Hong Kong fad of dyeing dogs' fur could prove fatal: animal welfare experts

Animal welfare experts warn latest indignity for man's best friend could have fatal consequences

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 May, 2014, 4:55am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 May, 2014, 4:55am

They're pampered, they're preened, carried around in the street or pushed in prams to save their little legs the effort of walking. They have their own clothes shops, gyms and even cafes.

Now, Hong Kong's ranks of mollycoddled pet dogs are being subjected to a further well-meaning indignity to make them less like animals and more like their human owners: they're having their fur dyed in lurid shades.

Poodles, other miniatures, and some bigger dogs are being paraded around at weekends with the latest accessory in animal fashion: pink legs, canary yellow ankles or electric blue tails.

An increasing number of pet parlours across the city are offering dyeing as part of their grooming services and insist they use dyes that do no harm to the dog.

But animal rights campaigners are concerned at the practice, warning that not all dyes used are harmless and using artificial colour on a dog's fur could trigger an attack by another animal confused by its altered appearance.

Animal welfare activist Angie Scott said she had seen dogs dyed "all the colours of the rainbow" in the city and called for a ban on the practice, similar to that imposed in some US states such as Florida, where a pet owner was reportedly fined US$225 in 2010 for dyeing her poodle's paws pink.

"If owners feel the need for colour, may I suggest they dye their own hair red, white and blue and go out for a walk," Scott said. "Dogs have their own very unique markings which should be respected and admired for what they are.

"I would like to see this practice banned … and fines imposed on people who dye their dogs."

Karina O'Carroll, animal welfare education manager with Animals Asia, said while she did not think the practice was widespread in the city, it could cause "irritation, injury and distress".

The fad appears to have originated in the US, she said, and had spread to Hong Kong and mainland China, where chow chows have been dyed to look like pandas and golden retrievers dyed to look like tigers.

"Animals Asia does not condone the dyeing of dogs for any reason," O'Carroll said. "Animals should not be put through procedures or treatments such as the artificial colouring of their fur, for any 'cosmetic' reasons or for human entertainment.

"There is also the welfare issue of forcing a dog to stand still for an indeterminate amount of time to create something that disguises their natural beauty and can kill them if toxic paint is used.

"Dogs are sentient beings, man's best friend, our helpers, loyal companions and so much more. We should be treating them with dignity and respect."

Gloria Li Suk-fun, of Stop - Save HK's Cats and Dogs, described the practice of dyeing dogs as "ridiculous". "Putting dye on dogs is really bad because you never know whether it's safe."

Animal trainer and behaviour counsellor Rosemarie Tang said: "If you use human dye products which contain peroxides and ammonia they can be very harmful to human skin, so I am sure it will not be good for a dog."

She added that changing a dog's appearance could leave it prone to attack from other dogs if, for example, its eyes were made to look bigger.

Tang said it was "a fashion". "It will be over soon and something else will take its place. I just hope people get over this trend quickly before dogs are harmed."