Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ask A Guinea Pig: What's Wrong With Guinea Pig Breeding?

It's time for another installment of "Ask A Guinea Pig!" Andrew Carpenter asks: "Do you guys think you could make a post about why you frown on breeding? ...i want you guys to tell me how you feel so i can show you my side of the pig pen."

Good question, Andrew. We want to make it clear up front that we think we are a pretty great species, and we're definitely not in favor of guinea pig extinction. Therefore, we're not claiming that no guinea pigs should ever breed again anywhere in the world.

The way we see it, there are two motivations for breeding guinea pigs: Either you love guinea pigs and really have their best interest in mind, or you're just trying to make a buck. We're not so cynical as to think that all breeders only care about money. We found a great essay entitled "That Truly Rare Breed: 'The Responsible Breeder'" by Serafina Cupido which lays out what it takes to be a truly responsible breeder of guinea pigs. Some of the points this essay makes include:

  • Breeders must educate themselves about guinea pig care and health issues. Otherwise, ignorance could lead to tragedy.
  • Guinea pigs should be kept in good living conditions, including adequate space, clean cages, clean water, a healthy diet, and all those other things we post about on this blog.
  • Breeders must realize that pregnancy carries risk for the mother, and they must not add to the risk by breeding them too early or too late in life, or by having more than 1-2 litters in a lifetime.
  • Breeders should continue to care for guinea pigs past their breeding age, and will not just dispose of them.
  • Breeders that give or sell their guinea pigs should make sure they end up in suitable home.
  • Breeders should realize that overpopulation is a problem, and find a positive way to contribute to addressing the issue.

If you're reading our blog, we're guessing this means you're probably one of these responsible ones since you're choosing to invest your time in reading about guinea pig care. However, if you're buying a guinea pig from a big pet store, how sure can you be sure that the breeders who supply them also adhere to these ideals? From what we read, many of them don't, and the results are truly horrible (warning: disturbing stories below). Highlight the space below to read on.
  • One investigation revealed that "one of PetSmart's main animal suppliers, Rainbow World Exotics in Hamilton, Texas, also revealed that live animals were thrown into the trash, were deprived of desperately needed veterinary care, were suffering and dying alone in their cages, and were cannibalizing each other; that rabbits underwent crude neuter surgeries at the hands of a layperson in a filthy, dark room; and more." 
  • A woman from Chester, NH had 33 guinea pigs that "were not being well cared for. The shelter deemed it a 'puppy mill' of guinea pigs: the animals were bred continuously only to sell to local pet stores... The adoption center is now busting at the seams with guinea pigs and is in need of fosters or adopters."
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection reports from 2004-2006 reveal a variety of Animal Welfare Act violations, including "11 guinea pigs housed inside a small tub only large enough for four."

That last story brings up another point we want to mention regarding guinea pig breeders. The Animal Welfare Act only applies to breeders who make $500 or more annually from the sale of guinea pigs (and/or other animals covered under the Act). Not all who should register do. Even if a guinea pig breeder does register and comply with the Animal Welfare Act, it only requires a cage size of 10" x 10" per guinea pig. recommends a minimum of 30" x 36" (more is preferred) for one guinea pig, so the Animal Welfare Act standards are pretty weak. A breeder could comply with the letter of the law and still keep their guinea pigs in pretty bad conditions.

Know where your guinea pig comes from. All guinea pigs should live in comfort like this!


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  2. You forgot to point out that due to irresponsible overbreeding and also guinea pigs being bought willy-nilly by those who don't care to educate themselves before purchasing, small animal rescues are packed to the gills right now.

    1. Good point. I think the second example we gave provides a good illustration of how adoption centers can get overwhelmed by this.

    2. Thanks for making this post. I would like to point out that not only do i do this for their welfare i also make money from them. My pigs are show pigs and they love the attention they get. I just wish i could give them more but being without a job my pigs aren't getting everything i would like them to have.

    3. Andrew--Sounds like your heart is in the right place. I hope you're able to find a job soon and give your piggies everything they want.