In Northern Italy, circus owners are under fire for allegedly passing off dogs as pandas. The shocking caper involved two chow chow puppies that were painted and disguised as the giant panda cubs. Police moved in Friday when they received tips the show operators were charging children to pose with the K-9 pups aka fake pandas, citing a New York Daily News report.
Two pandas were seized by police after they arrived at the traveling Orfei big top in Brescia. After an investigation, it was clear that the two furry animals were, in fact, dogs being passed off as pandas. Officers moved in quickly, not only on the tips they received about the unscrupulous circus owners gouging the public over pictures, but it’s public knowledge that the panda bear is an endangered species.
As such, the last place one would expect to find the adorable creature is in a zoo. And when two were reported at the attraction, that raised eyebrows. After all, whenever a giant panda is born, a big media frenzy ensues and the public makes a big fuss over the births because they are so rare. Two cubs in the same location is big news, and that’s putting it lightly.
From the picture provided below, it’s clear the owners passing off the dogs as panda cubs went through great lengths to trick unsuspecting kids about the animals. Reportedly, staff members used paint to mimic the black and white color pattern that makes the panda easy to identify from other wild animals.
— Corriere della Sera (@Corriereit) December 22, 2014
A spokesperson with Italy’s environmental police said the two tiny animals were confiscated as part of the investigation. The good news is the pair appears healthy and show no signs of abuse. However, many argue that because the pandas were passed as dogs and painted to be exploited, it constitutes an abusive act. The bear cubs did have evidence of watery eyes, but police believe it was brought on by the stress from flash photography.
According to National Zoo facts, there are only about 1,600 pandas left in the wild, while 300 are said to be in zoos around the world. Although these bears are often admired for their teddy bear-like qualities, they can be very aggressive to humans, especially during breeding and mating times.
Although many who saw the animals at the Italian circus up close support the claim the dogs were being passed as pandas, the operators of the traveling show deny the allegations. Riccardo Ravina, a spokesperson for the circus, said the owners never advertised or said the puppies were panda bears.
“It’s obvious they are dogs. No animal was mistreated. They are like children to us.”
Police say the owners are facing charges for lying on the animals’ passports. Records show the bears were illegally imported from Hungary, and are six months younger than information contained on their travel documents.
[Image via: Wikimedia Commons]