Italian police posed for pictures and got to pet pandas while visiting a circus.
However, authorities soon learned the creatures they got to interact with weren't actually pandas.
Giant pandas are an adorable yet endangered species, and the last place you would expect to see them is in a circus. So it is not surprising that police in Italy recently seized two pandas from the Orfei Circus, but not for possessing the endangered creatures.
Instead they were disguising two very furry and dyed puppies as pandas to their paying customers.
Italy's state forestry police further explained "Two white furred dog cubs, a male and a female of chow chow breed, were camouflaged as pandas and shown to the public, particularly children, to take photos demanding payment."
Animal activists had alerted investigators about the alleged scheme. Undercover volunteers for the Animal Protection Party group had visited the circus to search for any signs of potential mistreatment and spotted the two unusual-looking animals. A close look revealed the panda lookalikes had been disguised.
The dogs were in good health overall, but had very watery eyes, which could be the result of exposure to excessive camera flashes. The circus owner has reportedly been charged with defrauding customers and animal abuse.
For more on the emerging Chinese trending of dying dogs to look like pandas, watch below: