Former owner of 500 Macau greyhounds announces rehousing plan

HONG KONG (Reuters) - An official of Macau’s Yat Yuen, the company that ran the only dog-racing track in the world’s largest gambling hub until last week, joined hands on Friday with animal rights group Anima to announce plans for a center to rehouse more than 500 greyhounds.

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The animals, temporarily adopted by authorities after being abandoned by Yat Yuen, which ran Macau’s Canidrome Club until the track closed, are to live at the center until they find new homes, allowing the public a chance to interact with them.

“We are performing our social responsibility and also doing what we promised,” Angela Leong, the executive director of Yat Yuen, told a news conference, held jointly with Macau-based Anima, that was streamed live on Facebook.

Leong, the fourth wife of billionaire gaming magnate Stanley Ho and a long-standing Macau legislator, has faced criticism from rights groups that said the greyhounds had been subject to cruel and inhumane conditions.

Yat Yuen has repeatedly rejected cruelty claims and declined requests for comment.

Last week the government vowed to punish the company under the Animal Protection Act. It has previously said Yat Yuen failed to provide a responsible solution for the dogs, despite knowing since early 2016 that its lease would expire.

“It is important for the international community to see that Macau loves the animals,” said Anima head Albano Martins, who has played a key role in demanding better treatment for the greyhounds.

“We would not just abandon them,” she told the news conference.

Leong said Friday’s announcement had been delayed because it took a long time to find the best location to settle the dogs.

Leong manages tycoon Ho’s family businesses, including Yat Yuen, its casino operations via SJM Holdings, and operates the Macau Jockey Club horse racing franchise.

The July 21 closure of the greyhound track marked the end of yet another of the often grubby old-time gambling businesses that long defined Macau before the arrival of luxury casinos.

Reporting by Farah Master and Holly Chik; Editing by Clarence Fernandez