The government hopes its animal protection bill will finally become law soon and come into force on September 1, legislator-cum-unionist Kwan Tsui Hang, who chairs the legislature’s 1st Standing Committee, said on Thursday.
The committee met to discuss the newly revised version of the bill with senior officials including Secretary for Administration and Justice Sonia Chan Hoi Fan.
Kwan said that she expected the bill to be submitted to an article-by-article vote by a plenary session of the legislature next month.
The outline of the bill was approved in 2014. It has been revised several times by the government since then. Last year, the government decided to lower the proposed maximum prison sentence for animal abuse from three years to just one year. Kwan said on Thrusday that the committee agreed with the government’s stance.
The bill’s latest version proposes that dogs weighing 23 kilograms or more are legally required to wear a muzzle in public areas 91 days after the future law’s enactment, Kwan said, adding that their owners would be allowed to apply for an exemption from the bureau, which would consider a raft of criteria including the dog’s breed and its “obedience”.
The bill’s latest version also proposes that all dogs living in “certain areas” such as construction sites and junkyards must be neutered and licensed, Kwan said. “During the day, the dogs must be chained up so that they are not able to roam the streets. All of these dogs must be licensed. They will only be allowed to walk freely in the constructions sites or junkyards [where they live] at night,” Kwan said, adding the bill also proposes that the government can fine the owners of such areas if any dog living there is found roaming the streets.
The bill also proposes that individuals or organisations would have to receive official approval from the bureau if they host an event to release animals for religious purposes.
Some officials will meet representatives from animal protection groups to discuss the bill next Tuesday, Kwan added.