Following the order to cull 2,000 hamsters as what they deemed as a preventative measure against a Covid-19 outbreak, Hong Kong authorities on Jan. 18 descended upon a pet store in Causeway Bay to remove its hamsters for culling.
Bloomberg reported that crowds had gathered outside the shop as the hamsters were taken away in boxes.
Hong Kong authorities maintained that such a move was necessary after a new cluster of Covid-19 cases was identified at the Little Boss pet store in Causeway Bay.
Authorities seize hamsters
Crowds gathered outside the Little Boss pet store as Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) officers, dressed in protective gear, came to take the hamsters away.
According to local reporters, there were also police at the scene to cordon off the area outside the pet shop.
Reporting live from the scene where the doomed, allegedly potentially Covid-infected hamsters live: 3 AFCD vans with staff in full hazmat, police officers (including plainclothes ones), police cordons, and camera crews. pic.twitter.com/covxTBxi8N— Laurel Chor (@laurelchor) January 18, 2022
According to Reuters, health workers were also seen walking out of pet shops across the city carrying red plastic bags, presumably containing hamsters, into their vans.
34 licensed pet stores that sell hamsters were also ordered to suspend operations, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Owners show up to sacrifice pet hamsters
Those who bought hamsters after Dec. 22, 2021 were also asked to turn their pets in for authorities to cull.
However, the director of AFCD Leung Siu-fai said that this was an "administrative decision", and failing to comply will not result in legal consequences.
According to SCMP, he also urged pet owners to "observe strict hygiene" when handling their pets and cages, and to avoid kissing them or abandoning them on the streets.
Following the directive, hamster owners in Hong Kong have started showing up at government facilities to sacrifice their pet hamsters, reported SCMP.
The owners were made to sign an agreement with the authorities after dropping their hamsters off.
Signing the document waives the owners' right to ask about their animals moving forward, and to any compensation, according to SCMP.
Outcry from animal welfare groups
Hong Kong's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has urged authorities to reconsider the cull.
It said in a Facebook post yesterday (Jan. 18) that owners should not panic or abandon their pets.Thousands of volunteers have also stepped up to adopt hamsters from those who feel unsafe to keep them at home, according to Reuters.
Some were pressured by their family members into giving up their pet hamsters, out of fear of Covid-19 transmission.
Scientists and Hong Kong's own health and veterinary authorities have said that there was "no evidence" of significant animal-to-human Covid-19 transmission, reported Reuters.
However, since Hong Kong adopts a zero-tolerance approach to combating Covid-19, health secretary Sophia Chan said that the government could not take any chances and would not rule out any transmission possibilities.
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Top photos via Unsplash and @laurelchor/Twitter