Hong Kong’s COVID-19 hamster cull sparks worry of householders abandoning pets

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By Jessie Pang

HONG KONG (Reuters) – A mass hamster cull in Hong Kong sparked fears amongst animal welfare teams on Wednesday that panicky individuals would abandon their pets after 11 of the rodents from one petshop within the metropolis examined constructive for COVID-19.

The native Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which runs veterinary clinics, advised Reuters it acquired “quite a few” enquiries from frightened pet homeowners, asking what to do concerning the newest scare.

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

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

However having pursued a coverage of zero tolerance for COVID-19, Hong Kong authorities officers took no probabilities after a sequence of current infections with the Delta variant had been traced again to a employee at a pet store.

Tons of of samples had been collected from animals, together with rabbits and chinchillas, however solely the hamsters examined constructive for COVID-19, leading to officers giving orders for some 2,000 hamsters from 34 pet retailers to be put down “humanely.”

SPCA listed methods to keep up strict private hygiene for the security of people and animals.

“By no means kiss your pets. Don’t cough or snort at your pets. When you have signs of COVID-19, it’s best to preserve your distance from animals,” it stated, stressing that homeowners dealing with animals ought to at all times wash their palms afterwards.

A hamster concern group, Life on Palm, stated on Fb it had additionally acquired round 100 inquiries concerning hamsters following the cull.

Justifying the federal government’s actions, Well being Secretary Sophia Chan stated on Tuesday she couldn’t rule out any transmission prospects.

Quickly after, well being employees in hazmat fits had been seen strolling out of pet retailers across the metropolis carrying crimson plastic luggage into their vans.

Dozens of pet retailers had been requested to shut, whereas imports and gross sales of small mammals had been suspended. Patrons of hamsters after Dec. 22, 2021 had been requested at hand them to authorities for culling and never go away them on streets.

It was unclear what number of had been handed in.

A hotline for enquiries was arrange, whereas some 150 of the pet store’s clients had been despatched into quarantine, officers stated.

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

(Reporting by Jessie Pang; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Modifying by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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