The direwolves on HBO's "Game of Thrones" are loyal and brave creatures who can read their human's mind, and chomp off their enemies' arms. Eager for their own courageous canine companion, fans of the show have been buying Siberian Huskies because of their wolfish appearance. But huskies are a working breed that requires a great deal of time and attention, and the pups aren't suitable for the casual dog owner. As a result, the number of abandoned huskies has risen dramatically since the show began in 2011.
Two San Francisco-area husky rescues have seen monthly rescue numbers double, and in 2014, one British animal charity reported a 700 percent rise in surrendered huskies.
Randee McQueen of the Bay Area Siberian Husky Club told SFGate.com that she can tell which surrendered huskies were GoT purchases based on their names: Lady, Ghost, Nymeria, Grey Wind, Summer.
While owners may be well-informed about the enormous, fictional wolves from the books or the HBO show (which are portrayed by a wolf-dog hybrid breed called Northern Inuit Dogs), it seems their knowledge of real dogs leaves much to be desired. Not only are many unaware of the amount of grooming and exercise huskies require, some people are apparently unclear about whether huskies are in fact wolves.
“These people, they watch these shows and think how cool these dogs are,” said Angelique Miller, president of Northern California Sled Dog Rescue. “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.”
Miller says movies like "Snow Dogs," "Eight Below," and "Twilight" have led to short spikes in both husky adoptions and surrenders, but the enormously popular seven-season television show has made it an ongoing problem. NorSled used to receive about 20 huskies a month; now, it receives up to 45.
Huskies are not the only animal that has seen a jump in popularity as the result of pop culture. Following the release of "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," shelters saw a huge surge in abandoned Chihuahuas from families who realized the small, nervous dogs weren't the same as the talking dog from the movie. The same thing happened with Dalmatians after the movie "101 Dalmatians," and even pigs were adopted and abandoned after "Babe."
Bringing a real, living animal into your home in the hopes it will be like a fictional creature on TV is unfair to both you and your new companion. Before adopting any animal, it's important to do the research and evaluate whether you have the space, time, and energy to give them the care and attention they need and deserve.