'Panda dog' zoo exhibit in China features black-and-white painted chows, controversy

A zoo in China is receiving mixed feedback for dying the fur of dogs to look like pandas in a new exhibit.

The Taizhou Zoo in Jiangsu, China dyed two chow chows dogs and advertised them as "panda dogs" in the exhibit that opened on May 1.

The zoo lacked the the qualifications to get actual pandas, the bear species endemic to China, and settled for a captivating alternative, a spokesperson told Chinese state media. Officials got the idea from the internet.

While some people may have found themselves enchanted by the exhibit others have criticized the act all together.

Officials say dogs were not harmed

The zoo faced backlash from those accusing officials of misleading visitors and mistreating the dogs, state media reported.

One comment on China social media platform Weibo said the practice is not funny at as the dog's fragile skin and naturally thick coats make them more susceptible to skin diseases. However zoo officials denied claims that the dogs were harmed with a spokesperson comparing it to how people dye their hair, according to NBC News.

"Dogs can dye their hair, too. It’s the same as hair," a spokesperson told Qilu Evening News.

Semipermanent pet-safe dyes are sold to safely dye pets and often come in gel or liquid form, according to Hills Pet Nutrition.

The dogs remain part of the exhibit and a consistent amount of guests visit them "at a normal level," NBC News reported.

Bears in different China zoo accused of being human imposters

The panda dogs are not the first time a fake animal controversy happened at a zoo in China.

In July, the Hangzhou Zoo in Zhejiang faced rumors that some of its bears were human imposters. However officials strongly denied the theories, which circulated thanks to photos and videos of a Malayan Sun Bear standing on her hind legs.

Two sun bears interact in their enclosure at Hangzhou Zoo in Hangzhou, in China's eastern Zhejiang province on August 1, 2023. A Chinese zoo has been forced to deny that its sun bear is actually a human in a costume, after footage of one standing on its hind legs raised online accusations of a furry imposter. (Photo by AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images) ORIG FILE ID: AFP_33QG42H.jpg

In a statement written from the perspective of the bear, Angela, officials from the zoo denied she and her fellow zoo bear companions were human imposters. A post on the zoo website led with "I'm working hard, but someone suspects that I'm looking for a substitute?" The post was written in Chinese and translated to English via Google.

"Let me emphasize again: I am a sun bear! Not a black bear! Not a dog! It's a sun bear!" the statement said.

Contributing: Natalie Neysa Alund

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Zoo in China criticized for 'panda dog' exhibit featuring dyed dogs