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 Hollister Seizure and Rescue
Holliste Rescue in Perspective

Hollister Guinea Pig Seizure, Rescue and Adoptions

The crisis is over, but the story continues. Our involvement started on July 2nd, when 187 guinea pigs were seized from deplorable conditions by a backyard breeder in the Hollister area in California. The final count of guinea pigs placed from the rescue was close to 300. 

Charges were filed against the breeder with the District Attorney in Hollister, but he chose not to prosecute, saying there was no criminal intent and that it was a psychological problem. She has moved out of the area. We don't know where.

A California Problem?

Not in My Back Yard

This seizure and rescue has garnered both national and international attention leaving many to wonder and speculate why California has such a problem with guinea pig overpopulation. Those of you not in Northern California might think 'it's a good thing we don't have those problems in our area.'

Hollister seizure without attention
If we hadn't been there at the scene to photograph the cages and guinea pigs on the day of the seizure, what would have happened? If we hadn't been there to help get the guinea pigs properly housed and cared for, what would have happened? More surely would have died. Certainly more would have been put down due to questionable health. Very few people would have known about the situation. At best, another rescue may have been found days or weeks later to help with the remaining living guinea pigs. Then what? Another rescuer's numbers go up and who cares? 


Across the country, who knows?
How many other rescues in the US happen to get a heads up phone call and be present to witness and photograph such heart-wrenching conditions? This was a very unusual set of circumstances that led to such public exposure of the plight of these and other guinea pigs in our shelters. More often than not, very similar situations go unreported across the country. Then if a situation is reported, it can sometimes be very frustrating to get animal control officials to act. And once they do, then what? Is a rescue with resources available to step in and help? Who ends up knowing about it?

Guinea Pigs in Pet Stores = Market for Abuse
If there are guinea pigs being sold in pet stores in your area, then there is a potential market for abuse as well. Supply and demand market conditions exist. It can happen anywhere and does. 

Here are just a few examples of cases that have made the light of day, so to speak:

St. Louis, Missouri (NOW): A breeder is keeping 100+ guinea pigs in deplorable conditions in a basement: 10-12 guinea pigs per wooden hutch the size of a 20-gallon aquarium. Bedding covered in feces. Empty water bottles. Fungal infections and probably worse. See: Bad Breeder, Please Help.


Lewiston, Maine (November 2002): Authorities have destroyed 303 sick guinea pigs that were found in a Lewiston woman’s basement this week.


Relatives of Pauline L’Italien said they don’t know how many of the rodents, possibly infected with ringworm, may have been given away to local people. Ringworm is an easily transmittable fungus that can infect both animals and people.


The animals in the Cottage Road home basement were so ill that officials had them destroyed. Steve Dostie, director of the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society, said the animals were in “horrible” shape when they arrived at his clinic on Tuesday. The shelter had no choice but to destroy every one, he said.

They were so sick, and there were just so many, letting them into the shelter would have endangered the animals already there, he said. Some died on the short drive from Lewiston to the Auburn shelter.

Police found L’Italien after she was reported by a Saco woman, Laura Leedberg, last week. Leedberg answered a newspaper ad for free guinea pigs. She accepted 30 of the pets from the local home, but she was devastated by their condition.

She took so many in hopes of saving as many as she could. The pets had lost much of their hair, had lice, mites, were malnourished and infected with ringworm, Leedberg said. She kept three of the animals and sent the rest to a pet rescuer in Connecticut, Kim Olsen of Bright Future Animal Rescue. Olsen said that three of the 27 have since died, but the others are doing well.

They’ve run up an $800 vet and food bill, but they’re recovering quickly, Olsen said. She’s been feeding them special foods along with ground vitamin C tablets. Friends and neighbors have been nursing them with ointment and attention.

“People call them ‘pocket pets,’” Olsen said. “They say they’re disposable. They’re not disposable.” Some of these are just a few days old. Others are pregnant. They deserved better, she said.

Every guinea pig needs a fresh bed of shavings and a few feet of space to play, she said. “They’re active animals and they need to run around,” Olsen said. “They’re just so darn cute. They make a wonderful companion.” Of course, they need care, too. Olsen has never heard of a private home having more than a few guinea pigs, she said.

L’Italien, who declined to comment, began with just two. “Two turned into a whole bunch,” said her daughter, Carolyn L’Italien. “She thought they were her best friends.” She did not know details of the conditions in her mother’s home, but she believes no harm was meant. “She has a big, huge heart,” the daughter said. “My mom would never hurt anyone or anything.” See: Hundreds of Guinea Pigs Destroyed.

Ann Arbor, Michigan (June/July 2002): 130 guinea pigs (and several kittens) were seized from pet store in Ypsilanti, MI. They were kept in a back room in tubs and 20-gallon aquariums. They were emaciated, starved, dehydrated and covered in scabs. 117 of them were put down! 13 were saved. See: 150-200 Guinea Pigs in Ann Arbor, MI

Omaha, Nebraska (July 2001): Over 300 animals were removed from a house containing at least that many dead animals. These included guinea pigs, hamster, rats, mice and rabbits. They were living in 4x4 wooden partitions on the floor of a house, bedding was layered with dead animals, the humane society stopped counting at 350. The guinea pigs were extremely thin and undernourished. 15 of them were so bad they did not think they would make it through the night. See: Urgent, Rescue in Nebraska.

Omaha, Nebraska (June 2001): Over 200 guinea pigs taken from a man who supposedly started out with 5 pets a few years ago. See: Another Rescue in Omaha, NE

Sarasota, Florida (June 2001): A breeder situation with over 100 living in substandard conditions. Multiple threads on Cavies Galore (June - August).

Burlington, New Jersey (June 2000): 60 dumped guinea pigs found on the side of the NJ Turnpike, all females pregnant. See: 60 Abandoned Piggies in NJ.

Hampton, Virginia (April 2000): 150-200 guinea pigs seized from abusive breeder. See: Hamden, Virginia rescue effort needs help

Los Angeles, California (August 2000):
40 pigs let loose by a backyard breeder. A neighbor picked them up and kept them for a long time but didn't sex them . . . gpdd

San Diego, California (April 2000): Dozens of guinea pigs were seized from the home of a couple in San Diego who were breeding them to be sold at pet stores. The conditions were horrible, and the couple was charged with 85 counts of animal cruelty. Some were euthanized immediately for humane reasons and an additional 18 were euthanized the next day. See: RESCUE EMERGENCY: San Diego, CA

Those are just the examples of the bigger cases of abuse and neglect--the news-worthy. Every day in every state, animals are suffering in silence at the hands of ignorant pet owners, backyard breeders and worse. Pure and simple neglect can cause the worst suffering imaginable:

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Not an isolated incident
 The stories below represent over 1500 guinea pigs -- most of them put down -- unnecessarily. 


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