People are often unaware that a local shelter has guinea pigs, or that a cavy rescue is located nearby. In many parts of the country, hundreds of rescued guinea pigs need homes-primarily as a result of caretaker surrenders. Doug Duke, director of the Nevada SPCA in Las Vegas, finds that half are turned in by owners and the other half are rescued from the county. He notes, “We try to keep the county shelter, which shares the complex with us, from euthanizing any who are healthy.”
A prospective guinea pig guardian typically visits a pet store first. But many pet stores house both males and females together and occasionally sell incorrectly sexed cavies. This increases the odds that a breeding pair has been sold or that a young undeveloped sow is already pregnant when purchased (sows can become pregnant as early as four weeks of age). Other pet caretakers intentionally breed their guinea pigs “to see what it’s like”; add in the many non show-quality cavies produced by breeders and the number of guinea pigs needing homes continues to grow.
A pet store guinea pig purchase is often unplanned and unresearched. Getting information on proper care into the hands of prospective new guardians helps them make better-informed decisions. Since January 1, 2003, California pet stores have been required by law to provide care sheets with the purchase of each animal. Several dedicated guinea pig people were instrumental in getting this legislation passed. Be proactive: encourage your state representatives to address this important issue for all pet-store animals in your state.
Julie Morris, ASPCA senior vice president for National Shelter Outreach, designated March as Adopt-a-Rescued-Guinea Pig celebration month. “The idea behind the celebration month is to encourage future adopters to think of shelters and rescue groups first.” Her promotional team has assembled an online page hosted on www.petfinder.com with fun and educational materials contributed from various sources. Internet sites like Petfinder.com, are an invaluable resource for people who wish to adopt homeless guinea pigs from shelters and rescue groups. Last year Petfinder alone listed over 10,000 guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs are not for everyone. They’re definitely not just for kids! But an informed, committed guardian who is willing to care for them day after day and seek health care when needed will find them charming companions.
Lyn Zantow maintains an informational cavy care website and active message board at www.guinealynx.info. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her two guinea pigs, Nina and Snowflake.
Reprinted from ASPCA Animal Watch, Spring 2004 Vol. 24, No. 1, with permission from The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 424 East 92nd Street, New York, NY 10128-6804