Is It a Panda or a Dog? Zoo Says It's a 'Panda Dog'

Painted dogs at Chinese zoo inspire no small amount of controversy
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2024 9:33 AM CDT

A zoo in China has come under fire for painting dogs to look like giant pandas and making visitors pay to see them. The fluffy black and white Chow Chows appear in an exhibit that opened at the Taizhou Zoo in Jiangsu province this month with a cover charge of less than $2, per Sky News. The so-called "panda dogs" were dyed to look like pandas, with black and white bodies, black spots around their eyes, and black ears, because the zoo doesn't have any actual pandas, Today reports. Other zoos in China have been accused of trying to pass off dogs as wolves or African cats, NBC News reports. But the Taizhou Zoo says it didn't intend to deceive anyone. It says the "panda dogs" were clearly labeled.

As for the dye, a rep says "people also dye their hair" and "natural dye can be used on dogs if they have long fur," per Sky. The zoo stresses the dye used is non-toxic, per Today. Critics, however, see cause for concern in forcing dye on animals for human entertainment. "It is not funny at all to dye Chow Chow dogs to attract tourists," one onlooker wrote on social media platform Weibo, per NBC. "Their fragile skin and naturally thick coats make them susceptible to skin diseases." Ron Magill, director of communications at Zoo Miami, adds zoos are meant "to inspire... or to promote conservation," not "to promote painting domestic animals with colors to represent wild animals," per Today. (Real pandas will soon arrive stateside.)

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