Infected animal rules explained

April 18, 2022

The Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department (AFCD) today explained the handling of animals that test positive for COVID-19 under the recently amended Prevention & Control of Disease Regulation to address public concern.


In a statement, the AFCD said under the regulation, if a health officer has reason to believe that an article, including an animal is or may have been infected with a specified infectious disease, the officer may order a disease control measure to be carried out in respect of the article or destroy it.


The Government amended the regulation recently, including stipulating that the owner of the article concerned, including an animal, shall hand over the article as instructed by the health officer, and providing for offences for non-compliance with such instructions and introducing penalties.


The AFCD explained that in view of the latest epidemiology and volatile epidemiological situation, the Government needs to implement effective public health prevention and control measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.


As far as COVID-19 is concerned, except for a small number of animal species, such as minks and hamsters, there is currently no evidence showing that infected animals, such as cats and dogs, would transmit the virus to humans. Hence, the chance of humans being infected with COVID-19 through animals is very low.


In these circumstances, it is expected that there is not a high chance of the power needing to be invoked to request the owner concerned to hand over their pet.


However, if there is sufficient scientific evidence showing that there are animals spreading the virus to humans such as the case of hamsters spreading the virus to humans earlier this year, the Department of Health and AFCD will prudently consider exercising such power to handle the concerned animals to stop the spread of the virus.


There are two ways to handle the animal concerned in the case where the pet owner of a mammal is a confirmed COVID-19 patient or a close contact and needs to be hospitalised or isolated in any quarantine facilities, and no evidence has been found that the infected animal concerned will spread COVID-19 to humans.


The AFCD will adopt the current measure of sending the animal concerned to the New Territories South Animal Management Centre for isolation and veterinary surveillance after obtaining the owner's consent.


Pet owners can also ask their relatives or friends to help take care of their animals.

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