Your Guinea Pigs’ Fate When You Lie To A Shelter

fingers crossedImage courtesy of corbis

When faced with a situation where you need to turn over your guinea pig to an area shelter it's in the best interest of everyone involved if you can tell the truth about your situation.

In my experience with shelters, people often put about as much time into thinking of what to say to the shelter as they did when acquiring the pet in the first place. Sometimes it’s not much thought at all. Some tell the truth and some lie and some do whatever they can to make a shelter take a pet they simply don’t want any longer. The end of the owner’s situation is the beginning of the shelter’s problem and lying specifically can complicate a situation and burn through valuable resources. Here’s a few things that are often said to shelters, the alternatives to each topic, and consequences of the situation.

We’re allergic to our guinea pigs, hay, or bedding
This is a commonly heard situation but one that can often be remedied. There are many types of bedding and hay products. If you’re allergic to Timothy Hay, Orchard Grass is another grass hay product that is equally beneficial to your guinea pigs. If you’re using bedding with fine particulates, try something with larger pieces that may produce less dust or move to fleece bedding that can be washed as needed. After you’ve made these changes, you may find you’re not allergic to your guinea pig after all. A good shelter will help you solve your problem before accepting your pet, after all, it’s in their best interest to have less animals. If no solution can be found, a shelter will take your pet and try to find it a new home.

Our guinea pigs are sick and we can’t take them to the vet
This is a situation that needs to be addressed before it becomes a problem, but I won’t go into those details here. In some areas, there are organizations which work with low income households that can help you pay for vet bills. Some vets work pro bono or offer a free first exam. Situations like benign tumors and mites can be easily treated. A pregnant guinea pig needs special food and health care. A good shelter will help you try to solve this situation and may direct you to organizations for assistance. If no solution can be found, the shelter will take your pets. However, shelters do not always have specialized vet care on hand for guinea pigs. Guinea pigs need exotic vets that specialize in their care and this usually means a rescue is needed. If a rescue can nurse them back to health, they will become available for adoption or live out their life in a sanctuary. If the shelter can not find a rescue to take your guinea pigs, your pets will be euthanized.


An experienced shelter worker has heard it all and will be able to spot a lie. Please consider the consequences of your actions.

The guinea pigs bit me, my child, or a family member
This is the most dangerous situation for your guinea pigs for many reasons. True or not, the shelter will take this claim seriously. This may also limit the chances of your guinea pigs being turned over to a rescue because shelters can not allow dangerous animals to leave. If your guinea pigs do find their way to a rescue, the rescue will have to publish that the pet bites and this may also limit their chances of finding a new home. I implore you, if you feel you must invent a reason to surrender your pets, please choose anything but this one for the life of your guinea pigs. If your guinea pigs did bite you, please tell the shelter in detail the situation when it occurred and the severity of the bite. If guinea pigs are considered dangerous, they will be euthanized.

We’re moving tomorrow and we can’t take our guinea pigs
While it is difficult finding an airline that can safely transport guinea pigs, it is not impossible. There are animal welfare organizations with volunteer networks that can help you move your guinea pigs to your next destination for the price of a donation. However, the situation does arise where due to job, duty or landlords, your guinea pigs can not move to your final destination. A shelter can explore additional alternatives if you give them more than a day’s time. Don’t be surprised if shelter workers ask how you did not know you were moving until today. In this situation, you’ll be expected to give a full detailed history of your pet’s age, health, and behavior so a suitable new home can be found as quickly as possible. If no solution can be found, a shelter will take your pet and try to find it a new home.

We found these guinea pigs and we don’t know anything about them
If you leave a shelter with no information about the pets you are dropping off, it can likely be a death sentence. Don’t assume a shelter volunteers will be able to correctly identify the health, age, behavior, or gender of an animal by looking at it. If you leave a pet at a shelter in this way, time, money, and manpower will be investing in having to learn about your pet before it can be put up for adoption. Even if you’ve held the guinea pigs over night after finding them outside, information on how much they have eaten or drank can be important in determining their state of health. If the cavy is sick, it can die before care is found. If it appears to be old or considered less adoptable it may be euthanized. If they are new babies, they may be already be pregnant after just three short weeks. A shelter will hold your guinea pigs for review using valuable resources and the outcome is at their discretion – adoption, rescue, or euthanasia.

Don’t forget, if you had adopted your guinea pigs, you may have signed a contract to return your pet to the place of adoption if, for whatever reason, you can no longer care for your pets. Also, it might seem easier to go directly to a guinea pig rescue rather than a shelter, but not every rescue takes private surrenders.

When faced with a situation where you need to turn over your guinea pig to an area shelter, it is in the best interest of everyone involved if you can tell the truth about your situation. A good shelter will try to exhaust all options before accepting a surrender. Choosing a no-kill shelter does not guarantee your pet will not be euthanized. To give your guinea pigs the best chance of survival, be complete in telling a shelter where you acquired a pet, how old it is, and as much of its health history and behavior you may know. By doing so, you’re helping everyone on the way to your guinea pigs’ new home.

This article was difficult to write as we personally find it to be a tour of animals we’ve lost to these unfortunate situations, but we felt it needed to be said. We hope it helps those considering surrendering with lies to understand the consequences of their actions. There are so many more situations similar to those listed here. If you have more to add, please comment below.

If you have a great idea for an article about guinea pigs, please let us know. Guinea Pig Today is a network of guinea pig lovers and we’re always looking for the next great story. View our submissions page for more information on how to submit your idea.

Angela, Editor-in-Chief, GPT

Angela founded Guinea Pig Today and guest writes for CavyMadness. She volunteers with Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue and supports the ROUS Foundation. Her guinea pig, Papua, is the star of WHEK-TV/DT.

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2 Responses to “Your Guinea Pigs’ Fate When You Lie To A Shelter”
  1. Becky Wilson says:

    I love this article. We at the rescue level are so hindered by the lack of information about the animals we take in. Thank you for this article.

  2. Stephanie says:

    while it is true that shelters take “the animal bit me” seriously…. I can tell you that my municipal shelter doesn’t consider it a death sentence. (I’m in Maine.) We will actually assume that the bite was a misunderstand on the human’s part & not blame the animal. unless its a dog. However, the less information you provide to us, the longer it takes for us to find a home for that animal because we have to wait for evaluations, vet checks, and a state mandated holding period for strays, among other things. Difficult article to write, Angela, but definitely needed!

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