Published: 00:00, 30 November 2014
| Updated: 13:07, 30 November 2014
April Lodge Guinea Pig Rescue, based in Thornton Lane, Eastry, is inundated with the furry creatures.
And with Christmas just around the corner, guinea pig health advisor Val Savage and her 20 volunteers are expecting a barrage of more unwanted guinea pigs as early as the New Year.
Guinea pigs are for life (or at least four to seven years), not just for Christmas. It is a phrase we hear all too often about dogs, but it applies to all animals.
It is a sad fact that children often lose interest in pets and therefore many are left neglected, abandoned or even abused and dumped.
Val, who has seen it all in her years working with the animals, said: “You do get some genuine people who want them for their children for Christmas, but I would like everyone who is considering buying a baby guinea pig from a pet shop to seriously consider adopting an unwanted guinea pig.
“For every guinea pig purchased from a pet shop, more are being bred, which means there will be even less homes available for unwanted guinea pigs.
“There is sadly no legislation on breeding guinea pigs which is why all the small animal rescues are full to bursting when, as someone once said to me, they shouldn’t even exist at all.”
April Lodge which has been running since January 2004 and a registered charity since 2007, has been awarded for its excellent rescue service, facilities, advise, follow-up support and care of specifically guinea pigs. It is one of about 10 specialist guinea pig centres in the country and is, for a lot of guinea pig owners, their first port of call before the vets.
While Val is not a vet, she is an expert in her field having completed BAR Rodent Health Advisory training courses, two dental courses and refreshers. People travel some distances including from Gillingham and Sittingbourne to see her, as well as volunteers, to help her.
The 60 guinea pigs she currently has are kept in several departments; ‘The Lodge’ which is for newly unwanted guinea pigs who may have health issues, ‘The Shelter’ where guinea pigs which are ready to be rehomed are kept and ‘The Hospital’ which is inside Val’s home, for really poorly guinea pigs or newborns (of which she currently has four). There is also a retirement home for older guinea pigs – these ones can be sponsored.
The services she offers certainly keep her on her toes. Not only does she take on the animals, feeding and cleaning them, but she works closely and consciously with vet Jeremy Pearson from Animal House vets in London Road, Deal, who often performs surgery on the guinea pigs and prescribes medication.
She also carries out free welfare checks for all ex-rescues from the shelter and by small donation to the charity for other guinea pigs.
April Lodge offers boarding services for guinea pigs while you’re on holiday as well as pampering days. Not forgetting, the shop which sells hay, food and equipment, with all profits going to the charity.
Val said: “The thing with this charity is you can see where your money is going. It goes on food and bedding. For example last year, hay, feed, veg and bedding cost over £5,000 and vet bills were £2,000.”
She added: “Since 2004 we have cared for more than 1,500 unwanted guinea pigs, have rehomed 1,475 and have 60 guinea pigs for adoption at the shelter.
“We urgently need to find good homes for these unwanted animals.”
Perhaps if a guinea pig is on your child’s Christmas list this year, you might now consider all those in rescue centres. If you think you can help by adoption, fostering, sponsoring or donation, visit www.aprillodge.co.uk and then call 01304 617075 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Guinea pigs can be reserved pending a home visit. They can then be collected.