Friend's concern for guinea pigs' welfare

Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: My close friend from childhood recently bought two guinea pigs for her children. The kids enjoy them but seem a little afraid of them. Now the parents have decided that the guinea pigs smell bad and have relegated them to the porch, which is not heated. I volunteer in an animal shelter and consider myself a champion of animal causes, but I'm stumbling over what to do with this one. Guinea pigs come from a warm climate and should not be out in the cold (last week it got into the low 40s). I've tried to gently suggest that the porch seems a little cold for them, but it's not working. The only fight I've ever had with this friend I came off as judging her. I want to respect her right to do what she wants but also do the right thing for the animals. I hope you will print my letter as a warning to parents: Please don't purchase a pet that you will likely not want to care for. The glimmer in your child's eye probably will fade with time, and then you will be responsible.Animal Lover in MarylandDEAR ANIMAL LOVER:With the holidays approaching, it is important to note that adults hoping to give animals to children must take full long-term responsibility for their choice.

Advise the parents to take better care: Print information about guinea pig care (available on aspca.org), and hand it over, saying, "These critters aren't cut out for the cold. Is there any warm place you can put them? If you don't want to keep them, let me know, and I can try to get them adopted for you." Guinea pigs require temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your supervisor at the shelter might have some ideas for how to help these people become responsible animal stewards. If they can't make this transition, they should place the animals with people who can take care of them.

This is a friendship risk you will have to take to advocate for these defenseless animals.