It’s not a new phenomenon: people purchasing animals made popular by movies and TV shows.
This time around, reports from animal shelters indicate that a substantial number of huskies are being abandoned and/or turned in. The blame is falling on Game of Thrones fans, who’ve taken a shine to the HBO show’s “direwolves.”
Scientists confirm “dire wolves” (Canis dirus) did roam the earth at one time, in the late Pleistocene era, but are long extinct. The fictional Game of Thrones direwolves — all one word — differ from their real-life relatives, standing much taller and resembling large huskies.
Game of Thrones fans want their very own direwolf, it seems. Animal rescue centres in the U.K. are reporting a 700 per cent increase in abandoned huskies, and American shelters say it’s the same story in the U.S., with spikes in husky abandonment. For now, Canada hasn’t adopted the trend; Global News contacted the Toronto Humane Society, which said that “it is not a trend that we have seen here.”
A telltale sign that GoT fans are the ones behind the increase is that dozens of the abandoned U.S. dogs had been microchipped or otherwise identified, and many of their names turned out to be from the show, including Lady, Ghost, Nymeria and Grey Wind.
“These people, they watch these shows and think how cool these dogs are,” said Angelique Miller, president of NorSled. “People can’t even tell the difference between a husky and a wolf because they’re always asking us at adoption fairs if these dogs are wolves — and it’s clearly a husky. They’re just following the trend of what they think is cute.”
According to the Canadian Kennel Club, Siberian huskies are “hardy dogs with speed and endurance,” and are “aloof, independent and energetic.” They require intense daily exercise, love to howl and their thick coat needs regular maintenance, three things many potential owners don’t anticipate.
Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion on GoT, partnered with PETA U.S. to remind fans that huskies should be brought into families that have done their research and are ready for a canine companion of that nature.
“We understand that due to the direwolves’ huge popularity, many folks are going out and buying huskies,” he said. “Not only does this hurt all the deserving homeless dogs waiting for a chance at a good home in shelters, but shelters are also reporting that many of these huskies are being abandoned – as often happens when dogs are bought on impulse, without understanding their needs. Please, please, if you’re going to bring a dog into your family, make sure that you’re prepared for such a tremendous responsibility and remember to always, always, adopt from a shelter.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time a movie or TV show has spurred animal trends. Disney classic 101 Dalmatians and Reese Witherspoon movie Legally Blonde inspired rabidness over dalmatians and chihuahuas, respectively, and the Harry Potter series famously led to an increase in abandoned owls.
When it comes to adopting or purchasing an animal, what matters most is compatibility with the potential owner’s environment and situation, says Tegan Buckingham, Manager of Marketing and Communications at the Toronto Humane Society.
“Our adoption process aims to match people with pets whose personality characteristics best match the person’s lifestyle,” said Buckingham, who inferred the Humane Society advises anyone coming in for a specific breed to do their research first.