As the holidays approached, the local animal shelters swelled with homeless guinea pigs trying to find their forever homes.
Billie Jean was left at the local animal shelter two short weeks before Christmas. Her surrender card listed her name as “Billy” and her sex was marked as male. A short sexing later, and it was clear that she was not male, and she became “Billie Jean”. So far, she has shown herself to be a friendly young sow (estimated age right under one year) and finds particular delight in wallowing through massive piles of hay.
Amelia showed up at the same animal shelter less than a week later. A note was left with her that she was 5 years of age, and that her family could no longer provide for her, and to please find her a good home. Amelia has quickly become a favorite in the rescue — she is an absolute snuggler, loves sitting against your chest, and the first night she was at home with us went to sleep in my arms. She would be a fabulous addition to an established herd, or as a matron to a younger piggie!
A scant few days after we picked up Ms. Amelia, Frazier also showed up! He is a handsome young man, his age given at right under a year, and he is quite a character. He is a consummate beggar, and has perfected the art of dumping all his hay onto the ground so that you can see how truly starving he is and give him some more pellets.
Finally, two days before Christmas, these darlings showed up at Andrea’s local shelter. Abandoned, they had to spend Christmas at the animal shelter, waiting for their stray hold to expire. From top to bottom, they are Gloria, Ivy, Kris, and Noelle. Little Kris has a forever home to go to already, but the young ladies will be available once we can confirm that they are not pregnant (as they arrived in a box with Kris).
Happy New Year to all of our kind friends and supporters!
Often, at ACR&S, we walk a very fine line between educating our potential adopters and the public in general, and in coming across as unreasonable and unnecessarily “paranoid” about our requirements. One of the big things that we push to our adopters is that small animals require vet care, and generally when they need it, they need it fast. Because they are prey animals, they hide the true extent of their problems right up until they are sometimes literally on death’s door.
So, when I saw an ad for a guinea pig on Craigslist, I was so concerned that I immediately contacted the owner. Her guinea pig, she explained, had a malocclusion problem, but they just didn’t have the money to get him treated. I emailed her and gave her information on handfeeding, as well as contact information for our vet, whom I hoped would be more affordable. She emailed me back the next day that she had taken him to see a vet in Durham, who had confirmed that he had tooth problems, and that she had also contacted our vet, but that she couldn’t afford the treatment, and could she sign him over to us?
I agreed, because while tooth problems can initially be costly to treat, usually they can be controlled once they get back to “zero” (so to speak). When I met her to pick up her guinea pig, I was really taken aback. While this little animal clearly did have tooth problems (he was drooling uncontrollably and had thick wads of spit caked against his left cheek) he was clearly in bad shape, and probably not far from death. His left eye was cloudy and caked with pus. His head tilted sharply to the right, and he tracked back and forth incessantly with his head. His ears were filthy and he cried when they were touched.
The woman explained to me that when they adopted him a year ago, his eye had started watering. They had treated it at home, and it had gotten better, and then would come back, and they would treat it again, and so on and so on. Over a year, the eye got progressively worse, becoming more and more infected. The infection from the eye spread back into the ear canals. The ear infection caused his head to tilt sharply to the side. The pain from infection caused him to stop eating — his molars and incisors overgrew, and then he couldn’t. The eye continued to worsen. The infection robbed him of most of his vision, and of his hearing.
In short, Pinball (as he is now known) is blind, deaf, has bad teeth, a head tilt, and can’t walk straight because of a simple eye infection that was likely started by an innocuous hay poke.
Pinball visited Dr. Munn on 12/10/2009 to begin his long treatment. His radiographs showed extensive bone-loss, indicative that he’d been having problems eating for a long time and probably had not had a good quality pellet before that. He was anesthetized and the points on his molars were trimmed down (Dr. Munn reported that some were bigger than a pencil lead!). Once the teeth were in better shape, he turned to the eye. The eye seemed to have suffered some sort of minor trauma initially (as mentioned, hay pokes are not unheard of), but untreated it became infected. The top layer of cornea could not get hold of the eye and it wrinkled and continuously ulcerated. So he cleaned out all the dead issue on the eye (you can see it originally here – though be warned, it is pretty gross looking), and then gently used a q-tip to slightly abraid the underlayer to give the top something to grow onto. We added a strong antibiotic regiment, pain medication, and an eye ointment, and waited. Days later, the eye looked better and had improved, but stalled there.
Pinball is back at the vet again today for a re-evaluation of his eye, and a new plan. He may eventually lose the affected eye, but we at ACR&S are committed to giving him a high quality of life as long as it is possible. Blind and deaf guinea pigs can and do adapt remarkably well (like our own Andrea’s Maddie) but to get him there, we need to get him healthy. If this is possible, he will be able to live out the rest of his life as a sanctuary animal with ACR&S to ensure that his likely ongoing treatments and tooth trims will be accomplished.
It is because of situations like this that we so strongly push preventative and timely vet care. Had the initial problem been addressed when it occurred, Pinball likely would have had to endure 2-3 weeks of eyedrops and a recheck and would be perfectly healthy right now. Instead, over a year, he developed an infection that literally has made him special needs for the rest of his life.
But, he has found things to enjoy. He loves Critical Care, and begs for it endlessly. He also really loves parsley and has become something of a diva (if you’ll notice in his picture above, a wilty piece of ignored lettuce is on the ground while he dives into a pile of parsley). Adding to his diva status is his love of cuddle cups. If they’re out to be washed, he whines, and when they come back he dives in and does his little circle dance in them. And his will to fight has not waned. Every night when I pick him up to put in his eye ointment, he rumblestruts at me, and headbutts me when I try to pet him on his forehead. He took such joy in his last batch of parsley that I had to get a video:
It is because of animals like Pinball that we are so adamant about educating to care standards and making sure that our animals go to homes where their needs will be met. Because Pinball is not an isolated incident. With small animals like guinea pigs, the most serious cases that we see are often due to owner ignorance. Animals starving to death with overgrown teeth, seizing to death with parasites, slowly dying from untreated, yet operable tumors. And most of it happening in a living room while a loving owner pets their head. The blog is full of animals who often could have been spared a tremendous amount of pain and suffering with vet care at the beginning of their illness, instead of reaching a point where something so simple and stupid as a piece of hay poking you in the eye literally made you blind, deaf, and physically challenged.
On December 23rd, 2009, Buddy Holly found his forever home. We first talked about Buddy in a blog post here. He was abandoned at the local animal shelter, starving to death as his teeth overgrew and trapped his tongue.
Well, a wonderful adopter stepped up for Buddy. She emailed us, and told us about her two older boars, and their delicious daily salads, and how they got manicures at the vet regularly, so Buddy’s teeth could have an eye kept on them. We were so excited! It seemed like a perfect situation, and we held our breaths to see how the boys all got along. Andrea, our Charlotte coordinator, reported that the boys fell in like they’d lived together forever and barely seemed to notice that their duo had become a trio.
Buddy is now living as Huckleberry in his forever home:
A huge thanks to his new mama and his new brothers. She says they sleep together every night, and each one of the bigger, older boars seems to take turns nannying him and making sure he has a friend to sleep next to.
In the news recently, the big story in exotics was the raid on US Global Exotics — one of the biggest exotic animal suppliers in the United States. Over 20,000 animals were seized from rancid conditions. Many were dead or dying, and there were many reports of starving animals cannibalizing each other. Since the initial bust, health specialists have recommend razing the building to the ground.
Clifford Warwick, a reptile and human health expert flown in to assist with the massive case said the following:
“It’s my firm view as a health specialist these animals could not be returned to that facility,” Warwick said. “It is a rampant reservoir of potential infection.”
Warwick said he found no evidence of disease control at the business, which he said reeked “of death and decay on a mammoth and overwhelming scale” the day of the raid.
Despite this, the owners of the firm have released statements through their lawyers that clearly this is just a PETA agenda to get people to stop owning pets. This stands sharply in contrast with an SPCA spokeswoman’s statement:
“One of the most heartbreaking things I saw was hundreds of deceased iguanas. I stopped counting at 200,” said Maura Davies, spokeswoman for the SPCA. “There were dozens more.”
Often, people think of these cases as “one off” situations, where bad people take advantage of lax laws, but it is unfortunately a pattern with pet store suppliers (this mirrors undercover footage and pictures found at Rainbow Exotics — Petsmart’s biggest supplier). You cannot produce 200 guinea pigs a week, or 400 rabbits, or 1,000 hamsters in sterling conditions. You cannot make money off of breeding an animal with care, respect, and adequate medical supplies. At our rescue, we average $250 per intake! And often that’s simply to deal with minor health problems or to insure that the animals are, in fact, healthy. That’s not even counting the cost of pre-natal care for these animals, some of which have notoriously high complication rates. The sad reality is that these rodents mills are even more poorly policed than puppy mills, and (as attested to by this recent bust) are rampant with infectious disease and poor husbandry. In fact, recent studies done from large hamster mills have shown that all of the hamsters studied were carrying some type of pathogen, even if they weren’t actively infected with it!
We urge everyone looking to acquire a new pet to think carefully about where that animal comes from and what it is exposed to before it arrives at your house. These well meaning purchases often end in heartbreak (we get a couple of emails per week from folks who have purchased from local big box pet stores with recently dead animals who now want to adopt), and serve to fuel a never-ending cycle of supply and demand.
With everything going on this fall we’ve missed out on SAGP for a while but now we’re back on track! The December piggies, Big Boy and Rosie, need your help to reach their goal!
Big Boy was rescued in March of 2009 by the Cavy House rescue. He had lymphoma, which has amazingly been successfully responding to chemotherapy! They are seeking to raise enough money for four months of chemo.
Meet Homer. Homer is a homing pigeon. Homer is apparently not a very good homing pigeon, though, because he ended up at the local animal shelter.
Homer has a band on his leg, and when the shelter contacted his owner, they were told that he’d been released on a homing mission sometime in 2008, and had never returned. The owner refused to pay a $10 impound fee on a bird that couldn’t home, and Homer was left at the shelter to await his fate.
Unluckily for him, pigeons are not a very common pet, and he did not catch anyone’s fancy. His euthanasia time inched closer and closer, and soon ACR&S was notified about him. So we pulled him and installed him in a large flight cage, and so far he seems happy as a clam. He is really unsure about all the crazy people who want to pet his feathers, but he’s very tolerate and only stalks off with offended dignity.
If you, or a pigeon afficiando that you know, would like to adopt Homer, please contact us for more information!
In early October, right in the midst of my own thrilling move, ACR&S took in five bunnies that were originally inmates at a local prison. These rabbits were part of a rehabilitation program for the inmates, which focused on them helping animals which, like they, had been down on their luck. Thanks to the wonderful SPCA of the Triad, these bunnies’ plight was brought to our attention, and we took in a group of five.
These bunnies are all spayed or neutered, and are reported to be around six years of age. All of them have clearly been well loved, and beg for attention and treats (mostly treats — they are still rabbits!) Their litterbox manners are not the best, but we’re working on it, and Bonnie and Clydette are doing particularly well.
Below, from left to right, are Dillinger, Sundance, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie & Clydette. Each picture links to their Petfinder profile for more information about them!