It’s often said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you can certainly give them lots of loving care in their “senior” years.
That’s where Kathy Li Pui-seung
In human years, that’s equivalent to around 50.
“We hope we can provide a good place for the dogs to spend the rest of their lives,” said Li, who runs the shelter along with around a dozen volunteers.
Unlike other kennels or associations, Li has stopped actively taking in dogs and putting them up for adoption. “It’s unfortunate, but the reality is not many people would accept mongrels that require larger spaces to live,” said Li.
Most of the dogs Li takes in are mixed-breed. She said they are often left at building sites after serving as guard dogs, or are abandoned when they get sick or are injured in car accidents.
But the shelter bears a dark past that Li has fought hard to overcome.
In February 2014, 20 dog carcasses were discovered in the excrement-covered 3,000 sq ft facility. A woman Li had entrusted 74 dogs to had left the shelter unattended. The dogs that survived were so hungry they were feeding on the dead ones.
The woman who deserted the animals was nowhere to be found, but Li was sentenced to 160 hours of community service and fined HK$1,000 after pleading guilty in Tuen Mun Court to keeping dogs without licences and to three counts of animal cruelty.
Li, who calls herself a “crazy dog lady”, said the incident made her realise she couldn’t keep taking in dogs and close herself off to the outside world.
“I didn’t really have any friends before and didn’t open myself up to people. But after this incident, I was so surprised and thankful that there were so many people, some I didn’t even know, who wanted to help,” said Li.
In the five months following the dog deaths, more than 100 volunteers helped dispose of the waste, cleaning and disinfecting the shelter so it could start again from scratch.
The facility had a major overhaul, which included building proper fences, drainage improvements and sorting dogs by behaviour and size more meticulously.
Now the shelter, which first opened in 2009, is run and kept clean with the help of volunteers who feed, bathe and take the dogs out for weekly walks.
Volunteer Nancy Wong Wing-shan said sickness and death is an issue they deal with often.
“A lot of the dogs are old and abandoned, and may have underlying illnesses before coming to us, so there have been cases when a dog suddenly dies and we don’t know why,” she said
What kept Li going after the 2014 scandal was the welfare of the 50 dogs that survived the ordeal. “They are all my children,” she said.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said in a recent reply that “no abnormalities were detected at the premises” during its most recent inspection in October.