HONG KONG, Jan 19 – Thousands of individuals in Hong Kong volunteered on Wednesday to adopt undesirable hamsters after a mass cull order from the federal government over COVID-19 fears raised alarm that panicky house owners would abandon their pets.

Authorities ordered on Tuesday 2,000 hamsters from dozens of pet outlets and storage amenities to be culled after tracing a coronavirus outbreak to a employee in the Little Boss petshop, the place 11 hamsters subsequently examined constructive for COVID-19.

Scientists all over the world and Hong Kong well being and veterinary authorities have stated there was no proof that animals play a significant function in human contagion with the coronavirus.

But having pursued a coverage of zero tolerance for COVID-19, Health Secretary Sophia Chan stated on Tuesday she couldn’t rule out any transmission potentialities and due to this fact the federal government may take no probabilities.

Soon after, well being staff in hazmat fits have been seen strolling out of pet outlets across the metropolis carrying crimson plastic luggage into their vans. Some 150 of the petshop’s clients have been despatched into quarantine.

Officers in protecting fits work inside a closed pet store in Mong Kok district after a hamster cull was ordered to curb the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) outbreak, in Hong Kong, China, January 19, 2022. REUTERS

Public broadcaster RTHK stated some hamster house owners have been seen handing over their animals at a authorities facility in the New Territories, whereas teams swiftly shaped on social media to establish new house owners for undesirable pet rodents.

Ocean, 29, a hamster proprietor and the administrator of ‘Hong Kong the Cute Hamster Group’ on the Telegram social media app, stated the group was contacted by virtually 3,000 individuals prepared to handle undesirable animals quickly.

Three younger house owners have been pressured by their households to do away with their hamsters though all of them owned them for greater than half a yr, stated Ocean, who declined to give her final identify fearing offended reactions from those that help the cull.

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

Bowie, 27, a kind of who volunteered in the group, is now the proprietor of two new hamsters.

“This is ridiculous,” stated Bowie, who already owned three different hamsters. “Animals’ life is also life. Today it can be hamsters or rabbits, tomorrow it can be cats or dogs.”

The native Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which runs veterinary clinics, advised Reuters “numerous” fearful pet house owners have been contacting them for recommendation.

“We urge the pet owners not to panic or abandon their pets,” SPCA stated in an announcement.

SPCA listed methods to keep strict private hygiene for the security of people and animals, together with by no means to kiss, cough at or snort close to pets, and washing arms after dealing with them.

The common lifespan of a hamster is about two years, in accordance to animal welfare teams.


Officers in protecting fits enter a closed pet store in Mong Kok district after a hamster cull was ordered to curb the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) outbreak, in Hong Kong, China, January 19, 2022. REUTERS

Aside from ordering the cull, authorities requested dozens of petshops to shut, whereas imports and gross sales of small mammals have been suspended. Buyers of hamsters after Dec. 22, 2021 have been requested to hand them to authorities for culling and never depart them on streets.

Authorities arrange a hotline for enquiries. It was unclear what number of hamsters had been handed in.

Most Hong Kong newspapers featured footage of individuals in hazmat fits in entrance of pet outlets and illustrations of hamsters on their entrance web page on Wednesday, with pro-Beijing Ta Kung Pao every day showcasing a tiny rodent inside a spiked virus particle.

Vanessa Barrs, professor of companion animal well being at City University of Hong Kong, stated the transfer to cull the hamsters up on the market could possibly be justified on public well being safety grounds, however fears of an infection at house have been overblown.

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

“The theoretical risk is there, but it just doesn’t happen.”

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