Designer dogs get the star treatment - and then they are dumped
They bring crowds of sentimental animal-lovers flocking to the cinemas - but dog rescuers groan in exasperation when films like the US Christmas number one Marley & Me, starring a Labrador puppy, hit the big screen in Hong Kong.
'Films like Marley & Me don't help our situation,' said Sally Andersen of Hong Kong Dog Rescue, recalling how hundreds of huskies were bought and then abandoned after the 2006 movie Eight Below.
'After 101 Dalmatians, we saw a lot of abandoned Dalmatians - and just recently we've been seeing a lot of eight and nine-year-old schnauzers being dumped.
'I didn't understand why until one of my Chinese volunteers told me that about nine years ago, the MTR Corp had a big advertising campaign featuring a schnauzer. People in Hong Kong are very much influenced by trends like that. They see something on films or TV and they say, 'I want that dog'.'
Sadly pedigree dogs often fail to live up to buyers' expectations. 'Many of the dogs bought in pet shops are loved, dressed and wheeled around for a few months but then eventually get abandoned, especially the large breeds.
'We see a lot of huskies and we get golden retrievers all the time. We also see a lot of cocker spaniels. As puppies they are really cute because they are small with the big ears and the sad face but they are also hyperactive. They're not easy to look after.'
Recalling a recent case, Ms Andersen said: 'On Christmas Day at 1am someone saw a Pekinese being dumped on the road in Mid-Levels. They picked it up and it came to us. It was blind and very fat, but had been well groomed. So it couldn't see, it couldn't walk because it was so fat but it had a lovely coat. Someone just dumped it.'
There has been one happy ending for one mongrel - an abandoned puppy with two paws on each of his front legs whose case was featured in the Sunday Morning Post in the run-up to Christmas last year.
Affectionately nicknamed 'Octopus', a loving home was found for the dog who has since had an operation to amputate one of his two front legs.
'The vets had to wait to see how he grew and when it became evident one leg wasn't growing and was becoming withered, it had to be removed,' Ms Andersen said. 'They left the two paws on the other leg because they weren't causing him any problems and probably help him balance a bit better because he has the double foot there.'
Anyone who wants to adopt abandoned dogs can contact Hong Kong Dog Rescue on 9448 1128 or 2875 2162.