HONG KONG - Hong Kong's animal lovers heaped fury on the city's subway operator on Thursday after rail workers failed to stop a dog from being run over by a train.
Mourners offered flowers and incense at the station where the dog was hit on Wednesday, while hordes of Internet users condemned the Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTR) for failing to save the stray.
Banners placed at Fanling station read: "Give justice to the doggy".
Despite living in a densely-populated city filled with tiny apartments, many Hong Kong residents are passionately devoted to their pet dogs. It is not unusual to see small pooches pushed around in prams or returning, newly fluffy, from a day at the doggy spa.
MTR officials were forced to issue a statement after an online petition, demanding an explanation for the dog's death, garnered nearly 65,000 signatures by Thursday afternoon.
"The corporation and the staff members who tried to bring the animal to safety are saddened by the event," the MTR said.
Workers had noticed the animal on the tracks at a neighbouring station 20 minutes before the accident and had "immediately stopped trains from entering the station while staff tried to coax the dog to safety," the subway operator said.
But these efforts were unsuccessful and the dog was then spotted again at Fanling station. Staff immediately signalled an incoming train to stop, but the dog could not be located.
"After the train was subsequently allowed to depart, the dog was found dead on the track," the MTR said.
Outraged animal lovers flooded the Internet with criticism over the death, saying it could have been prevented.
"You made all the passengers a co-killer just because of your decision," Lillian Lai commented on Facebook.
"Anyone with a brain and a little bit of conscience would not have let the trains move before the dog could be rescued," wrote Catherine Tse.
Some web users mocked up new version of the MTR logo adding a bloodied drawing of a dog.
An average of 5.2 million passenger trips are made every weekday on the MTR network, which is considered one of the most punctual and efficient subway systems in the world.
New York's subway system halted service on one of its lines for around two hours in August last year so that two kittens could be rescued from the tracks, according to reports.