When I visited Hong Kong in November 2013, I remember seeing exotic birds and fish being sold in (awful) markets, but I don’t remember seeing dogs anywhere. I didn’t give it any thought at the time because I was so distracted by the 7 million people crammed onto a tiny island – like one big Times Square. But now it makes sense: With its large population and a scarcity of green space (in the developed areas), Hong Kong doesn’t seem dog-friendly at all. So I am surprised and disappointed to read that Hong Kong’s newest status symbol is not just dogs – but large dogs.
Hong Kong has about 10 very upscale shopping malls with the same luxury brands – Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and the like. Some of these malls are situated within a few blocks of each other. Given how prevalent these fancy stores are, people who like to display their wealth but can no longer distinguish themselves in the crowd by wearing a Rolex have resorted to purchasing large dogs, according to China Topix: “Having a large dog is meant to signal that the owner can afford equally spacious homes in a city where luxury apartments cost twice as much as in New York.”
As would be expected from people who buy companion animals for the wrong reason, “Some give up their dogs after these are fully grown, and much larger than the cute puppies they signed up for.” This reminds me of the chihuaha craze triggered by Hollywood socialite Paris Hilton and the movies Legally Blond and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Animal shelters were overrun with chihuahas when people were bored with their dog accessory or were unequipped to care for them. In the U.S., puppy mills flooded the market with chihuahuas to the demand, and the same thing is happening in Hong Kong with large dogs (who, of course, are being raised in poor conditions.)
Sheila McClelland, the founder of the Lifelong Animal Protection Charity, says it best: “Having dogs must be for life, and not just for status.” To that I would add, please adopt. Buying an animal from a pet store or breeder kills a shelter dog’s chance of finding a home.