After Hong Kong announces hamster culling, thousands volunteer to adopt animals

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Thousands of people in Hong Kong on Wednesday offered to adopt unwanted hamsters after a government mass cull order over Covid-19 fears raised alarms that panicked owners would abandon their pets. pet.

Authorities on Tuesday ordered 2,000 hamsters from dozens of pet stores and storage facilities to be culled after tracing a coronavirus outbreak to a worker at the Little Boss pet shop, where 11 hamsters tested positive for Covid-19.

Scientists around the world and health and veterinary authorities in Hong Kong said there was no evidence that animals played a major role in human contagion with the coronavirus.

But having followed a zero-tolerance policy for Covid-19, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said on Tuesday that she cannot rule out any possibility of transmission and therefore the government cannot take any chances.

Soon after, healthcare workers in protective suits were seen exiting pet shops around town carrying red plastic bags in their vans. About 150 pet shop customers were quarantined.

Public broadcaster RTHK said some hamster owners were seen delivering their animals to a government facility in the New Territories, while groups quickly formed on social media to identify new owners of unwanted rodents.

Ocean, 29, a hamster owner and administrator of ‘Hong Kong the Cute Hamster Group’ on the social media app Telegram, said the group had been contacted by nearly 3,000 people willing to take care of unwanted animals temporarily.

Three young owners were pressured by their families to get rid of their hamsters, even though they had all owned them for more than half a year, said Ocean, who declined to give his last name fearing angry reactions from those who support the cull.

“Many pet owners are unfamiliar with the exact risks and give up on their hamsters,” she said.

Bowie, 27, one of the group’s volunteers, now owns two new hamsters.

“This is ridiculous,” said Bowie, who already owned three other hamsters. “The life of animals is also life. Today it could be hamsters or rabbits, tomorrow it could be cats or dogs.”

The local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which runs veterinary clinics, told Reuters that “numerous” concerned pet owners are contacting them for advice.

“We urge pet owners not to panic or abandon their pets,” the SPCA said in a statement.

The SPCA has listed ways to maintain strict personal hygiene for the safety of humans and animals, including never kissing, coughing or sniffing around pets and washing your hands after handling them.

The average life expectancy of a hamster is about two years, according to animal welfare groups.

exaggerated fears

In addition to ordering the slaughter, authorities called for the closure of dozens of pet shops, while imports and sales of the small mammals were suspended. Buyers of hamsters after December 22, 2021 were asked to hand them over to authorities for slaughter and not leave them on the streets.

The authorities created a hotline for consultations. It was unclear how many hamsters were delivered.

Most Hong Kong newspapers featured pictures of people in protective suits in front of pet shops and illustrations of hamsters on their front page on Wednesday, with the pro-Beijing daily Ta Kung Pao featuring a tiny rodent inside a particle. of virus spiked.

Vanessa Barrs, a professor of companion animal health at the City University of Hong Kong, said the decision to cull the hamsters for sale could be justified on grounds of public health protection, but fears of infection at home were overblown.

“Millions of people around the world have pets and there have been no proven cases of pets transmitting infection to other humans,” Barrs said.

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Reference: CNN Brasil

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