Friday, February 18, 2011

Research and Responsibility

One of the things I attempt to teach children about being responsible pet owners is that the responsibility begins even before you bring the pet home. Learning as much about a the required care, behavior and handling of an animal before you get it helps a person be prepared to be a good pet owner and be able to provide for the needs of the animal.

Guinea Pigs, for example, are decended from the cavy in the Andes Mountains in South America (cavia aperea). Since they live near the equator the temperature is consistent and fairly warm -- with only about 12 degrees in variation from season to season. Guinea Pigs can very easily become sick if exposed to drafty or cold weather, and it's recommended that they be kept inside in an area away from open windows or air conditioning ducts.

Recently HAWS had some Guinea Pigs surrendered to us, and it was obvious that the owners hadn't done even rudimentary research before they brought them home.

The previous owners told us that they thought Guinea Pigs were outdoor pets, and so they housed them in a fenced in yard with a dog house for shelter and a heating lamp. When he called he said that he thought he had 8 of them to bring in, however after he rounded them up discovered that there were 11 total. It's amazing that they were still alive after being housed outside in Wisconsin in January!

The reason for surrender was that the owners decided that Guinea Pigs just weren't the right pets for them --mainly because they weren't social, however HAWS was told that the guinea pigs weren't ever handled either. Animals can only learn to be social if someone makes an effort to socialize them.

After being treated for lice, mites and fight wounds the males were neutered and are currently being socialized by our small animal volunteers. They are available for adoption -- but will require an adopter who understands that patience will have to be practiced since they are still afraid of people. The females are in foster care for a few months while we wait to see if any are pregnant.

While this scenario is a bit extreme, surrenders because of a lack of education are one of the biggest reasons shelters get animals. People purchase pets because they are cute or cool, and then get home and reality sets in. Shelters will continue to exist as long as there are people who obtain pets they don't know much about.

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