On Friday, the department warned that if the “people concerned continue with such action,” officials would report them to the police.

Authorities in Hong Kong warned pet lovers on Friday against trying to save hamsters from a cull of nearly 2,000 of the small rodents, which the government says it ordered to prevent suspected coronavirus transmission, the Washington Post reports.

In announcing its plan, the government said the animals could carry the coronavirus and give it to humans, after several imported from the Netherlands tested positive at a Hong Kong pet shop.

The decision outraged many pet owners and drew criticism from some who described it as knee-jerk panic. Hundreds volunteered to house the affected animals. People have tried to stop owners from handing over their hamsters at the agriculture department, offering to take the animals into their care instead.

On Friday, the department warned that if the “people concerned continue with such action,” officials would report them to the police.

There are so far no criminal consequences facing owners who do not give up their pets. Earlier this week, however, one lawmaker suggested a mandate to round up hamsters as long as there was a risk to the city — which, like mainland China, has maintained a “zero covid” policy.

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