Thousands more pets could be abandoned in China over coronavirus, charities warn

Chinese animal charities fear there could be a "second wave" of animals being abandoned in China thanks to incorrect reports that pets carry the coronavirus . It was estimated by local animals groups that more than 30,000 pets were left stranded in Wuhan alone after the Chinese government sealed off the city in January and placed more than 60 million people in the surrounding Hubei province under travel restrictions. Thousands of others were also left behind in cities like as Beijing, Dalian and Xi’an, putting pressure on shelters.

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But charities on the ground say another surge in dumped pets could be on the horizon if the false reports claiming that pets can spread the virus, which have been circulating since the cordons went up, persist.

Fears were sparked by reports that a pomeranian dog in Hong Kong contracted Covid-19 from its owner at the start of the month. Even though the World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed pets cannot transmit the disease, charities in China said fears of contamination could fuel animal abuse in the country.

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There are an estimated 150 million pets across the country, according to local media.

The charity Humane Society International (HSI ), which is working with 35 Chinese animal shelters, said the government-sponsored culling of street dogs in Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Heilongjiang, Hebei, Wuhan, Shanxi, Shanghai has continued to stoke panic.

The organisation said there may be “possible panic situations” where pets are left on the street or even killed when life returns to normal in the coming weeks.

Wendy Higgins, director of international media for the HSI, said: “There are concerns we will see a second wave of animals abandoned when cordons are relaxed and freer movement is allowed in China.

“We are holding our breaths and hoping reassurances from the WHO there is no evidence pets can transmit the virus will calm any possible panic situations.

“If you see somebody in uniform beating and killing dogs it perpetuates that's the thing to do.

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“We are aware of the possibility we could see acts of cruelty or unintentional suffering inflicted on animals.

“We are appealing for calm and asking pet owners not to overreact.”

The group will be publishing an open letter from animal groups next week urging local authorities and police not to harm stray animals.

“When residents in Wuhan realised the evacuation was extended, many residents contacted animal groups pleading with them to enter their apartment to look after their animals, they were very worried about their welfare," Ms Higgins said.
Wuhan Small Animal Association has helped a great many animals this way, and HSI and our partners Vshine have also come to the aid of dogs and cats in Beijing and Dalian at the request of their owners. “Most people in China are horrified by the alleged government sponsored culling of animals.

“There is a bigger animal rights movement in the country than people realise. Even videos of animals being beaten by officials appearing on social media is an act of defiance.

”Where these have appeared on Chinese social media the vast majority of comments have condemned it.”

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