Animal rights activists in Hong Kong are condemning the local government’s decision to cull 2,000 hamsters due to COVID-19 infections found in 11 of the rodents.
Local health officials have carried out mass COVID-19 tests on hundreds of animals after coronavirus transmission was traced to a worker at a pet store in the Causeway Bay district, reported Reuters.
After 11 hamsters tested positive for COVID-19, Hong Kong halted sales and imports of the animal and ordered the “humane” slaughter of 2,000 hamsters. The hamsters that tested positive were all imported from the Netherlands, reported RTHK. Little Boss’ rabbits and other pets, including those in his warehouse, will also be euthanized.
About 150 customers of the Little Boss pet store will be placed in quarantine. Other pet shops in Hong Kong have been closed and disinfected to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
A premature decision
The Hong Kong chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) released a statement urging local authorities to reconsider the culling.
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“The SPCA is shocked and concerned by the government’s recent announcement about the handling of over 2,000 small animals, which failed to consider animal welfare and the human-animal bond,” she said. declared.
World Animal Protection research director Jan Schmidt-Burbach echoed that sentiment, saying the decision was made prematurely.
“Animal culling should always be a last resort and we encourage governments to explore other options first, such as quarantine,” Schmidt-Burbach said.
A necessary action
Health Secretary Sophia Chan said authorities made the decision to cull the hamsters as a precaution, despite a lack of evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted from pets to humans.
Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department Director Leung Siu-fai Leung said it was necessary to cull the hamsters because it would be “impossible to quarantine and observe each one”.
Leung said owners of hamsters who purchased their pets after Dec. 22, 2021, must turn the animals over to authorities for slaughter.
“Pet owners should maintain good hygiene practices, including washing their hands after touching animals, handling their food or other objects, and avoiding kissing animals,” he noted. .
Thomas Sit, the Deputy Director of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation, further explained to The Washington Post that infected hamsters pose a threat to other animals.
“You must understand that hamsters [which] already infected shed the virus. They can infect other animals, other hamsters and humans,” Sit said. “We have to protect public health and we have no choice.”
A pet owner who named his hamster “Fat Boy” says he did so after considering his cat’s safety.
“Hopeless… [I’m] was mostly concerned that it could infect other animals,” said the man nicknamed Mak RTHK.
Image selected via 紀元香港 Epoch News HK
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