HomeAsiaHong Kong plans to cull 2,000 hamsters over Covid fears. Pet owners...

Hong Kong plans to cull 2,000 hamsters over Covid fears. Pet owners are outraged

The announcement by the Hong Kong authorities on Tuesday was met with outrage by pet owners and animals rights advocates, with a number of on-line petitions urging authorities to rethink.

It comes after an rising cluster linked to the Little Boss pet retailer, the place a 23-year-old worker was confirmed optimistic for the Delta variant on Monday. A buyer who visited the shop and interacted with the worker later examined optimistic as effectively.

After investigating the pet retailer, officers stated on Tuesday that 11 hamsters had examined preliminary optimistic for Covid, elevating considerations round the potential for animal-to-human transmission.

Environmental samples taken on the store’s warehouse, the place different species of small animals are held, additionally confirmed traces of coronavirus, officers stated. The hamsters on the pet retailer had been imported from the Netherlands in two batches — on December 22 and January 7.

On Tuesday, authorities seized all of the small animals within the store, together with hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas, to be examined and euthanized — whatever the check outcome — citing a well being hazard to the general public.

All pet shops promoting hamsters within the metropolis have been ordered to hand the animals over to be put down, with comparable orders for anyone who purchased a hamster within the lead-up to Christmas, starting December 22.

Photos on Tuesday night time present Covid management staff in hazmat fits at quite a few pet shops, disinfecting the premises and bringing out cumbersome purple plastic luggage.

All animals taken from the shop could be handled “humanely,” authorities stated.

Hong Kong government workers investigate the Little Boss pet store on January 18.

Authorities additionally suspended the import of all small animals into town, and advised all pet shops promoting hamsters to droop operations instantly till all their small animals have examined detrimental. Officials urged residents on Tuesday to “adopt good hygiene practices” with their pets, together with avoiding kissing them.

More than 20,000 individuals have signed the most important on-line petition urging the federal government not to cull the animals. Some social media customers stated many hamsters might have been purchased across the holidays as presents for younger kids.

“Hamsters are our family, everybody please think rationally, don’t give them up because of one incident,” stated the Hamster Concern Society, a volunteer group in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) stated in a press release it was “shocked and concerned” by the federal government’s choice, which “did not take animal welfare and human-animal bond into consideration.”

In a Facebook put up on Wednesday, the hamster concern group stated it had been flooded with questions and pleas from anxious pet owners. “My household’s hamster wasn’t bought from a pet store, but my family is very worried and want me to send it away,” stated one proprietor, in accordance to the group. “But I don’t want to, is there any way to test my hamster?

A police officer stands guard outside a pet store that was closed after some pet hamsters tested positive for Covid-19 in Hong Kong on January 18.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been documented Covid-19 cases in animals who likely caught the virus from humans — however, there is far less evidence to suggest the possibility of animal-to-human transmission.

But authorities defended the cull, arguing it was in the interest of public health and safety.

Hong Kong has stuck to a strict zero-Covid approach, aiming to stamp out all cases internally while maintaining strict border controls, even as increasingly transmissible variants — first Delta and now Omicron — make that more and more difficult.

Hong Kong is one of the few places still adhering to that strategy, in the hopes of reopening its border with mainland China, which continues to lock down millions of residents in an attempt to eradicate Covid.

A spokesperson for the city’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said Tuesday that all hamsters would be killed regardless of their test result because the virus’ incubation period means “detrimental check outcomes don’t essentially imply that the hamsters haven’t been contaminated.”

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He added that the federal government does not have the amenities or means to check greater than a thousand hamsters on daily basis, not to mention isolating and quarantining all of the small animals within the metropolis — so killing them was “a secure and possible means to management the epidemic.”

Testing and isolating pets, and killing only the ones determined to be a threat, “couldn’t management the epidemic utterly and will trigger loopholes,” he added.

Mainland China has also taken similar measures against pets during the pandemic.

In September, community workers in Harbin city killed three pet cats who tested positive for the virus while their owner was in hospital quarantine, without her consent. A similar incident two months later in Shangrao city saw Covid prevention workers violently kill a corgi while its owner was in compulsory quarantine.
The killing of a corgi shows how government power has grown unchecked in China in the name of Covid prevention

Both circumstances went viral on Chinese social media, sparking widespread dismay and anger amongst pet owners and sympathizers — although some posters argued human lives had been extra necessary to shield than these of animals.

The Hong Kong AFCD spokesperson additionally pointed to European nations just like the Netherlands and Denmark that had carried out comparable mass cullings over Covid transmission considerations.

In November 2020, Denmark stated it discovered a mutated pressure of the coronavirus amongst its mink inhabitants that had unfold to people. In response, the federal government introduced the culling of 17 million mink to cease its unfold.

But the decision was controversial — and, it emerged last year, illegal. The government was thrown into turmoil when it emerged there had been no legal basis to order the cull of healthy mink, eventually leading to the resignation of the agriculture minister. When the prime minister was called into court in December and grilled on the mink culling as protesters marched outside, she responded: “There is not any rationalization (for the oversight) aside from that it was busy.”
Danish authorities had been later pressured to dig up thousands of dead mink after the fuel used to kill them brought about carcasses to swell and resurface from their mass graves.

Denmark’s parliament commissioned an inquiry into whether or not ministers had identified that the authorized framework was absent, with the investigation set to end in April.

CNN’s Wayne Chang, Lizzy Yee and Teele Rebane contributed to this report. Additional reporting by Reuters.

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