Hong Kong authorities changed the law to force people to hand over pets and other animals believed to be infected with COVID-19 for “humane clearance” as police took it upon themselves to investigate activists who tried to save the hamsters from a culling in January, the city’s top health official said.
“The government recently introduced amendments [including] clear provisions requiring the owner of an item (including an animal) to deliver the item under the direction of a health officer,” said city food and health secretary Sophia Chan in a written response to a question from the legislators.
The new rules take effect on March 31, 2022, and anyone who fails to comply with an order to hand over their pets for “humane clearance” could face a fine of up to HK$10,000 and six months in prison, it said. .
Chan said the existing quarantine law “aims to regulate issues related to quarantine and disease prevention among animals and birds, etc.,” but does not specifically cover COVID-19.
The rule change comes after the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) “strongly advised” the public to hand over imported hamsters purchased from local pet stores for shipment. humanitarian.
The council sparked widespread resistance, including spontaneous offers to take the hamsters off people’s hands and keep them safe from authorities.