Animal groups have renewed calls to update laws and establish an animal police unit after the death of a dog, which had been rescued just days before it died.

So far 50,000 people have signed an online petition pressing for better animal protection, lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu said.

On Wednesday, a male Japanese Spitz was killed after it was allegedly thrown from the rooftop of a 23-story residential block in Cheung Sha Wan.

The white dog was rescued by police from drowning at Victoria Harbour earlier last week. It was returned to its owner after vets found no signs of abuse.

In a separate animal abuse case, two dogs were poisoned in Cha Kwo Ling at the weekend. One dog died.

Kwong said the Spitz incident highlighted the gap in the existing mechanism that protects animals.

“If a child fell into the sea and got rescued, would you immediately return him to his parents without asking any questions or investigating?” he asked at the City Forum.

There are 13 police districts that have dedicated investigation teams to handle cases of animal cruelty. But Kwong said the treatment of such cases varies from district to district, as there is no coordinated unit dealing with animal cases.

“If the [Spitz] case was handled by a team indifferent to animal rights, it would be classified as a miscellaneous incident,” he said.

The Road Traffic Ordinance currently stipulates that a driver who causes injury to an animal could receive a HK$10,000 fine and be imprisoned for 12 months.

But the animals specified in the law are horses, cattle, donkeys, mules, sheep, pigs and goats, and so it does not apply to cats and dogs, Kwong said.

Mark Mak Chi-ho, executive chairman of the nonprofit Veterinary Service Society, said laws are outdated as they treat pets as properties of their owners.

“Most laws relating to animals were not meant to protect animals at all,” Mak said. He cited the dog-abandonment law, which is under the Rabies Ordinance, and was only meant to prevent the transmission of rabies. “It’s time to revise the laws,” he said.

Craig Choy Ki, convener of the Progressive Lawyers Group and a member of the Animal Welfare Group, said most frontline officers have limited knowledge on how to handle cruelty cases.

They often rely on the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for help in investigations, and that leads to delays in evidence collection in most cases, Choy said.

Fung Kin-cheung, secretary general of the HK Pet Trade Association, said laws should be revised.

Article originally appeared in The Standard on 9 April 2018