- Hong Kong is warning people not to kiss their dogs after one tested positive for a low level of the coronavirus and was placed into quarantine.
- A dog can pick up the virus from a surface or from their owner. Authorities are testing whether dogs can actually be infected or pass it to humans.
- Health authorities in Hong Kong and the World Health Organization say they currently have no evidence that either of these things can happen.
- The Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said that "Pet owners need not be overly concerned and under no circumstances should they abandon their pets."
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Hong Kong has warned people not to kiss their dogs after one tested positive for a low level of the coronavirus, even though there is no evidence that pets like cats and dogs can get the virus or spread it to humans.
Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said that experts say the dog, a Pomeranian, had a "low level of infection" that was likely to have come from a human, The Guardian reported.
The dog had been quarantined in an animal center in Hong Kong at the end of February after getting a "weak positive" result in a test for the COVID-19 virus.
But health authorities, including the AFCD, have cautioned that there is no evidence that the dog itself was infected, and may have just picked it up from a surface. It also said that people should not panic about their pets, or consider leaving them.
Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department had cautioned when it first announced the dog quarantine that the dog had not shown any symptoms, but that more testing was needed.
It said: "At present, the AFCD does not have evidence that pet animals can be infected with COVID-19 virus or can be a source of infection to people."
The AFCD then said the dog belonged to a coronavirus patient and that the positive result could have come from "environmental contamination of the dog's mouth and nose."
It said the dog would be repeatedly tested and only returned if the test results come back negative.
And Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of the communicable-disease branch of Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection, said authorities would go through the list of confirmed coronavirus patients to see if there were any other pets that it felt should also be tested, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported.
The World Health Organization has said: "At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus."
There is no evidence dogs can be infected
The AFCD said that "Pet owners need not be overly concerned and under no circumstances should they abandon their pets," The Guardian reported.
"Pet owners are reminded to adopt good hygiene practices (including hand washing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing them) and to maintain a clean and hygienic household environment."
"People who are sick should restrict contacting animals. If there are any changes in the health condition of the pets, advice from a veterinarian should be sought as soon as possible," the department said.
And The Society for the Protection of Animals in Hong Kong, an animal welfare organization, noted that "Members of the public are advised to differentiate that 'being infected' does not equal being infectious and capable of spreading the COVID-19 virus."
"We wish to remind the public that there is no evidence that companion animals can transmit the disease to humans," it said, as noted in The Guardian's report.
It said it had been informed that the "dog is currently very healthy and doing well at the quarantine centre."
Some animals are being treated badly over the virus anyway
The outbreak of the coronavirus, which has now infected more than 95,000 people around the world and killed almost 3,300, has pushed some to target animals.
Reuters reported that authorities in Moscow have rounded up stray animals and exterminated rats in a bid to stop the virus from spreading, a move criticised by animal-rights groups. And wild animals have been killed by the disinfectant used to target the coronavirus.
Others are going to extreme lengths to protect pets during the outbreak.
Thousands of pets have been left without their owners in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus originated, because the city of 11 million people was placed under lockdown and owners were unable to return to the city or have been placed into quarantine.
Some volunteer groups have thus been breaking into apartments to feed pets at their owners' requests. But those groups say they are overwhelmed by the number of pets in the city.