This fad of painting dogs to look like big cats has been growing for several years, apparently. The practice dates back to at least 2010, the year of the tiger, when some Chinese dog owners started painting their adult retrievers to resemble the endangered wild cats. At the same time, others were transforming fluffy white dogs into giant pandas (and panda cubs). Little is known about the process used the paint the dogs, but there isn’t an indication that those animals became sick as the result of their fancy paint jobs. However, those animals appear to have less paint coverage than do the tiny ‘tiger pups’ captured in these new photos.

Related: Dogs are being skinned alive in China to make leather gloves

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The trend may have peaked in the year of the tiger, but the excitement over tiger-striped pups hasn’t faded. Enterprising puppy snatchers are fueling their enterprises with stray dogs stolen from the streets. The tiny puppies are typically colored with spray paint, which is toxic when ingested internally. Because many of the pups are so young, they can absorb the toxins directly through their skin. Others will ingest the paint after licking their newly striped fur. If they absorb or ingest toxic levels of paint, the painted puppies will suffer extreme lethargy, a runny nose, and a loss of appetite, leading to their death within as little as a few days.

This has people referring to the tiger-striped pups as the latest iteration of ‘one-week dogs’ for sale in China, a phrase that originated to describe sickly puppies who are given painkillers and stimulants to make them perky enough to sell, only for them to die soon after going home with their new family. Since the vendors move frequently to avoid detection by reporters and law enforcement, they’ll be long gone by the time the puppy’s true health condition become evident.

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A tiger-striped puppy fetches around $41 from at least one street vendor in Chonqing, China, according to recent reports. Veterinary experts and animal advocacy groups like PETA have denounced the puppy painting practice, claiming the health risks posed by the dyes amount to animal cruelty. “Putting a dog’s health at risk by treating a companion animal like a novelty trinket is both unethical and unnecessary,” Elisa Allen, associate director at PETA, told Daily Mail Online.

Via Daily Mail Online

Images via Central European News and China Foto Press