China Zoo Busted for Chow Dogs Masquerading as Pandas

Mary Simpson
by Mary Simpson

Unable to bring in the real deal, this zoo dyed Chows to resemble the iconic bear... then got caught!

Photo Credit: Rystemys /

Every so often, the rules really are black and white. And that’s what the Taizhou Zoo in China learned shortly after opening its Panda exhibit.

You see, the zoo was short a few things – including actual Panda bears. What to do? Seek out something plush, roly-poly, and similar in size to the iconic Chinese mascot. And that’s how several Chow dogs, a batch of hair dye, and a creative zoo-keeper came together.

Trimmed and dyed the distinctive black and white colors of a Panda bear, the dogs were paraded in front of a paying public who believed they had forked over their hard-earned yuan to view actual Panda bears. No surprise, they quickly realized they had been duped. Was it the wagging tails or the barking? I’m thinking it wouldn’t have taken long to let the proverbial cat out of the bag, right?

Alas, the throngs of punters who had visited the dogs since the exhibit unveiled May 1st, were in no mood to hear they had been oohing and aahing over a collection of dogs.

Now, the zoo claims they did nothing wrong and defended their decision to attempt the masquerade. Apparently, the zoo has put up a sign that states the “Panda Dogs” are not actually bears nor a special dog breed but simply pooches that had been groomed to look like Pandas. No word as to whether this sign went up before or after the charade was revealed.

So, one may wonder why they didn’t simply bring in the actual bears. It seems the Taizhou Zoo claims they could not get the real Pandas because their facility is too small to house them. Struggling to stay relevant in a competitive market, they felt the switcheroo would boost visits – which it did. And it certainly kept their name in the news!

But the trickery wasn’t the only issue outraging visitors and animal activists who learned of the swap-out. It was the health and safety factor related to the dyes used on the Chow’s plush coat. “People dye their hair all the time” was the official response from zoo officials as they tried to downplay the mega-backfire. According to a pet beautician consulted by the UK’s Daily Mail, as long as the dye was chemical-free, dyeing the dog’s fur wouldn't be considered animal cruelty.

Truth be told, we’re seeing it more and more throughout North America as pet parents opt to have Rover come back from the groomer trimmed and dyed to resemble everything from a lion to a zebra or giraffe. The difference is that we’re not trying to convince the paying public that our pooch is actually a mini-zebra, right?

Mary Simpson
Mary Simpson

Sharing space with three seriously judgy Schnoodles and a feline who prefers to be left alone. #LivingMyBestLife

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