San Francisco Animal Control Did NOT Suffer Guinea Pig Apocalypse. But That's The Only Good News.

Big Guinea Pig.jpg
'I'm super. Thanks for asking.'
Earlier in the summer, we wondered if the success of the movie G-Force would lead to a glut of guinea pigs overwhelming San Francisco Animal Care and Control once the novelty of pet ownership wore off. While it may seem only a foul dream, the talking guinea pig film was the nation's top-grosser for a spell, and Animal Control confirms they did indeed adopt out every last piggie that was to be had, likely as a result.

Now, months later, the backlash experienced here locally vis-a-vis Chihuahuas ("The Paris Hilton Syndrome") did not come to pass with piggies. All the guinea pigs adopted out by Animal Control remain adopted out. This is good news, and good news is rare these days in the world of rescue animals. Or anywhere, for that matter.

Lest anyone think the recession hasn't made a mark locally, the miner's canary is, often enough, a canary. Animal Control volunteer coordinator Deb Campbell notes that the rate of owner-surrendered animals jumped 49 percent from June to July and is far higher than it was back in 2008. "People are losing jobs, homes, and moving away and they can't take their pets," she says. "We have more owner-surrendered animals than we ever have before."

This mirrors state trends -- and is a real tragedy because, as SF Weekly reported in June, the possibility that the waiting period for euthanizing stray animals would be halved did, indeed, come to pass.

Since August's state budget was adopted, the waiting period for killing unclaimed cats, dogs, or small creatures (guinea pigs, yes) dropped from six days to just three; the state legislative analyst claims this will save California $25 million. Incidentally, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger initially suggested that all waiting periods be completely done away with. This means stray animals could be killed in a matter of minutes or hours. Think of the savings! 

Campbell and other Animal Control officials are quick to note this development shouldn't alter the way they do business in San Francisco, which kills only sickly, vicious or otherwise "unadoptable" animals. But it certainly will be a big deal for smaller animal services in parts of the state more ravaged by the recession and without the monetary resources or volunteer animal rescue groups San Francisco is blessed with.

And, make no mistake, San Francisco is not getting out of this unscathed. The change in state law means that animal shelter agencies are no longer eligible for state reimbursment for days four through six that they house a stray animal. San Francisco didn't put animals to death after Day No. 6, but it did apply for those reimbursements. That ends now -- and local animal control officials are unsure how much less state money they'll be getting now than they used to.

But they aren't swimming in guinea pigs. So they've got that going for them. Which is nice.

Photo   |   University of Wisconsin, La Crosse 

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