Hong Kongers Rebel Against Order to Hand Over Hamsters

Government told them to turn in pets to be euthanized
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2022 12:00 PM CST

Hong Kongers are rebelling against a government order to hand over their hamsters. After a woman and 11 hamsters in the pet shop she worked in tested positive for COVID, authorities said Tuesday that anybody who bought a hamster on or after Dec. 22 should hand it in to be euthanized. But while the territory generally has a high level of compliance with COVID orders, the hamster order was widely seen as a step too far, the Washington Post reports. Thousands have joined online groups to offer to adopt or hide hamsters at risk of being euthanized and some have tried to intercept owners handing in hamsters at a government center, offering to adopt them instead. Others have offered to use their Photoshop skills to alter the dates on pet owners' receipts.

Animal welfare volunteers have told citizens that while the government said it "strongly recommends" people surrender their hamster, the order is not mandatory. Ocean Cheung, administrator of hamster groups on Telegram and Facebook, tells the Hong Kong Free Press that volunteers have rescued dozens of hamsters that were abandoned on city streets. She says there is no evidence that the infections were animal-to-human instead of human-to-animal, which is more common. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has said hamster owners should follow strict hygiene measures, but shouldn't panic or abandon their pets. The group says it is "shocked" by the government's plan. Local TV has shown videos of children crying as they spend their last moments with their pet.

On Friday, the government warned that people trying to interfere with the hamster cull could be reported to police, reports Reuters. A volunteer who gave her name as Jessica tells the Guardian that she isn't worried about the risk of COVID—or the threat of arrest. "They arrest people anyway for doing nothing," she says. "Some of my friends are in jail now. Not because of a hamster. I would rather save a life. A hamster life is still a life and that’s what a lot of volunteers are thinking." (More Hong Kong stories.)

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