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Disney-induced puppy love sees husky dogs dumped in Hong Kong

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Wednesday October 11, 2006

Hong Kong- The Disney movie Eight Below has left Hong Kong struggling to cope with abandoned husky dogs who have outgrown their cuteness, a leading animal rights proponent said Thursday. Hundreds of Hong Kong families bought husky dogs after the 2005 movie about a group of huskies fighting for survival after being left at a snowbound Antarctic research station melted their hearts.

A year on, however, the dogs are being abandoned in the streets in their scores by Hong Kong families who find the energetic pets too much of a handful for their small apartments and busy lifestyles.

They are now adding to the stray dog headache in the city of 6.8 million which already has more than 25,000 stray dogs and puts to death more than 1,000 homeless dogs every month.

Pauline Taylor, former executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and head of a new animal hospital chain Pets Central, criticized the "Hollywood effect".

"Eight Below got everyone interested in the breed and now they're ending up on the streets," she told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).

"When a film like that comes out, they bring out fluffy toys, the dogs are in all the magazines, they put them in the pet shop windows and people fall for them.

"It's the Hollywood effect. After the movie 101 Dalmatians, a year or so later we were seeing lots of Dalmatians being abandoned. Two years later and all the mongrel dogs going around had spots.

"Huskies are hyperactive dogs and they are very difficult dogs to train unless you've got tons of time for them."

Most Hong Kong people's lifestyles were unsuitable for keeping huskies which is why so many were being abandoned as they became too much of a handful for families, Taylor said.

Taylor and her colleagues hope to work with pet shops in Hong Kong to try to foster a culture of more responsible pet selling and ownership.

"We want to work with pet shops to get people to choose dogs to match their lifestyle," she said. "At least we could avoid some of these once-cute puppies ending up on the streets a year later.

"We don't want people to stop buying pets. People just need to look very closely at their situation. If you get a little Shitzu or a Pekingese, they are not so high maintenance and they can be quite happy in a small apartment."

The Hong Kong government has tightened animal welfare laws and recently introduced new rules forcing pet shops to micro-chip imported dogs.

However, animal welfare groups say penalties for animal abuse are still not tough enough and say pet shop staff need to be better educated and more sensitive to customer needs.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency