Adopting a dog can be a hugely rewarding experience, so here’s all you all you need to know about finding your forever furry friend.
Thinking of adopting a dog in Hong Kong? Taking the plunge into pet ownership is a huge responsibility. There are countless reasons for adding a furry friend to your life, but there are also several things to consider before making the decision to adopt. So, if you’re not sure where to start on your own journey to pet ownership, we’ve got everything you need to know before you commit – from how to go about it, to the charities to check out and a first person account of what to expect.
Adopt Don’t Shop
By adopting a dog you are, quite literally, saving a life. Unfortunately, our city still has many pet shops that display cute animals for sale. Although you may want a particular breed or age of dog, do your research first and please: adopt, don’t shop. Many of the animals seen in pet shops come from illegal breeders where animals are kept in terrible conditions and – as a direct result of this – there are countless animal charities and shelters in Hong Kong, with hundreds of dogs, cats and more looking for their forever homes.
Some of the main animal charities to be aware of in Hong Kong are:
- Hong Kong Dog Rescue (HKDR)
- Lifelong Animal Protection (LAP)
- Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)
- Catherine’s Puppies
- Kirsten’s Zoo
- Hong Kong Paws Foundation
- Animal Friends
Most charities regularly update their websites and social pages with which dogs are currently available. Most also allow you to visit and meet the dogs before making your decision. Expect to fill out an adoption questionnaire before visiting – this covers aspects such as your lifestyle, your home and the kind of dog you’re after. Charities also have to take on the huge financial burden of caring for and rehoming stray animals, so are always looking for donations, if you’re in a position to help out financially.
I personally adopted a dog just over eight months ago and can say it is, without a doubt, the best decision I’ve ever made (besides moving to Hong Kong in the first place!). Having grown up with dogs my whole life – and with a little help from a cat allergy – I well and truly fall into the “dog person” camp, so moving to a new city and being away from family (and the family dog) was an adjustment. Myself and my boyfriend had considered dog ownership before, but after almost three years in the city, we felt it was the right time to take the plunge. We kept our eye on a range of animal charities (read: I religiously followed all HK shelters on Instagram), and after a few months of searching, found the right one for us.
We were lucky enough to have regularly looked after a friend’s pug when his owners were away, so the reality and limitations of looking after a dog in Hong Kong weren’t new to us. I’ve long-loved snub-nosed breeds and a small dog was always going to be a better choice for us and our small apartment, so this also helped us narrow down what kind of breed we were after. When we visited the Hong Kong Dog Rescue rehoming centre in Ap Lei Chau and met Twiggy, our one-of-a-kind, one-eyed pug-French bulldog mix, we instantly fell in love. There were countless other small dogs and a few other snub-nosed breeds at the time we visited, but she stood out to us for her character and personality. A week later, and after one more trip to meet the little lady, she was ours.
Although Twiggy is a relatively young dog, she has been through a lot in the first three years of her life (having been rescued from an illegal breeding site). Selfishly, the feeling of saving an animal’s life is incomparable, but when strangers congratulate us on choosing a rescue dog, I’m never quite sure what to say. Twiggy makes our life better. Sure, we have to set our alarm slightly earlier in the morning to walk her before work – but my daily step count is up as a result! Her evening walks are also my favourite time of day to unwind after work. She may have nibbled holes in one or two pairs of underwear and socks (not to mention a flamingo fancy dress costume…), but the pros of having a dog far outweigh any slight cons.
Twiggy is full of life, personality (and more than a touch of sass), and though she loves nothing more than a good snooze, her excitement for walks, and her face when we come home makes every day better. If you’re on the fence about getting a dog, take the time to consider all the factors first, but if you do decide that it’s the right time for you, it’s sure to be the best decision you make.
Things To Consider
Before embarking on your journey to dog ownership, there are many things to consider. It can be tempting to jump the gun and it’s all too easy to fall head over heels with the first dog you meet, but it’s worth taking your time and making sure that you can commit to owning a pet. Adopting a dog is a major responsibility that requires careful thought and pre-planning, so keep the following in mind:
Have You Had A Pet Before
Not having previously owned a dog definitely doesn’t mean you can’t get one. Though it could mean that you’re not quite as aware of what comes with the responsibilities of pet ownership. Whether you’re going for a puppy or a rescue dog, it’s likely that you’ll need to commit to training, which can take time. Owning a dog is also not always all fun and games, so don’t be surprised if your new puppy makes a mess on your sofa or chews a hole in your favourite pair of shoes.
It sounds obvious, but you need to consider whether having a dog realistically fits in with your lifestyle; or if you’re willing to make the relevant changes for it to work. Your work-life balance, the size of your apartment and if you have outdoor space are all important considerations. And while a small space doesn’t mean you can’t have a dog, breeds such as Tibetan Mastiffs may not be for you. Likewise, if you work late hours or have a thriving social life, you still need to make sure that you’ll be home to give your dog the attention he or she needs.
Which Breed Is Best For You
As mentioned, living in Hong Kong does limit us to which breeds may be the best fit. City living doesn’t lend itself to much space, so smaller breeds are the natural choice. Though there are other aspects to consider. Breeds differ vastly in personality, so it’s always worth doing your research first if you have other animals and/or children, to see which may suit you best. Dogs that shed less – such as poodles, shih tzus and most terriers may also be better suited to those with allergies.
It’s also worth mentioning that breed isn’t everything and there are plenty of “Hong Kong mutts” that are in need of homes. These dogs are just as loving, gentle, cute and – most importantly – worthy of finding forever homes.
Are You Staying In Hong Kong Forever
Hong Kong is a transient city and, for many of us, it’s not going to be our permanent base. The old saying goes “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas”, and the same applies to pet ownership in Hong Kong. Many charities face the problem of dog owners surrendering their pets when it is time for them to leave the city, so before you take the plunge, make sure you can fully commit.
Even if you do plan on leaving Hong Kong at some stage, moving your pet abroad can be done. Do your research beforehand, as certain countries and breeds do have restrictions, and planning ahead is key to facing problems such as crate training and getting the necessary injections and vet sign-offs. Also, factor in the potential cost of moving with your dog so you’re not surprised when the time comes.
The Cost of Pet Ownership
It’s not just your lifestyle you need to consider before getting a pet, but your finances too. Day to day costs such as feeding, training and grooming can add up. But there can also be vets fees, medication, travel costs and much more that you may not have factored in.
You may come to realise that having a dog isn’t necessarily right for you, no matter how much you would love to be a pet owner. However, if you can’t commit long term, there are options available such as fostering. Animal charities are often looking for short term homes for dogs before they find their forever homes. You can also volunteer to walk dogs or help out at the shelters in your spare time, if you aren’t in a position to bring a dog home but still want to help. There are also sites out there such as Pawshake, which allows you to dog walk or pet sit.
All images courtesy of Annie Simpson.