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SPCA: Irresponsible owners dumping pets in national parks

Abandoned: Guinea pigs and other pets are being abandoned in increasing numbers. (File photograph)

Guinea pigs and rabbits are being released into the wild in increasing numbers and are creating a potential environmental threat, according to the SPCA.

Kate Terceira, executive director of the charity, said they had seen a rise in reports of pets, including rodents, being dumped by irresponsible pet owners. She said the SPCA shelter was being overwhelmed with abandoned pets.

“It is devastating not only for the environment and the ecosystem, but also many of these animals that are being dumped around the island have put an incredible strain on the SPCA’s resources,” she said.

“The time associated with capture and the cost of neutering and housing has been staggering. There have been rabbits and guinea pigs dumped in the SPCA parking lot, while others were captured by members of the public and bought to the shelter.

“It is incredibly cruel to let animals loose who have been raised in captivity. They do not have the skills to fend for themselves, the fear, hunger and depending on where they have been released, the danger they are suddenly faced with must be terrifying.”

Ms Terceira said the shelter was housing 58 animals but the charity only had the capacity and resources to care for 40.

“This huge strain is being caused by irresponsible pet ownership and illegal breeding across all species of domestic animals,” she said. “The laws need to change regarding the sale of animals on island, there needs to be tougher restrictions.

“It is not sustainable to for us or the community to continue under this immense strain.”

The comments came after a growing number of reports on social media about guinea pigs being spotted in and around the island’s parks.

The Bermuda National Trust said that it was “always a concern” when domestic animals were abandoned in green spaces.

Karen Border, the charity’s executive director, said that while it had not seen an increase in cases recently, it was aware of such incidents.

“For example, guinea pigs were seen in Devonshire Marsh a few months ago though they have not been seen recently,” she said.

“Guinea pigs and rabbits would pose a serious threat to the local environment if they started to breed in the wild, as they eat native and endemic vegetation and could also spread disease. Cats released into the wild pose a threat to local birds and skinks.

“Not only is it damaging to the local environment to abandon unwanted pets into the wild, it is very cruel to the animals that are dumped as they are domesticated creatures that are not equipped to survive on their own in a healthy state.”

The Bermuda Audubon Society also said the reports of animal dumping were “very concerning”.

Janice Hetzel, executive director for BAS, said: “Release of any domestic animal into the wild is cruel to the animal itself and can result in significant damage to the ecosystem.”

She highlighted the proliferation of red-eared sliders in Bermuda’s ponds and canals as an example of the ecological impact that pet species can have on the environment.

“Red-eared sliders devour Killifish – a threatened endemic species – and Gambusia – used for mosquito control,” she said. “They breed prolifically and are almost impossible to eliminate once a population is established.

“Release of other pet fish species into ponds is also a problem. In 2015, two red-bellied Pacu, a piranha like fish, were found on Somerset Pond. These omnivorous fish weighed over 8 pounds each.

“In addition to animals, the disposal of plants into ponds is also a problem. Invasive water hyacinth and water lettuce grow profusely and clog up open waterways and canals.”

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Published August 17, 2022 at 7:46 am (Updated August 17, 2022 at 7:46 am)

SPCA: Irresponsible owners dumping pets in national parks

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