In viral footage, the dog can be seen in an enclosure for African lions at Yuanjiashan Zoo in Xichang, in the southwestern province of Sichuan.
The clip of the pooch at the zoo was uploaded to social media by a man identified only by his surname Tang, who had taken his child to visit the zoo last Saturday (27 March), according to South China Morning Post.
"At first, we thought we had gone to the wrong place. But after walking around the cage, we realised it is where the lion should be housed," Tang said in the video.
"Is that an African lion? Is it because it hasn't grown up yet? It looks familiar to me."
A zoo worker in the video then told Tang this was a temporary arrangement and the lions had been moved while enclosures were modified.
He said: "We are adjusting the animals' accommodations, with the lion's sign not taken down [from the cage] yet."
Tang wasn't convinced by this explanation though, and he accused the zoo of trying to sell tickets under the false pretence that visitors could view lions.
He said: "The money for the ticket is a small deal. What matters [to] me more is that I don't know how to explain the current situation to my kid."
You might think this is an extremely rare and bizarre situation, but it's more common than you'd expect. In fact, just last month another zoo in China was accused of trying to pass a dog off as a wolf. More plausible, yes, but still pretty silly.
Footage shared on social media by a visitor to Xiangwushan Zoo in Xianning, Hubei province, showed a pooch that looked like a Rottweiler lying down on its side in a cage.
As the man approached the dog he asked: "Woof! Are you a wolf?"
The clip has since gone viral, with social media users poking fun at the bizarre switch.
One person wrote: "At least get a husky."
While another joked: "Relax, aren't dogs and wolves related?"
A third joked: "The zoo should change to sign to 'canine enclosure' then they would be fine."
Speaking to Beijing News, Mr Xu, who filmed the clip, said he asked staff at the zoo why there was a dog inside the enclosure and was told that a wolf had previously lived in there but that it had 'died of old age'.
A member of staff told Global Times that there had been a real wolf in the enclosure until it had sadly passed away, adding that the dog had been put inside as a 'watchdog' to stop trespassers from entering the area.
The unnamed member of staff also mentioned the fact the zoo hadn't been doing well financially, adding that they hadn't had 'enough visitors to keep the zoo up and running well'.
The zoo has since been told by the local forestry bureau it must remove the sign leading to the enclosure.
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