City to cull 2000 pets over Covid transmission fears

·3-min read

Hong Kong is set to kill over 2000 pet hamsters and people have been told not to kiss their pets, after 11 rodents tested positive for Covid-19.

A Covid-19 cluster in humans was recently traced back to a pet shop worker in Hong Kong. The infections prompted hundreds of animals to be checked and 11 hamsters were found to be Covid-positive.

In response to the infected animals and echoing the mainland's zero-tolerance policy for Covid, Hong Kong ordered 2000 hamsters be put down "humanely".

In addition to the mass culling, imports and sales have stopped, Reuters reported.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department director Leung Siu-fai said the hamsters had to be put down as it would be impossible for them to be quarantined and observed.

Anyone who has purchased a hamster since December 22, 2021 should hand them over to the authorities to be euthanised and are advised to not just leave them on the street.

Pictured are Staff members from Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department investigate at a pet shop, closed after some pet hamsters were, authorities said, tested positive for the coronavirus.
Authorities in Hong Kong are ordering 2000 hamsters being killed following a Covid-19 outbreak. Source: AP`

A hotline dedicated to hamster-related enquiries has reportedly been set up.

Some 150 people who visited the pet shop at the centre of the cluster have gone into quarantine.

Rabbits and chinchillas in Hong Kong have also been tested for Covid-19, though none have returned any positive results.

In the wake of the outbreak, Leung urged people to be careful around their pets.

"We urge all pet owners to observe strict hygiene when handling their pets and cages. Do not kiss [them] or abandon them on the streets" he said according to the South China Morning Post.

Pictured is a hamster.
Anyone who purchased a hamster after December 22 is being asked to turn it over to the authorities in Hong Kong. Source: change.org

Outrage over mass hamster culling

The decision to cull the animals was made out of an abundance of caution, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said in a press conference, while acknowledging there is no evidence domestic animals can infect humans with Covid-19.

The local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which runs veterinary clinics, urged Hong Kong rethink the decision.

"The SPCA is shocked and concerned over the recent government announcement on the handling of over 2,000 small animals, which did not take animal welfare and the human-animal bond into consideration," it said.

Over 20,000 people have signed a petition to stop the government from "wrongfully" euthanising the animals.

Pictured is a woman in Hong Kong walking past a hamster depicted on the wall of pet shop.
People were outraged over the hamster cull in Hong Kong and called for the government to reconsider. Source: AP

"Every pet owner knows that their pet’s lives are just as important as their own, yet the Hong Kong government fails to see that they, the very upholders of law, are on the dangerous path to the murders of many lives that are barely any different to ours,' the petition says.

"A pet is an owner’s best friend, and due to the government’s orders, thousands of people could unjustifiably lose their dearest companions."

After three months without local transmission, Hong Kong has dozens of new cases in humans this year, triggering fresh restrictions on flights and social life.

Thousands of people have been sent to a makeshift government quarantine facility. Most of the new cases are of the highly-contagious new Omicron variety, though the cluster traced to a pet shop worker was Delta.

Though the cull seems drastic, it's not the first time animals have been killed due to Covid-19 fears.

Millions of mink were killed in 2020 in Denmark due to fears a mutated version of Covid-19 was spreading to humans.

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