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'Panda dogs' cause a stir at Jiangsu zoo

By Cang Wei in Nanjing | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-21 08:46

A "panda dog" in Taizhou Zoo in Jiangsu. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Two small dogs resembling pandas at a zoo in Taizhou, Jiangsu province, have sparked discussions among Chinese netizens recently about animal abuse and consumer fraud.

A video captured by a netizen in early May showed the two "panda dogs". They had fur patterns resembling that of pandas, but they were clearly dogs.

An official description of the animals at the zoo states that "panda dogs" are not a specific purebred, but rather pet dogs with panda-like appearances, characterized by white fur with black patches around the eyes and ears, mimicking giant pandas' facial features.

Zoo employee Liu Qiuming said that the "panda dogs" are dyed Chow Chows.

"The concept of dyeing dogs to resemble pandas originated online and was aimed to enhance the zoo's appeal," he said. "This also serves as a way to make up for Taizhou Zoo's inability to bring in giant pandas due to the strict requirements of introducing them. In China, zoos lacking the necessary qualifications cannot introduce giant pandas."

The Market Supervision Bureau of Taizhou Medical High-tech Zone, where the zoo is located, said that the zoo does not claim that the "panda dogs" are actual pandas, so they are not engaging in false advertising.

The animals have been named Xiao Tangbao, or "Little Soup Dumpling", and Xiao Gansi, or "Little Shredded Bean Curd". They were brought from Taizhou Cute Pet Zoo.

Mao Hongjun, one of the operators of Taizhou Cute Pet Zoo, said that the staff uses dye made from natural ingredients on the Chow Chows that will not harm their health.

"The Chow Chow is chubby and has good temperament when it is young," he said. "We select Chow Chows with milk-white fur resembling that of a panda and dye them when they are young to help them adapt gradually."

He explained that turning a Chow Chow into a panda dog takes about two to three hours, and the dye has good color retention, so bathing the dogs does not cause the color to fade.

"However, the fur will grow out, requiring a touch-up dye every three to four months," he admitted.

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