Piggie Poo program protects rodents

Marissa Hopkins

The Humane Society protects stray dogs and cats, and there are countless organizations out there with goals of protecting wildlife, but has anyone ever stopped to think about the guinea pigs?

The people at Piggie Poo, Arizona’s Small Animal Rescue, Inc. have.

Alicia Sloan, a history junior, said Piggie Poo focuses on saving guinea pigs from the poor conditions at pet stores, nursing them back to health when people no longer want them, and even staging raids of “”cruel”” guinea pig farms.

“”We got them out of there,”” Sloan said, referring to last July when members of Piggie Poo bought as many guinea pigs as possible from a guinea pig breeding farm in Texas.

“”They only sell males because they use the females as breeding machines,”” she said.

Piggie Poo is an organization that specializes in guinea pigs, but sometimes saves and helps other small animals as well.

“”We have some friends in the bunny business,”” said Sloan.

According to the Piggie Poo website, they also take in rats, chinchillas and ferrets occasionally.

The organization is unique because it caters specifically to saving guinea pigs from animal cruelty in shelters.

The Humane Society specializes in cats and dogs,and therefore do not have the resources to help guinea pigs that are brought there, Sloan said. The guinea pigs are put with the kittens in the shelters and kept in cages that are far too small, she said.

“”It’s not the Humane Society’s fault, per se,”” Sloan said. “”They are not equipped to handle it.””

She said one time when she went to visit, there was a sick guinea pig that she fell in love with, but they would not let her take it home until it was out of quarantine.

“”I spent like every day after school for a week sitting by her side because I couldn’t take her home,”” said Sloan.

The Tucson Humane Society calls Sloan whenever they get a new guinea pig now because they don’t have the vets or resources to take care of them.

“”I’ve been doing this since 2006. I pretty much just take them in as a boarding house and send them up to Phoenix,”” said Sloan.

Amanda Peterson, president and founder of Piggie Poo, lives in Phoenix and has 18 pigs in her home currently, she said, as well as four of her own.

Piggie Poo runs on a foster system. There are 17 active foster homes around Arizona, and between the homes, Piggie Poo currently has 83 guinea pigs in its care, Peterson said.

“”We’re such a small network trying to do so much,”” said Sloan. “”It’s something I will do for the rest of my life. I heard about Amanda and I just had to help.””

Sloan has had up to seven guinea pigs and a bunny living in her own home at once before sending them to Peterson, she said.

“”At one point my dresser was outside and my closet was full of guinea pigs,”” Sloan said. “”It’s really hard to give them up. It makes your life worth living sometimes to know you’re helping animals.””

Piggie Poo takes care of the guinea pigs until they are able to sell them to people who are looking for healthy, well-taken-care-of pets.

“”We really believe in guinea pigs being society animals. You don’t get to buy one singly. They always come with a friend,”” said Sloan.

Sloan told a story of a blind guinea pig that became friends with another guinea pig. He has become her “”seeing-eye guinea pig.”” The blind guinea pig follows him everywhere, and if the blind pig needs help, she squeals, and then the other one comes to get her.

“”They’re incredibly intelligent animals,”” Sloan said.

Piggie Poo has a very strict adoption policy on its animals. There is an application which has very specific housing requirements and must know who the primary care giver will be. Then there is an hour-long adoption process where the buyer is taught to correctly care for their animal, Peterson said.

Sloan currently has four guinea pigs of her own. Two of them were in pretty bad condition when she got them, she said.

“”I worked with a vet for months,”” she said. “”One of my guinea pigs still has emotional problems. Whenever I travel, I can’t handle being away from my guinea pigs. I cannot handle it.””