Swiss animal welfare laws necessitate guinea pig “matchmaking agency”
Summary of story from Spiegel, September 20, 2011
Priska Küng runs a guinea pig “matchmaking agency”, renting out her animals as companions for other, lonely guinea pigs that have lost their partners.
Küng, president of IG Meerschweinchen, the umbrella organisation of Switzerland’s three guinea pig breeding associations, lives with around 80 of the animals, about 30 kilometers from Zürich.
Swiss animal welfare laws now forbid people from keeping lone guinea pigs because the animals are sociable and need each other’s company.
As a result, anyone owning a pair of guinea pigs will be breaking the law if the death of one animal leaves the owner with a sole guinea pig.
“Because they hardly ever die at the same time, even if they are exactly the same age, people who don’t want a new guinea pig and lose one of their two animals need an interim solution,” Küng says.
She says she gets two to three enquiries per week, and rents her guinea pigs out for weeks, months or even years at a time.
Guinea pigs, she says, can be choosy about who they live with. “A young animal can annoy a four or five-year-old guinea pig by being too temperamental and active.”
However, she has also known older guinea pigs to be “rejuvenated” by younger companions.
“It’s a hobby that costs me more money than I earn from it,” says Küng, a teacher by profession.
She takes 50 Swiss francs for a castrated male and 60 francs for a female, “as a deposit”. In effect, she sells the animals but pays back half the purchase price when they are returned.
“It’s important that none of the rental guinea pigs just keep getting passed on,” says Küng. “If an animal has been hired out once, it either stays with me for the rest of its life or it moves somewhere else for good.”