Sara Tsui Fung-ling has loved animals of all kinds from childhood. As well as caring for more than 10 dogs and cats, she also shares her home with a snake. When small, Sara hankered to be a veterinarian but ended up studying law instead to use her professional knowledge and skills to protect animals. Later, her passion and commitment prompted her to focus her thesis on this area and carry out research into Hong Kong laws related to animal rights. She has now spent the past 10 years diligently working to enhance the city’s legal protection for animals.
Building awareness in Hong Kong
A look at Hong Kong’s legal framework reveals that many of the relevant laws regarding animals originated from the UK some 50 or 60 years ago and have not been updated. Under Hong Kong law, there are no provisions to prevent animal abuse. Hence, a person who neglects an animal and places them at risk of suffering does not commit an offence. Only when there has been actual harm from such behaviour can action be taken, Sara noted. Often Hong Kong’s laws do not impose “reasonable duty of care” on pet and animal owners or offer comprehensive enough protection compared with other countries, she added.
“As a result, legal practitioners and institutions in Hong Kong generally have less chance to pursue cases involving animals, leading to a lack of relevant knowledge and legal precedents,” she said. However, there have been some positive social developments. People have started to take the initiative to raise issues related to animal welfare in the traditional and social media, while some election candidates have begun to mention animal rights in their campaign platforms. In addition, penalties for breaking the relevant laws have been made more severe in recent years. All these moves show that public awareness of animal rights and welfare is growing, she said. “I think the establishment of the School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) at CityU will also help the public develop a more in-depth view of animal welfare, given that it is specifically training professionals in this area.”
Advocating greater protection
A few years after graduation, Sara became a teaching fellow at CityU Law School, covering animal rights and welfare among other topics. While practising law, she also serves as Honorary Legal Consultant for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Hong Kong) and teams up with other solicitors with a passion for animals to let the public know more about the need for greater protection. “In a society like Hong Kong where economics and the economy are the foremost considerations, it would be hard to run a business focused on animal welfare. That’s why we all have to pursue this goal in our spare time,” Sara explained, adding that her most pressing concern is to improve Hong Kong current legislation. “We hope that our advocacy will foster a larger group of legal practitioners and relevant institutions with a more comprehensive grasp and understanding of animal rights and welfare.”
Actively contributing to change
Sara has always had an active campus presence at CityU. While studying, she joined the Students’ Union (SU). Together with several other classmates, she proceeded to work day and night to rewrite the SU Arbitration Committee’s memorandum. The Committee was revitalised and even started to hear cases again. “There are still students today who are amazed to see the documents I wrote during those years in the SU!” she said.
Having enjoyed her student days and worked at CityU for a decade, Sara regards the University as her second home and is very grateful for all the opportunities it has provided for developing her interest in animal welfare through her studies and work. Currently, she is planning to set up a non-governmental organisation or charity to help injured stray animals and keenly hopes there will be a time when she can collaborate with the SVM. “That would be my dream,” she said.
校友訪問 – 徐鳳翎
Sara Tsui Fung-ling
Bachelor of Laws with Honours
Postgraduate Certificate in Laws
Those were the days: Sara (front row, second right) preparing for Orientation Camp with Students’ Union committee members.
Sara and her dog Zero.
Sara also keeps a smaller breed of snake at home.