Letchworth guinea pig sanctuary saved after social media campaign
PUBLISHED: 06:58 19 February 2020
A guinea pig sanctuary has been saved from closure at the eleventh-hour following a people-powered campaign to keep it in business.
Two weeks ago, Jane Evans - the owner of Iggle Piggle Guinea Pigs, on Jackmans Estate - was informed by housing association Settle that her sanctuary of more than 200 guinea pigs had fallen foul of environmental checks, and was to be closed down by February 20.
In a letter sent to Jane on Friday evening, Settle confirmed they had reversed their decision and there was "no longer a need to rehome the guinea pigs".
The decision came after an outpuring of support on social media, which saw over 7,500 people sign a petition backing Jane and her family.
Matthew Saye, Settle's interim director of housing, said that the condition of the garden had "substantially improved" since their previous visit in January, and were acting on the advice of North Herts District Council Environmental Health officers.
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Settle had initially blamed Jane for attracting a rat problem in the area, but a further investigation by EH officers found there to be "no evidence of rats being attracted to the property".
"We are a team who took on the housing association and won," Jane said. "From the bottom of my heart, thank you to every single person who has been there for us - we couldn't have done this without you. Thank you for believing in us."
Jane also reserved praise for district councillors Adem Ruggiero-Cakir and Kate Aspinwall, and council leader Martin Stears-Handscomb, who "took our plea seriously and fought for us".
After being told last month that all 200 of her guinea pigs would have to be rehomed, Jane said she felt "scapegoated" by Settle - having run the sanctury responsibly for over five years.
"If you take away our guinea pigs, you take away our friends, our social circle, our life. I am absolutely heartbroken," Jane told the Comet last month.
Anita Khan, executive director of customer services at Settle said: "We are really pleased that Mrs Evans, her family and friends have responded so positively to the concerns expressed by EH egarding the guinea pigs at Mrs Evans' home.
"EH has advised us that, following the improvements made by Mrs Evans, they are satisfied that the current conditions do not present a public health risk."