HK orders pet cull over hamster Covid cluster - RTHK
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HK orders pet cull over hamster Covid cluster

2022-01-18 HKT 17:32
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  • HK orders pet cull over hamster Covid cluster
Hong Kong authorities on Tuesday announced a cull of more than 2,000 pets in response to a Covid cluster involving hamsters at a pet shop in Causeway Bay.

A worker at the Little Boss store and a customer she briefly came into contact with have come down with the virus and officials say 11 hamster samples taken from the shop have tested positive, as well as environmental samples taken from the firm's warehouse in Tai Po.

Anyone who bought a hamster anywhere in Hong Kong since December 22 last year is now being "strongly advised" to hand it over so it can be tested for Covid.

Regardless of the test result, the hamster will be killed.

If the test comes back positive, the owner will be quarantined, while all those surrendering their pets will also have to take Covid tests of their own.

The hamsters already found to be infected were recently imported from the Netherlands and these animals, rabbits and other pets at the shop in question, as well as at the company's warehouse, are also going to be killed.

Meanwhile, dozens of other shops selling hamsters have been told to close, and give the animals to the authorities to be put down. They will only be allowed to reopen when the other animals on sale have tested negative.

A deputy head of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), Thomas Sit, said although there's no literature in the world showing that pets can transmit Covid-19 to humans, they have made the decision to cull the animals out of caution.

"Now [the hamsters] are infected with the virus, they can infect other animals, other hamsters and other human beings. So, we don't want to cull all the animals, but we need to protect public health and animal health, we have no choice, we have to make a firm decision," he told reporters at a press conference.

Meanwhile, officials are also planning to send around 150 of the pet shop's customers into quarantine. Those who visited the store between January 7-15 are being urged to contact the authorities.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it's shocked by the decision to cull the animals.

In a statement, the SPCA called on the authorities to review their approach, accusing them of failing to take animal welfare and the bond between people and their pets into consideration.

The SPCA also urged pet owners not to panic or abandon their animals, never kiss their pets and thoroughly clean their hands before and after contact with their pets.