The council is sitting on a bill to ban the sale of fluffy rodents as pets

The council is sitting on a bill to ban the sale of fluffy rodents as pets


City council is dragging itself on a bill banning the sale of guinea pigs, as local shelters with four-legged pets have been flooded in the pandemic, according to people familiar with the matter.

These Rock n’ Rescue guinea pigs are some of the many pigs that have been abandoned to animal shelters recently after the pig population increased. | Julie Sialoni / Rock ‘n Rescue

City pet shelters have been infested with rodents, with the number of owners surrendering doubling since 2019, according to data from New York City Animal Care Centers.

About 600 guinea pigs have been brought into city-funded animal shelters so far this year. Only 282 were brought in during the same time period in 2019.

Last year, 481 pigs were delivered between January 1 and September 12, according to the data.

“We’re really, really struggling,” ACC spokeswoman Katie Hansen told the city.

She added that the organization hopes to hold a hearing on the bill quickly so that it can eventually vote – and provide some relief to shelters.

“We can’t wait any longer,” she said.

So far, 34 out of 51 members of the Council Have signed the bill It was introduced in February by Councilman Diana Ayala (D-Manhattan/Bronx) – the number that qualifies as a supermajority. Officials said the hearing is required within 60 days after the overwhelming majority in the House is reached, but no date has been set.

The delay is partly due to speaker Adrian Adams being reluctant about any animal-related hearing, as activists continue to push for a ban on horse-drawn carriages, according to several people familiar with the matter.

A spokesman for the Speaker of the House of Representatives said the bill was going through the legislative process and declined to comment on the delay.

Ayala told the city there was a backlog of bills because more than 1,000 bills needed new principal sponsors when their former subjects left City Council. Staff shortage In the board also created a delay.

Ayala expects to hold a hearing in the fall. “It’s an important bill,” she said.

‘Lots of pregnant pigs’

Guinea pigs are often sold through national chain stores such as Petco And the petsmart For under $50 — and often an impulse buy, according to Hansen and other animal rescuers.

They said it is difficult to determine the gender of a guinea pig – the local version of the South American caviar – without an ultrasound, so unsuspecting owners often pair a male and a female, thinking they are of the same sex.

The ACC and others note that only two well-known veterinarians in New York City have the skills to sterilize and neuter guinea pigs. Each surgery can cost between $400 and $515.

“We see a lot of pregnant pigs, it’s not funny,” said Julie Sialoni, who runs Rock n’ Rescue in Westchester.

A Manhattan Petco store advertising guinea pigs, September 12, 2022. | Ben Fractenberg / City

Sialon said her group is working closely with the ACC to rescue and care for guinea pigs, needs exacerbated by the pandemic.

“The COVID came and everyone was like, ‘Let’s get the guinea pig in because we’re inside and we don’t want to go outside,'” she said.

“People think they are cute and gentle, [but] “They’re going fast and they don’t want anyone to touch them,” Sialoni added. “The challenge is that people end up getting bored of them.”

She said guinea pigs are sometimes left in parks or on the streets and left to fend for themselves.

“When you throw a guinea pig into a park, you’re setting it to die,” Ally Taylor, president of Voters for Animal Rights, a Bushwick-based nonprofit, told THE CITY.

Her organization worked with the ACC to garner support within the Council for the bill.

“They wouldn’t be able to survive on their own, and they would be eaten by predators,” she added.

If the bill passes, it could take some pressure off the city’s animal shelters, which would still be able to make guinea pigs available for adoption.

There, the animals are almost always spayed or neutered, and the ACC provides help and information on the best way to raise them, according to Hansen.

Representatives of the large pet store chain did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Unwelcome creatures

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed puppy mill pipeline invoiceWhich would ban the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits from stores. it still waiting Signature of Governor Cathy Hochhol.

The city has already banned the sale of rabbits from stores in 2014.

In 1999, New York City made possession of ferrets illegal after the Department of Health declared they carry rabies and vulnerable to commit Unprovoked vicious attacks.

There have been no reports of attacks by guinea pigs, but these were required, and then the unwanted rodents multiply rapidly.

“It’s just a matter of getting a hearing,” Taylor said. “This is something that can be fixed.”


THE CITY is an independent, non-profit news outlet dedicated to challenging reporting serving New Yorkers.

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