The mega-hit HBO series Game of Thrones is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon, with an impact that goes far beyond the television landscape.
But what happens when fans clamor to incorporate as many elements of the show into their lives as possible? The show has sparked an increased demand for Siberian Huskies, and other dogs in the Husky family, because of their resemblance to the beloved direwolf—and not always with positive outcomes.
Just this week, actor Peter Dinklage (who plays Tyrion Lannister) urged fans, via PETA, to reconsider their desire to have a Husky as a pet solely because of their interest in the show.
"We understand that due to the direwolves' huge popularity, many folks are going out and buying Huskies," Dinklage said to fans in a statement. "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."
No one understands or appreciates this sentiment more than Heather Schmidt, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit rescue and rehabilitation organization Hollywood Huskies. Schmidt told petMD that she is "grateful" that Dinklage is speaking out in what she called, "a serious crisis situation of record numbers of Huskies being bought and abandoned."
While Schmidt said the desire for Huskies is nothing new, the popularity of not only Game of Thrones but also the Twilight saga, in the past years, has made Huskies more sought-after than ever, with some seriously negative consequences.
"Thousands of Huskies get surrendered at shelters nationwide, and many Huskies end up as strays either because they were deliberately dumped in the street or because they escape from yards and homes that aren't Husky-proofed," she explained.
For many of the Huskies who are abandoned, their fate is grim, Schmidt said. "Most of the abandoned Huskies, unfortunately, get killed," she said, adding that the dogs are either euthanized in overcrowded shelters, or, if they become strays, they "often end up sick, injured, [or] killed by getting hit by a car."
Now, more than ever, that means Huskies need adopters who want to save them, not have them as a pop-culture status symbol.
"The Siberian Husky is alert, intelligent, eager to please, and adaptable," said Brandi Hunter, vice president of public relations and communications for the American Kennel Club. "They are not similar to the extinct Direwolf. Potential dog owners should be aware that obtaining a dog should be an educated and responsible decision that is not influenced by a trend, TV show, or movie. Dogs are a responsibility and should be treated as one."
That's Schmidt's greatest hope in all of this, too, that people take the responsibility in adopting and become as educated as possible regarding the Husky breed.
"Siberian Huskies are an amazing breed," she said. "They are friendly, extremely intelligent, good-natured, engaging, and each one has a unique personality." However, they are by no means a low-maintenance breed, she noted, which is why they require a dedicated pet parent willing to do the work necessary.
Like Dinklage urged in his statement, Schmidt also would love for potential pet parents to look toward rescues and no-kill shelters if they feel ready and able to adopt a Husky. "Many people think they need to go to a breeder for a purebred Husky, but this is not the case," she said. By adopting from a shelter, "you'll be saving a life."
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