Letchworth family in urgent plea to save 200 guinea pigs
PUBLISHED: 18:29 30 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:45 31 January 2020
A petition to save a Letchworth family's guinea pig sanctuary, described as a "pillar of the community", has this evening reached nearly 2,000 signatures.
Jane Evans, who runs Iggle Piggle Guinea Pigs on the Jackmans estate, was "devastated" after being told by housing association Settle that all 200 of her guinea pigs would have to be rehomed within four weeks.
Following a visit from Settle and a district council environmental health officer last week, the family were blamed for an ongoing issue with rats in the local area, and informed that the sanctuary was to be shut down with immediate effect.
"The word I would use is scapegoat", Jane said. "Settle have blamed us almost entirely for the rat issues, but they are well-known in Letchworth."
Jane says that they "deliver animal waste responsively to local allotments", and after two visits by an RSPCA agent in the past two years, the guinea pigs were found to be living in excellent conditions.
A letter sent to Jane by a Settle neighbourhood officer said the situation was "not acceptable", and advised that she "must rehome all the guinea pigs" by February 20.
The officer argued that the garden condition had not improved enough since their previous visit in December 2019, and claimed there was "still evidence of food waste around the garden and hay on the floor".
Jane said that Settle have since indicated they may be open to compromise, but fears that a number of the older guinea pigs will have to be put down if they can not be rehomed.
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"I feel sick to the bottom of my stomach," Jane said. "We are not just a sanctuary. We educate people, we offer advice, we go to nursing homes, and this has branched out into a huge social media community.
"From Birmingham, to Bracknell, to Northampton, we take our guinea pigs to shows and competitions - and they have been a huge support for my children.
"If you take away our guinea pigs, you take away our friends, our social circle, our life. I am absolutely heartbroken."
One resident and close friend of Jane, Hayley Rafter, said the sanctuary has been the "passion and focus" of Jane's life for the past 5 years.
"What she does is amazing, providing a home to unwanted and unloved guinea pigs. She has built up a strong, supportive community that provides information and advice to animal pig lovers, owners, fosterers, and rescuers all around the country.
"This unfair decision has been a massive blow to Jane and her family. These guinea pigs are more than just animals for them. They are their life, passion, and joy."
A Settle spokeperson said: "As a landlord, our priority is that our residents can live safely and comfortably in their homes. When the lifestyle of one resident affects the lives and homes of others, it is important we act in the best interests of all those living nearby.
"As a social purpose organisation, we understand and value the emotional investment Mrs Evans and her family have in their guinea pigs. This is why we will continue working with Mrs Evans and other relevant expert authorities on all possible options, including trying to find suitable new homes for the guinea pigs."
To sign Jane's petition, visit change.org and search removal of guinea pigs from Iggle Piggle or follow the link here.