Sunday, October 8, 2017

Rent a Guinea Pig in Switzerland

In 2008, Switzerland passed some new animal rights laws, which established social rights for animals. This means that animals that are classified as "social species" need to be allowed to have social interactions with others of their own kind. Guinea pigs are one of these social species, and so Swiss pet shops will not sell just one at a time.

This creates a legal issue when one guinea pig outlives the other. As we've mentioned, guinea pigs live 5-7 years on average, and in our experience, serious health issues are much more likely to appear around age 5, such as Buffy's uterine mass. In the past, each time one of us in the Cavy Savvy cage has passed on, there were 3 piggies in the cage. We haven't been in a situation where there were only 2, and we were at risk of one piggy being left all alone. (Even though there's no social rights law for guinea pigs in the USA that we're aware of, it's still better for the mental well-being of the piggy not be solitary.)

Although it is a very unpleasant thought, it is something we might want to start planning for, given that there's currently only 2 of us, and Broccoli is about 6 years old now. Luckily, he still seems to be happy and healthy (apart from a broken tooth), so hopefully there's still plenty of time to figure that out.
Oh no, I don't think Broccoli likes me talking about this at all. Let's get back to talking about the Swiss...
But getting back to Switzerland, an animal-lover there named Priska Küng decided to start a "rent a guinea pig" service to help out humans and their lonely piggies in this unfortunate situation; as ABC News explains, "Without her rent-a-guinea pig service, the owner would have to purchase a new, probably younger guinea pig as a companion to the ageing survivor, whose eventual death would force the purchase of yet another guinea pig, locking the owner into an endless cycle of guinea pig purchases in order to adhere to Swiss law." (ABC News, we got some news for you: we're fuzzy and delightful, and any human would be lucky to be "locked" into an "endless cycle" with wonderful creatures such as us! But, I digress.) Küng would charge 50 Swiss francs for a male and 60 for a female as a deposit, and you get half of your deposit back when you return the piggy.

While this overall seems like a good thing since it ensures solitary guinea pigs don't spend their twilight years alone, there are some potential issues here. Küng is president of IG Meerschweinchen an organization of guinea pig breeders. As we've mentioned before, breeders often operate without the best interests of the piggies in mind, although in this case, it appears to be a labor of love for Küng, who has said: "It's a hobby that costs me more money than I earn from it." We'd still be comfortable with the idea if it were associated with guinea pig rescues rather than breeders, who may contribute to overpopulation. On the other hand, we've heard that overpopulation is less of an issue in that region, so perhaps there's less of a chance that people would be passing up an opportunity to take home a shelter piggy for a breeder piggy. (On the other hand, another person claimed Switzerland does have many piggies in shelters needing homes, so we don't know what to think.) Any Swiss readers out there who can weigh in?

Although some may also feel that the service sends a message that "guinea pigs are disposable," Küng also says: "It's important that none of the rental guinea pigs just keep getting passed on... If an animal has been hired out once, it either stays with me for the rest of its life or it moves somewhere else for good." This was good to read, since adjusting to a new home tends to be stressful, and we would hope that any similar services would also place guinea pig welfare over profits.

If you are in the unfortunate situation of having one guinea pig outlive the other, and don't live anywhere near the Rent A Guinea Pig service, what other options do you have? You could, of course, adopt another guinea pig. However, if for some reason you don't want to be "locked in" to an "endless cycle" of joy and cuteness for some unfathomable reason, there are other options besides letting your remaining piggy live in solitude. Rescues may take back your remaining piggy, although it's probably hard to give up your furry companion in their time of need. Some rescues may offer a "fostering" option, similar to the Rent A Guinea Pig service, where you can bring home a companion for your piggy and have the option to bring it back to the rescue after he or she passes. Of course, you may become attached to your foster piggy, and not want to give them back after all!

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