Animal sanctuaries in England are caring for hundreds of pet owls that were abandoned by their owners in the past year, a disturbing trend rescuers believe is linked to the end of the "Harry Potter" series.
"Harry Potter" fans enchanted with the boy wizard's owl sidekick Hedwig drove up demand for the birds during book and movie releases, the Mirror reports. But now that all book installments and film adaptations have been released, many owners are abandoning their pet owls into the wild, where they are unprepared to care for themselves.
"Before the films were out I had six owls, now it's 100. It’s all down to Harry Potter," Pam Toothill, a rescue workers at the Owlcenter sanctuary in Corwen, North Wales, told the paper. "People saw Harry’s owl in the movies and thought how cute and cuddly they looked. Now they are bored and fed-up with all the work involved looking after an owl."
Toothill said that in order to properly to care for owls, owners need to purchase a 20-ft. aviary, which can easily cost more than $1,000. Unfortunately, many unprepared pet owners have kept birds in apartments with limited space -- one owl Toothill rescued had been living in a man's bedroom.
"Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling has pleaded with fans to sponsor an owl that needs help rather than trying to take one in as a pet, according to the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary.
"If anybody has been influenced by my books to think an owl would be happiest shut in a small cage and kept in a house, I would like to take this opportunity to say as forcefully as I can, 'you are wrong,'" Rowling said.
But if past cases of fan-fueled animal crazes are any indication, people are often undeterred by such advice. When Disney released the live-action film '101 Dalmatians' in 1996, animals rights advocates worked tirelessly to educate prospective pet owners about the breed in order to prevent disastrous adoptions.
Unfortunately, the film's popularity fueled thousands of Dalmatian puppy adoptions that owners later regretted, and shelters were soon overflowing with unwanted dogs, The New York Times reported in 1997.
Years earlier, thousands of pet turtles met a similar fate after fans of the animated "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" TV series grew tired of their newly-adopted pets, according to Change.org. Many dumped their turtles in ponds or lakes, where they began to reproduce and outcompete indigenous species of turtles for food.
Pat Morrison, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, wrote that L.A.-area animal shelters see a rise in pet abandonments whenever a popular animal movie is released. The movie "Babe" spurred unwise pig adoptions, and the movies "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" and "Marmaduke" caused similar upswings in failed adoptions for Chihuahas and Great Danes.
"Every time a cute-dog or cute-cat movie comes out, 5% of the box office take –- gross, not net; I have lived here long enough to know about Hollywood accounting –- should go to animal shelters to take care of these bought-and-abandoned "fad dogs," Morrison wrote.