Homes Needed for Small Critters
By Phil Snyder, Executive Director Suncoast Humane Society
Most people know that animal shelters receive and adopt dogs and cats. Few, however, realize the numbers of small critters that are turned into these same shelters. During 2018, Suncoast Humane Society received 108 bunnies, ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters and gerbils. This year to date over 60 have already been admitted, including the 17 rabbits and 4 guinea pigs currently available for adoption. There is a variety of reasons that these small critters are turned in.
The Easter Bunny has a lot to do with rabbit overpopulation in shelters. Although there are many dedicated pet rabbit owners, a lot of small critters are purchased from pet stores as a novelty for the younger members of the family. This can end with sad results when the novelty wears off and becomes a huge responsibility. Rabbits are now the 3rd most overpopulated species to enter animal shelters.
We are trying to work with local pet stores on possible adoption programs for these bunnies, but as one store official put it, they sell rabbits, they don’t adopt them. There lies one of the problems. California, Hawaii, New York City and Washington, D.C. still ban ferrets as pets, mostly because of legislators’ misunderstandings between wild and pet ferrets. Elsewhere, they are generally considered, by ferret enthusiasts, as sweet little critters to have as pets. Most that are turned into Suncoast Humane Society are already spayed/neutered, and have rabies inoculations. If not, it is done before they are available for adoption.
Guinea pigs, gerbils and hamsters round out the majority of small critters brought to humane societies and other animal shelters. Guinea pigs are capable of having 5 litters a year, while gerbils and hamsters can double that number, producing 10-12 litters. That should pretty much explain why many of them end up at shelters. Most people cannot distinguish between males and females, resulting in unplanned litters from co-habitation. Humane Societies certainly do not want to adopt out pregnant animals, but with these small critters and without ultrasound or an x-ray machine, who can tell?
Other small critters that are brought to animal shelters include pet rats, caged birds, including parakeets, canaries, finches, love birds and even an occasional parrot. Most people do not think of humane societies or animal shelters when they want to obtain these smaller critters as pets. They are drawn to the advertising of large chain pet centers.
We know there are families that are unable, or do not want a dog or a cat as a pet, but may want to consider a smaller critter. If you fall into this category, please think of Suncoast Humane Society or another animal shelter first. You may just get attached. If so, like adopting a homeless dog or cat, you will be giving one of these little guys or gals a second chance. Come take a look.