A Haven for Hedgehogs


A Haven for Hedgehogs

African pygmy hedgehogs, once dubbed the "Superpet of the '90s," have recently become even more popular, thanks to TV commercials that feature irresistable live hedgehogs promoting video games - much to the chagrin of animal welfare advocates. "Unfortunately, like the fate of Dalmatians following the craze spawned by the movie 101 Dalmatians, many hedgehogs purchased on impulse are discarded or abandoned when the reality sets in that they are not the ideal pet for every family," says Donnasue Graesser, Ph.D., a representative of the New Haven, Connecticut-based Hedgehog Welfare Society (HWS). To combat this problem, the HWS aims to protect the well-being of pet hedgehogs through owner education and, when needed, hedgehog rescue.

One of the primary goals of the HWS is to educate potential hog guardians about the considerations they should make before purchasing - or, ideally, adopting - a hedgehog. Although hedgehogs make great pets for the right person, would-be families should keep in mind that the spiky mammals live an average of four to six years, and are nocturnal - meaning that they aren't usually awake during the day when children most likely want to play with them. When disturbed from their sleep, many hedgehogs are difficult to handle. They also tend to defecate "on the go," yet they require a clean living environment, so cages and exercise wheels require diligent daily scrubbing. Veterinary care is generally more costly for exotic animals, and it may be difficult to find a veterinarian who has experience treating hedgehogs. Potential parents must realize that caring properly for these small creatures requires time, patience and financial resources.

To inquire about becoming a rescue contact or obtaining free educational materials, contact the Hedgehog Welfare Society, Yale University Station, P.O. Box 206603, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-6603; info@hedgehogwelfare.com; www.hedgehogwelfare.org.

Despite efforts to educate the public, a growing number of hedgehogs are mistreated and ultimately discarded. In fact, HWS members in North America rescued more than 300 hedgehogs from June 2001 to June 2002. Of the rescued hogs, approximately 20 percent were given up by families who "no longer had time" for them, while 15 percent had been purchased for children who lost interest in them. Twelve percent were abandoned at animal shelters or veterinary offices, and six percent were purchased for or by teenagers and abandoned during the move to college. Many were in desperate need of veterinary care when they reached their new homes.

The HWS is alerted to rescue situations through animal shelters and Internet resources. The organization has a network of approved rescuers who provide foster and permanent care for unwanted hedgehogs throughout the United States and Canada. The HWS provides a care package to every new adoptive family, which includes food, cage accessories and information on care and maintenance.

Although hedgehogs aren't quite as cuddly as kittens and puppies, they are truly special animals who deserve comfortable, safe and permanent homes, complete with snuggles and their most favored treat: mealworms.

© 2002 ASPCA

ASPCA Animal Watch - Winter 2002

Courtesy of ASPCA

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