Love In The Time of Coronavirus Stand By Your Beloved Pet

While Hong Kong's fifth wave of COVID-19 finally subsided in April, many animal lovers are still reeling in fears and shock over the government's announcement of a ruthless hamster cull as a preventive measure to battle the pandemic.

In January, the Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department (AFCD) made a controversial move by asking pet shops and pet owners to hand over hamsters imported to Hong Kong during a specific period of time for a mass cull, after suspected cases of hamster-to-human transmission at a pet shop were reported.


As soon as the news broke, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and many well-established veterinary associations spoke out. They pointed out that the chances of humans getting infected by animals were negligible. Unfortunately, the authorities' order to kill triggered a wave of hamster abandonment. Some hamster owners who got their pets long before the government's specified period of time were so frightened that they voluntarily surrendered their hamsters, presumably had zero COVID risk, to the AFCD for euthanasia.

Sandra, a regular foster parent for hamsters and a staff member of the SPCA Receiving Department, found the situation absurd and inconceivable.

'Covid-19 was a disaster caused by humans. Why did the 2,000 innocent small animals, whether infected or not, have to bear the consequences?' she said.

Before the fifth-wave chaos, Sandra had fostered two little golden hamsters, Fei Mui Chu and Maggie. When they were ready for adoption, she brought them back to the SPCA, hoping they would find a forever home. But when she heard about the cull, she lost no time to file for adoption of her two beloved animals, as she worried the government might take more extreme measures that might put their lives in peril.

'My family and I feared for the lives of Fei Mui Chu and Maggie. What would happen to them if there were more drastic measures? Their safety was of paramount importance. Getting infected by them was of little concern. Both my husband and my sons supported my decision to adopt. We were rational enough not to worry as they weren't imported during the stated period of time. And the two hamsters had been taken good care of in a hygienic home.'

Fei Mui Chu is treated like a daughter by Sandra's family.

Eventually, much to Sandra's delight, there was some good news - her application to adopt Fei Mu Chu was successful, and Maggie had been adopted by another family.

When Fei Mui Chu was rescued by the SPCA inspectors from the back staircase of an industrial building in Chai Wan, she was about 18 months old. 'She loves eating and sleeping and is very independent. It's funny that she tries to sneak out from our home every day. Our lives have become more meaningful because of her. Every night after I finish doing the dishes, we let her out of the cage to exercise. That's when I get to clean her 'palace'. We are so relieved that both Fei Mui Chu and Maggie have been homed and are enjoying their lives now,' Sandra said with a smile on her face.

Apart from Fei Mui Chu, Sandra also has a softshell turtle named Seven Chai and a chameleon called Ah Un at home. Ah Un was rescued by an SPCA inspector from a public planter in City One, Shatin. 'He looked so frail. I took him home as I worried he couldn't make it. Now he is strong and chubby,' she said.

When asked why she chose to foster the small animals, Sandra said with resolve, 'I want to provide a comfortable home for them to recover from their injuries so that they can go on to find a forever home. As long as we have the ability and time, we want to help as many animals as possible.'

Seven Chai on Sandra husband's palm when it is a baby.

Softshell turtle Seven Chai is also a member of Sandra's family.

Sandra took Ah Un back home after it was rescued by an SPCA inspector.