Saturday, August 23, 2014

400 Chins "Rescued" in SoCal

So, I really should leave this alone, but it's everywhere on my facebook page, as my friends are at least 50% (if not more) chin people.  So I see these threads every other thread and it's time for me to comment on it.

Not sure if you've seen it yet, but PETA claims to have rescued 420 chins from a ranch in Southern California.  The ranch was Valley Vista Chinchillas, the owners were a couple in their 90's who were trying to sell off their herd and ranch at high prices.

For the purpose of not reinventing the wheel, I will post to one of the links --

So that everyone's educated, let's get the actual truth out about the matter.  First.  PETA did not rescue these chins.  Sam Simon, the creator of the Simpsons, paid the ranchers $50,000 for the chinchillas.  The chinchillas were then given to the San Diego Humane Society (SDHS), which was given a donation of $100,000 to care for the chinchillas.  The chinchillas were noted to be in good health.

If you watched the video, PETA claims that all these animals would have been pelted if they didn't sell.  Killed for their fur, if you will.  Here's the thing.  Valley Vista was operated as a fur ranch at one point, but not for the last few decades.  They were selling pets for the last few decades.  And at the price they were asking, they were never going to pelt the chins.  Valley Vista wanted $69,000 for the chins and the whole setup.  They ended up with $50,000 just for the chins.  For 420 chins, that's almost $120 per chin.  You know what the average pelt market is, for an awesome pelt? (and by awesome pelt, I mean, high quality show pelt, not pet pelt)  About $40.  So, let's see.  $40 x 420 chins = $16,800.  Nowhere near the asking price, which means, if they weren't getting the asking price, they were not gonna pelt all the chins and cut their profits by 66%.

The ranchers had hired someone to sell of their chins, one by one, until they were all gone.  Well, until PETA stepped in, posing as a buyer.  Really?  Cause aren't they supposed to be the ethical ones?  But you got that right, they posed as a buyer interested in buying the ranch.  They asked about past practices, which is the part of the video that talks about how they would pelt chins that didn't work out and do home amputations.  Guess what?  It's past practices, before there was such a thing as a vet that knew about chins.  So, PETA misrepresented who they were to the owners of the ranch, who thought they were selling to other chin people.  And that's not the only misrepresentation.

The part of the video about the cervical disclocation and electrocution is part of a video taken by PETA years ago at a ranch in Michigan.  Funny, not at all related to this video or this instance.  So why throw it in, except to make this ranch look worse?  Oh wait, maybe that's the point....

Further, they're calling it a rescue, saying chins were removed from horrible living situations, bad conditions, etc etc.  Take a look at the pictures, the "before" pictures.  Those chins look awfully well cared for.  Decent fur, there's food, there's water.... they're not in any danger of dying for their fur, dying from bad care, etc etc.  That's PETA warping things for you.

As if PETA skewing the entire thing isn't bad enough, the SDHS is not anywhere near equipped to deal with these critters.  Especially not this many.  I don't think this many chinchillas should have gone to anywhere except a HS or rescue that deals specifically in small animals, or even better, one (well, multiple) that deal with just chinchillas.  Mainstream HS's have no idea how to care for these critters, and it's evidenced by their own info pages.  Straight off the SDHS's website:

• Their primary diet consists of pellets, hay and water. They also enjoy dry oatmeal, grapes, blueberries, cranberries, dried and fresh apple slices, banana chips, and raw pumpkin seeds.

... wait, what?  That's not right!  Everything after pellets, hay, and water, is wrong wrong wrong.  And by putting it out there, people will think it's correct.  Why?  Because the HS said so.  I would expect that a lot of people listen to rescues and HS's, because they think, "well, that organization has the animal, they know how to care for it."  Not always the case.  While I won't name names, I can think of several local humane societies that either keep chins in cages with plastic, in aquariums, on cedar bedding, on parrot food, etc etc.  They sure don't know what they're doing, and by showing the potential adopter that stuff, they're not helping the next generation of owners do any better.

As if caring for them badly isn't bad enough, no quarantine or evaluation was done on the chins.  I believe it says somewhere that a vet looked at the chins.  Yet, less than 24 hours after the chins came in, the females were up for adoption.  To put this into perspective, a large ranch like that that uses runs, would have at least 3 females for 1 male (if not 6 to 1).  So for 400 chins, that's 300 females to 100 males (or 334 to 66).  So in less than 24 hours, a vet had the time to look at, and certify healthy, 300-334 female chins?  Don't think so.  So, no quarantine.

There's a reason when chins come into this rescue, they stay here 30+ days.  To evaluate their temperament, check they're eating, drinking, pooing, chewing, maintaining weight.  None of that can be done overnight.  It just can't.  They need to settle in before you can know any of this with any certainty.  And for the females, if we get in a female that has been exposed to or caged with a male, we keep her for 4 months to check that she is not pregnant.  Mind you, this SDHS is adopting out females less than 24 hours later.  So, they may be pregnant.  They say they are keeping the males to neuter them.... we shall see..

Along with misinformation is lack of information.  The SDHS isn't advising people on how long chins live.  Think about this.  Maybe you and me know that they live 15-20 years.  But think of how many people, who know next to nothing bout chins, look at them and think they're like most other small rodents and will be dead within 5 years?  Not the case.  Not allowing for people to plan whether this will be a good pet for them.

And on top of not thinking about or evaluating whether a chinchilla will be a good pet for them, due to lack of screening on SDHS's part, they're also having everyone and their brother who's ever wanted a chin coming out of the woodwork to get one, or several, because the adoption fee....  $25 per chin.  So, everyone who's ever wanted to breed chins, or even wanting to own one but can't afford one, is now going to get one or a couple.  There's already several posts on the facebook pages about people who've adopted a female and now have it with their male. 

The problem with them being adopted out so cheap is this -- and I have this same issue when I put chins on sale for large discounts -- everyone who has ever looked at a chin, and thought, "how cute!! but I can't afford the $75 adoption fee, plus the cage and all the other stuff," now will go and get like 4.  Why?  Because they can afford the ridiculously low adoption fee.  Never mind that they don't have an appropriate cage, don't know how to care for the chins, etc.  Doesn't matter, because now they can actually afford them!  And better yet, they figure, well now, they'll get a male and a female, and they can recoup their money by selling the babies at bouceau bucks!!  So you know these critters will get stuck in aquariums, tiny cages, wrong food, wrong bedding, and so on and so forth.  I read someone's comment that said, they thought that, since these chins are being adopted out to the general public, with wrong info about everything, not more than 50% will live more than 6 months.  I totally agree.  With wrong information being passed out, especially wrong information regarding diet, coupled with lack of information about correct housing, correct care, etc etc, it wouldn't surprise me if half these chins are dead not even a half year later.

Forget dead chins, there's another problem with such a low adoption fee:  flippers.  At $25 per chin, versus the normal pet store price of $150+, watch people try to adopt a bunch and then resell them.  It happens all the time with other animals that are posted cheap, that people think they can make a quick buck off, watch it happen here.  Or, better yet, when that doesn't work, or when they realize that cute cuddly chinchilla they brought home really isn't quite as cute and cuddly as they'd thought.... those chins are gonna be dumped back onto rescues.  So, the small chin rescues are gonna have to pick up the slack for this disaster.

Going back, for a second, to the people who couldn't afford the chins if they weren't $25.  I have nothing against poor people owning animals.  I don't.  But I'm against unnecessary suffering, because the owner has no money and no way to get any.  I don't think you have to be a millionare to own a pet.  You don't.  But I expect, when it needs vet care, that you will either shell out the cash, pull out a credit card, borrow money from a friend, or do whatever needs to be done, so it can go to the vet.  I'm not saying, if the animal needs a $1500 surgery, by all means, pay for it.  There's a limit for everyone.  But I expect that the average owner should at least be able to afford, let's say, a $200 vet visit to go and see what is wrong with their furry family member.  I don't think that's too much to ask.  And people on these threads are going off on how HORRIBLE it is to think that people should need to be able to take their pets to the vet.  So basically, they're saying, "sure, go ahead and have a pet.  And if it gets sick, let it suffer and slowly die for months on end, because you don't have the money to pay for the vet."  That's the problem I have.  It's fine if you're low on money and everything's fine and the pet's healthy.  But I don't think an animal should have to suffer because someone chose to bring it into their life, without the financial means to care for it, even if that includes ending its suffering.  I don't think you need a huge vet fund.  One would be nice, sure, and it's a great cushion if you can have that luxury.  But I feel like people should be able to afford a basic vet visit.  And when that's out of the question... I feel a pet should be out of the question as well.  Which means, if you can't afford a chin at regular price, you definitely don't need one.

One final thing before I close this post.  The thing that I think is driving me most nuts about this whole thing is reading people's posts about chins being "rescued" from "those horrible tiny cages." I have my large double FNs for the rescue chins, and I have my runs.  I get it.  I see both sides.  I want my pet owners to have large cages, ideally, but I won't make anyone have a FN if they want to get something smaller.

I think the best example I've come up for the size of the runs, in comparison to a cage for another animal is this.  People who breed dogs often use kennels.  You know, those chain link fenced in areas that are all next to each other so they can keep a lot of dogs without having them all running loose.  Lots of time you see two dogs (or more) in a 5' x 10' kennel.  For chins, we have a female chin (and a male, at times) in one run.  Each run is 16" x 24" x 12".  So, two dogs that weigh, say a combined total of 75 pounds in 50 sq feet, is roughly 0.7 pounds of dog per square foot of kennel room.  Versus two chins that weigh maybe 2 pounds combined in 2.6 square feet of run space.  That's roughly 1.3 pounds of chin per square food of run room.  WAIT!  Hold up!  That's almost DOUBLE the square foot for the chin run versus the dog kennel.  And I know, everyone goes, "but it seems so small!!"  Yes, and a 5' x 10' dog kennel seems large, but in comparison, the chins have more room.  Interesting, isn't it?  Yet you don't hear many people complaining bout dog runs. 

Ok, one more thing.  Then I'm really done.  There is a reason for using these runs though.  It's not because we all really want to have as many chins as possible in a small area, but it's for practical reasons.  Going back to dogs.  Medium/large dogs often have 5-10 puppies in a litter.  Out of a litter, there's likely at least on that can be shown, with that many, and for most dogs, gestation is 2 months.  Give or take.  For chins, gestation is four months.  Yep, FOUR months.  For waiting patiently all that time, we generally get 1-2 babies per litter.  If we're lucky, because there's about 20-25% mortality rate with chins, so it's not uncommon to find stillborns or chins that have died after birth.  If the chin has one and it dies, we now wait at least four more months (at minimum... if they breed at their next heat cycle) for more babies, and hope it goes better the next time.  With how slow they breed... there isn't the option to keep 5 chins and actually compete in the show world.  You simply would never have anything to show.  That's why you see people who breed having upwards of 20, 30, 40, even hundreds or thousands of chins.  It ups their chances of having something good born, or something alive born at all.  Some females don't breed.  I have one female who's had one baby, in the 4 years she's been here.  Now, that said, the baby didn't place well at show, and was sold to a pet home, which, mind you, has turned into people who support the rescue through product sales and donations, and I think they are awesome.  So not all non-breeders aren't worth anything.  But sometimes, that's how it is... you have chins that don't do much for you, and you hope they will churn out some babies, but it doesn't always work out that way... so you need a large number to actually get anything to show.

Would I like everyone to have large cages and spoil their chins?  Oh sure.  I just don't think lying to the public about what's really going on, misrepresenting the ranch, giving misinformation and leaving out information about the animals being adopted, not screening adopters, and adopting out so cheaply, is the way to get quality homes for these cute little furballs.  That is all. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your take on the chinchilla rescue and I have mixed feelings about letting these chins in with the general public, but more than anything I worry about the chins care. I saw that original post about feeding them on the Humane Society website page and I think someone must have told them it was not correct because they have since changed it to a more responsible posting.