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Wed, Jan 03, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Dog lovers seek amends in court

ANIMAL RIGHTS Claiming that their lost pets were needlessly put to sleep by a municipal animal shelter, two Taipei residents are demanding compensation

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Two Taipei dog lovers are seeking compensation in court for what they say was the wrongful killings of their pets by a government-run animal shelter.

In what could be a precedent-setting case, the Taipei District Court yesterday began proceedings against the Taipei Municipal Institute for Animal Health (台北市動物檢驗所) -- the first time the court has heard a claim for damages against the state for the loss of a dog's life.

Two city residents, Hsu Hsiu-ping (許繡評) and Wang Yu-cheng (王妤埩), took the case to the court after the institute refused their request to pay NT$1.46 million in compensation for wrongfully destroying their lost dogs.

Veterinarian Huang Jen-yen (黃建源), representing the plaintiffs, told the court yesterday that the institute was negligent in putting down the two registered and electronically tagged dogs, who were named Hsiao Hua (小花) and Hsiao Huang (小黃).

Huang told the court that Hsiao Hua -- a female long-haired mongrel and Hsu's pet for more than three-and-a-half years -- strayed on July 17.

The institution's records show that the dog was captured and sent to the institution the following day.

The court heard that the dog was put to sleep after just three days, instead of seven as the law requires, because the institution claimed no identification chip could be found on the animal.

The fate of Hsiao Huang was even more unfortunate, Huang said. The female mongrel, which Wang had raised for about four years, was put to sleep while Wang was filling out the claim form at the institution's reception counter.

The room in which animals are destroyed cannot be contacted by reception staff, and as such it was impossible for staff to stop the the dog being put down in time, the institute wrote in a letter to Wang.

Veterinarian Huang said, "Stray dogs are living creatures and domestic pets are personal property. No one, including the government, has the right to take their lives away,"

"Besides, the Animal Protection Law (動物保護法) specifies that stray dogs are entitled to a minimum seven-day stay at the institution before they are finally put to sleep. Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) recently extended that time to 10 days."

Huang also alleged that the institution's chip-detecting facilities were inadequate.

"Currently there are about four different electronic tagging systems, but the institution is equipped with only two scanning systems," he said.

The defense counsel for the institution maintained that the animal facility had done everything according to the law.

The reason why Hsiao Hua was destroyed in just three days instead of seven, according to the defense, was because the dog was suffering from infectious diseases.

"The Animal Protection Law stipulates that the institution can destroy stray animals infected with infectious diseases, so the organization did everything according to the law," the defense said.

Hsiao Huang was captured on Aug. 4, and not on Aug. 6 as the owner claimed, the defense said, adding that the animal was put to sleep on Aug. 12, or eight days after it arrived. "The institution not only obeyed the law, but was in fact lenient," the defense lawyer said.

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