Sally Andersen is the founder of Hong Kong Dog Rescue (HKDR), an organisation that rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes unwanted or abandoned dogs and puppies, providing a temporary home environment at their main Tai Po centre.
Andersen spent time in London and Germany before calling Hong Kong home in 1984. She spent the better part of 30 years doing her part for the local canine community, fuelled only by her own belief in the cause. After visiting a government kennel in 2003, she decided to start a NGO to help stray dogs.
What were you doing in London and Germany before coming to Hong Kong?
I was born in Germany and left when I was 20 to move to London where I had a variety of jobs.
Have you always been involved with charity work?
No, charity work had never crossed my mind until I started HKDR, and I did that because I was already rescuing and re-homing dogs and puppies that I picked near my home on Lamma Island. It was a chance visit to AFCD in Pokfulam where I saw all the dogs due to be killed that prompted me to start an organisation so I could help save them.
What is a typical working day like for you?
The dogs wake me early, then I write my daily blog, which I have been doing since 2009, and replying to emails or any other office work. Then I walk the dogs for about 90 minutes, feed them and get ready to go over to Hong Kong from Lamma.
I usually go to the office in Ap Lei Chau, AFCD in Pokfulam and Acorn vet in Sai Ying Pun, but of course there are many occasions where I will need to be elsewhere for whatever reason. There are always many things to do, including raising the funds to be able to take care of all of our dogs.
How has HKDR evolved over the years?
It started with two people, myself and a friend, then grew as we moved into kennels at Pokfulam and started recruiting volunteers. Initially all of the dogs from AFCD came to my Lamma home but once we had the kennels they stayed there. It really just snowballed from then on, and in 2010 we moved to our current Homing Centre in Tai Po as well as opening a small dog Homing Centre and office/Education Centre in Ap Lei Chau. Now we have 600 dogs to take care of.
Besides donating money, how can we help to support HKDR?
Adopting is the most important way to help, or fostering if you can’t commit to keeping a dog for a long time. We always need volunteer dogs walkers (must be over 18) , especially at Tai Po and during the week, or volunteers to help at events or behind the scenes.
What is your greatest accomplishment with HKDR?
Just seeing what HKDR has become from a very small start, and knowing that so many thousands of lives have been saved.
How many dogs are adopted each year?
Around 500 dogs a year are adopted.
What are the main reasons dogs get abandoned and is there any way to help people keep their dogs?
There are so many reasons why people abandon their dogs but the main one is lack of forethought; that is, thinking about the future. Puppies are bought for children without the thought that children grow and lose interest. Expats get dogs without thinking that they will almost certainly leave Hong Kong at some time in the future. Young people get dogs without thinking that their lives will change and they may not be able to take a dog through those changes. Young couples get a puppy without thinking about the high probability that a baby will soon be coming along.
Many people get a puppy without thinking that the puppy will grow into a possibly large dog which will need space, time and exercise. The main reasons for bad behaviour are: leaving a puppy/dog alone for long hours so it is never properly socialised, never trained (as there is nobody there to teach it) and under-exercised. If you are at work all day then you should not get a puppy. NO EXCEPTIONS.
Can you provide three tips to assist owners to manage their pet’s behavioural problems through training?
- The most important part of training is the human aspect. The dog is the innocent victim of human ignorance, so it is the owner who needs to learn what they are doing wrong. Any good dog trainer will insist that the dog owner, and entire family, will be involved in training.
- Always stay away from any trainer who uses choke chains, spike/prong collars, shock collars or any form of aversive (punishment) training. Look for trainers that use Positive Reinforcement methods only. An easy way to assess this is to ask whether you would do that to a child. If not, don’t do it to a dog.
- If you adopt from HKDR we offer full post-adoption support and training, or can recommend other Positive trainers.
Recommended dog hotels for when dog owners go on holiday?
- DBDogdayz in Sai Kung
- Happy Tails in Lantau
- Pet world in Yuen Long
What are your thoughts about people who treat their dogs like babies?
They need to learn about dogs.
Where are your favourite places in Hong Kong to walk dogs?
- Any of the many Country Parks
- Penfold Park in Shatin racecourse
- Cyberport park in Pokfulam