Activists from the city of Hong Kong have found themselves battling against a possible culling of the city’s pet hamsters after the government announced on Tuesday, Jan. 18, that they would be killing over 2,000 hamsters and other pet animals due to COVID-19.

After an employee at a pet shop had tested positive for COVID-19, a fear of animal-to-human transmissions of the novel coronavirus led to a government decision to test and euthanize the hamsters and other small rodents and animals in the store in an attempt to prevent an outbreak, CNN reported. 

Though animal-to-human transmissions are a lower possibility than human-to-animal transmissions, Hong Kong’s zero-COVID policy allowed them to order everyone who bought a hamster from Dec. 22 onwards to give up the rodent to be tested and euthanized by the government. 

An unintended consequence of the government’s sudden crackdown on hamsters, however, is that dozens of them are being left out of the streets by pet owners, causing local activists to create pages for adopting the homeless hamsters as well as offering a safe refuge for hamsters and their owners, according to the Daily Beast.

A Telegram group made by Ocean Cheung, called “Hong Kong the Cute Hamster Group,” has found a home to 30 hamsters and allowed pet owners to communicate to each other regarding the possible culling, promising to help hide their hamsters if the government comes calling. 

“Hamsters are our family, everybody please think rationally, don't give them up because of one incident,” the Hamster Concern Society in Hong Kong said in a statement. 

This is not the only time animals have been killed due to a general paranoia of animal-to-human COVID transmission: in November 2020, Denmark had killed over 17 million minks in an attempt to stop a mutated COVID strain that had spread from minks to humans. 

The decision, which was found to be illegal, caused the agriculture minister of Denmark to resign.

ricky-kharawala-adK3Vu70DEQ-unsplash A planned mass killing of over 2,000 hamsters due to COVID-related reasons in Hong Kong has caused the activist community of the city to band together in an attempt to save the pet rodents. This is a representational image. Ricky Kharawala/Unsplash.