There is a guinea pig crisis in the Bay Area.
Officials with Cavy Spirit, a nonprofit San Mateo-based guinea pig rescue organization, are seeking help and new owners for hundreds of the guinea pigs that need homes.
A large number of them became homeless this month, since Hollister Animal Control officers seized 187 guinea pigs found living in deplorable conditions with a woman who had allegedly been breeding them for 11 years to trade the babies to pet stores for food.
Cavy Spirit spokeswoman Teresa Murphy says the animals were reportedly housed outdoors next to a trailer. Animal control officers say they found empty water bottles and food dishes, as well as at least one dead guinea pig outside the cages.
The woman was reportedly “cleaning” the cages by throwing new wood shavings on top of old wood shavings for quite some time. The hair on the back of at least one guinea pig was poking through the top of the cage, Murphy said, because the pile of shavings and feces was so high. It was also reportedly covered in maggots, worms and “other gross stuff.”
Hundreds of the guinea pigs were rescued and are now housed and awaiting adoption at the Peninsula Humane Society, in Hollister, and at Cavy Spirit.
Murphy says Bay Area residents aren’t the only ones who will have the opportunity to help. Cavy Spirit has planned “Guinea Pigs-A-Go-Go,” a cross-country tour involving at least three round trips from the Bay Area.
The organization has borrowed a mobile adoption unit, a decorated Winnebago, from the Peninsula Humane Society and has rigged it with cages to house about 100 guinea pigs available for adoption. Guinea Pigs-A-Go-Go sets off Aug. 5 for Toledo, Ohio, followed by trips to Vancouver, Canada and somewhere in the Southwest.
Murphy says she won’t allow just anyone to adopt guinea pigs, but the crisis has caused her to compromise her adoption criteria. For those without guinea pig ownership experience, she recommends adopting from the Humane Society, where restrictions are more lax.
“I just don't want to put [the guinea pigs] in a home where they’ll probably wind up back in the shelter adoption cycle again,” she explained.
Murphy says the animals make wonderful pets, but aren't necessarily good for young children, explaining her mantra is “Guinea pigs aren't just for kids.”
“They're truly wonderful pets,” she said.