A guinea pig in a cage.

Guinea Pigs Are Suffering in Cruel Mills—Here’s How You Can Help



Guinea pigs are bred in mills and then shipped to massive animal dealers which sell the animals to pet stores like PetSmart and Petco.

Sick, Dying, and Dead Guinea Pigs Found at Mills

Guinea pig mills breed hundreds, even thousands, of guinea pigs. Cannibalization, sick and dead guinea pigs, lack of water, unsanitary housing, and overcrowding have been found at these mills. Here are just a few examples.

A guinea pig mill owned by Malinda and David King that supplied Sun Pet, a huge animal dealer that sells to PetSmart and Petco, was raided by the Pennsylvania State Police after a US Department of Agriculture inspection found an immobile guinea pig with severely chewed legs. Her right rear leg had bones and tendons exposed, and she was being cannibalized by two other guinea pigs. Several dead guinea pig babies were also observed in enclosures with other adults and babies.

The same inspection report noted two loose guinea pigs, a broken enclosure, unsealed wood, overcrowding, filthy or missing water bottles, accumulations of wet/soiled bedding, and improper ventilation. Though the temperature was nearly 90 degrees, the air conditioning was not turned on because the owners didn’t want to pay for it.

Malinda King was ultimately charged with three counts of cruelty to animals and seven counts of animal neglect. A month after the inspection, the owners surrendered their license. Malinda King was granted a new license the following year.

Joshua Stoltzfus, the owner of a guinea pig and rabbit mill also in Pennsylvania, pled guilty to two counts of animal neglect for housing guinea pigs in overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions and failure to provide necessary veterinary care to guinea pigs with open wounds. Prior to his conviction, USDA inspection reports documented numerous Animal Welfare Act violations, including for keeping animals in filthy conditions. Photos from the USDA inspection show animals held in cages encrusted with feces, grime, and old food.

Illegally Sold Guinea Pigs

Sometimes breeding mills even launder animals bred at non-USDA licensed facilities and sell them to dealers. USDA records reveal that inspectors suspected that Mose Zook, who ran a guinea pig mill in Pennsylvania and sold animals to Sun Pet, was allowing unlicensed breeders to drop off guinea pigs so they could also be sold to Sun Pet under Zook’s USDA license. Before Zook surrendered his USDA license, he was also cited for multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including lack of veterinary care. A USDA inspector observed multiple guinea pigs with hair loss, including one with scabs between their eyes, a pen with four skeletons, one carcass, and one partially disintegrated carcass with hair and skin remaining. Zook claimed he hadn’t noticed and stated that none were receiving veterinary treatment. He also said he hadn’t cleaned the pens in over two months.

USDA Is Asleep at the Wheel

These mills and dealers stay in operation because the lawand the USDAdoes little to protect the animals suffering inside them. Though the USDA conducts inspections, penalties for noncompliance are minimal or nonexistent. Even when mill operators give up their license, they can be back in business within the year.

Despite the horrors that the USDA has uncovered at guinea pig mills, several USDA veterinarians who inspect dealers, including Sun Pet, were actually caught complaining about New York City’s 2023 landmark ban on the sale of guinea pigs. One of the vets forwarded an article about the ban, writing, “Just FYI but I read this article from Marketwatch this morning and it unfortunately shows what GP breeders and SunPet are up against.” In response, another vet wrote, “Booooooooooo.”

Two Ways to Help Protect Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are social and curious animals who should be treated with kindness. We’re fighting to end the sale of guinea pigs in pet stores and stop the pet industry from exploiting these gentle animals. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Send a message to PetSmart and Petco, the two biggest pet store chains in the US, asking them to stop selling animals.
  2. Work with your local legislators to ban the sale of animals in pet stores using our helpful toolkit.
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