’s any accident, I really don’t know what to do,” she added.
“It’s so noisy. It’ll smell. We’re all old people. Let us live in peace and quiet,” said one of the elderly home’s residents, Chu Sio Ha, outside Government House yesterday.
Fellow resident Lei Meng Chan, 86, added, “To the people who built the kennels there, how would you feel if the kennels were built right next to their flat? They [Yat Yuen representatives] said the greyhounds are just waiting for the adoption process which would take, they said, six months to a year. Why can’t the greyhounds stay at the [former] Canidrome, where they have been living for so many years, until they are adopted and leave Macau? It’s the best way, there’s no need to move them.
“We just want to live in peace and quiet for the final years of our lives, we’re very unhappy that we have to cope with the noise and hygiene issues because of the greyhounds there,” Lei said.
Lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong, who was present when the petition was handed over, said that if it turned out that the greyhound centre would become a permanent home for the dogs that could not get adopted, Yat Yuen and the government needed to let the public know and find a more appropriate place, such as in Pac On, as previously proposed, as there are no residences nor retirement homes nearby there.
“If it is confirmed that they can finish [the adoption process] in a short period of time, there’s no need to find a [new] place for them to stay, just let them stay at the [former] Canidrome until it’s over,” Ng said, adding that moving the greyhounds next to a retirement home to get the issue sorted out was an act of “bullying old people who can’t speak up for themselves”.
The government announced two years ago that the Canidrome would have to close down in 2018. When the racetrack shut its doors for good on July 20, the fate of the over 500 greyhounds left behind in its kennels made global headlines.
The government has said that the greyhounds must be moved from the ex-Canidrome to another location by September 29 – Saturday next week – at the latest, following a 60-day extension granted by the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM).
Initially, Yat Yuen planned to move the roughly 500 greyhounds awaiting adoption to a vacant factory in Pac On in Taipa. Later, the company proposed to move them to 11 private homes. Anima later proposed to move the canines to a plot in the Concordia Industrial Park in Coloane. None of the former relocation plans got off the ground.
The government plans to redevelop the former racetrack, which had been in business since 1963, into a complex for schools, sports and recreation.