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September 13, 2010

The Guinea Pig at the Puppy Mill

Rescued guinea pig finds forever home

 

Epperson and Fiona

Epperson and Fiona now live together as beloved members of the Glezos family. Maria Glezos/The HSUS

by Shevaun Brannigan

The Humane Society of the United States rescues thousands of animals each year from conditions of squalor. One such animal, a guinea pig named Epperson, was saved from an Arkansas puppy mill in October 2009 in a rescue conducted by The HSUS and the Johnson County Sheriff's Department.

No creature comforts

Epperson was found with a guinea pig friend in a tiny, dirty cage not nearly large enough for two guinea pigs. Approximately 100 dogs and five cats were also rescued. The dogs were housed in cramped, filthy cages in trailers; some were chained outside without any protection from the elements. Most of the animals rescued had never known life outside of a cramped enclosure—typical conditions for animals at puppy mills who are kept by people "in over their heads," as Kathleen Summers, manager in the Stop Puppy Mills campaign, puts it.

Epperson was taken in by a volunteer with the Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue in Washington, D.C., where he was cared for and eventually put up for adoption. Guinea pigs form strong bonds when successfully paired and do well with company; sadly, Epperson's friend passed away after a bout with cancer, so he would not be joining Epperson in a new home.

Fiona chose Epperson as her mate, and the two now act like "long lost friends."

Good news

Epperson was in luck when the Glezos family went looking to adopt a new guinea pig.

Maria Glezos and her 15-year-old son first fell in love with guinea pigs when they met Nibbles, the classroom pet at Maria's son's kindergarten class. Realizing that Nibbles was being neglected, they cared for him and eventually adopted him and made him part of their family.

They had guinea pigs ever since, keeping them in pairs so they would have company. When one of their adopted guinea pigs passed away after eight years, Maria and her son went to look for a new friend for Fiona, the surviving pig. The two solitary guinea pigs were introduced, and Fiona chose Epperson as her mate. Now, the two act like "long lost friends," said Maria.

After doing research, Maria learned that one interpretation of the surname Epperson means, "In thee, oh Lord, I have placed my hope." The name had special meaning both for Epperson and for his adoptive family.

"My son and I have a strong faith in God. We thought this [name] was really special for him, because he was clearly in a very bad situation being in a puppy mill," she said. "If guinea pigs are able to have 'hope,' I'm sure he did hope for a better life."

Shevaun Brannigan is production and marketing manager for the Publications and Brand Management department of The HSUS.

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