Chinese Zoo Accused of Painting Dogs to Look Like Pandas

There is no such thing as a "panda dog."

Lauren Wellbank - Author

May 8 2024, Published 11:39 a.m. ET

Chinese Panda Dogs
Source: calaynewsontiktok/TikTok

Officials from the Taizhou Zoo in Jiangsu Province have been accused of lying about having a pair of panda dogs on display at their Eastern China location. Visitors claim that they went to the zoo in early May 2024 to get an up close and personal look at rare baby pandas, only to discover that the Chinese panda dogs were nothing more than dogs who had undergone an extreme makeover.

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But, zoo officials are fighting back over fraud claims, saying that they never intended to deceive visitors, but instead that they were just trying to find a way to draw in bigger crowds to checkout their legitimate exhibits. Continue reading to learn more about this controversy, including why some people are worried about the health and well-being of the so-called Chinese panda dogs.

Dogs dyed to look like pandas from 2019.
Source: Getty Images
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A Chinese zoo allegedly tried to pass dogs off as pandas.

People in China are doggone mad about being tricked into making a trip to the zoo to see the faux panda bears, whom critics say are just dogs who were trimmed and dyed to look like the bamboo-loving bears. When asked for a comment, a representative from the organization told The New York Post that they set up the attraction because they didn't have any actual pandas at their location.

Reps also claim that they never charged anything extra for visitors to see the panda dog exhibit, according to The Telegraph, something a ticket seller says was clearly billed as featuring dogs dressed up to look like pandas from the very start. While that may be the case, it doesn't seem like it's done much to prevent people from getting upset about being duped.

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And those angry patrons may number in the tens of thousands, since that's how many people they say went to the zoo in search of the "pandas" during the exhibit's run, which took place during the first five days in May 2024.

Unfortunately, this Chinese panda bear scandal isn't exactly the first time that visitors left a Chinese zoo with a bad taste in their mouth, either.

Although later proved to be false, many thought that a sun bear exhibit at the Hangzhou Zoo actually contained humans dressed in bear suits back in 2023. Which just goes to show you how skeptical zoo patrons have become about zoos over the years.

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What breed is the Chinese dog that was passed off as a panda?

The Chinese zoo is accused of dyeing Chow Chows black and white to accomplish the alleged panda scheme. According to the American Kennel Club, Chow Chows may be one of the oldest dog breeds in the world, with a lineage that goes back to 206 BC. Not only that, but these fluffy pups were once adored in China, and they've even made appearances on artifacts belonging to the Han Dynasty.

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Having these dogs on display is being considered unethical by some.

Accusations of deception aside, some people are worried about the health and well-being of the dogs on display, since zookeepers would've needed to use paint or dye to pull off the panda look. This incident also raises larger questions about the ethics of zoos in general, which have been accused of being akin to prisons for animals by advocates from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Catie Cryar, a representative for PETA, responded to news of the dyed dog with an exclusive quote emailed to Green Lovers: "A dyed dog can easily become a dead dog, as toxic dye chemicals can cause severe external and internal burns that can ultimately be fatal, and all dogs must be recognized as who they are, not toys or props to decorate like a clay pot or a chair. No dog or panda should be confined to a barren cage or concrete pit at an unaccredited, unregulated zoo, where neglect and abuse run rampant, and PETA urges everyone to stay away from these seedy animal prisons."

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Regular chow chow frolicking in the grass.
Source: iStock

Even fans of zoos can likely agree with some criticism from organizations like the World Animal Foundation, which argues that zoos just aren't equipped to meet the needs of most wild animals. When you add into the equation a zoo that stands accused of duping the public by passing off dogs as pandas, it really makes you question what else the institution may be doing behind closed doors.

For those looking for a more guilt-free alternative to zoos, animal sanctuaries can often scratch that itch. While you're unlikely to find panda dogs at one of these locations (or anywhere else, for that matter), you can often see rare and exotic animals that you wouldn't otherwise get a chance to meet as they are rehabbed, rehomed, and sometimes even released back into the wild where they belong.

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