Did you know that Berkshire Humane Society takes in and adopts out small animals? Many shelters do. Rabbits are the third most common pet surrendered to shelters after dogs and cats. Here at Berkshire Humane Society, we believe that caring for these little pets is part of our mission, so they get just as much care and attention…our compassion comes in all sizes!

Most small animals arrive at shelters when their owners – often children who have grown bored or are going off to college – no longer wish to care for their needs. We have also seen a recent influx of “stray rabbits.”

“People sometimes release them outside, thinking that they will know how to handle being out in the wild, which is definitely not the case at all,” said Lindsay Hermanksi, Animal Care Specialist at Berkshire Humane Society. “People don’t always know that we take them in.”

As part of the small animal adoption process, Lindsay focuses on education.

“They need a lot of care, just like a dog or a cat. Daily feeding, cleaning and exercise – and annual trips to the vet. Rabbits and guinea pigs don’t need vaccines, but they should still be seen. Ferrets, on the other hand, have to be vaccinated annually. Also, people don’t always realize that rabbits can live into their early teens. Same with guinea pigs – they can live 8-10 years. It’s a commitment.”

Some of the small animals you might see at the shelter are rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, ferrets, chinchillas, and even birds. We evaluate the health of each and every critter, and works on their social skills. Rabbits are microchipped and spayed/neutered, which helps with over-population and gives them a longer lifespan.

There are also times when animals come to the shelter under more tragic circumstances. Lindsay recalled a recent case of two abandoned guinea pigs.

“When they came in, we were told they had been dumped outside on the front lawn of a big apartment building. We could definitely tell right away that they had been dowsed in some sort of bleach cleaning product. We rushed them into a bath, washed them off. Then we rushed them to the vet, who also cleaned them. There wasn’t much else we could do after that. Unfortunately, one of them passed away, probably from bleach overdose. But the other one made it and got adopted very quickly. We tried to pursue an animal cruelty case, but unfortunately there wasn’t much to go on. Our animal control officer did some investigation, but no one at the apartment complex would claim them or give us any names or information. It’s sad.”

Lindsay often takes the small animals to Pet Connection or arranges to have them featured on the radio. This is another opportunity to educate people.

“It’s amazing how many people come in after that and say, ‘I didn’t know shelters had these animals.’ It’s nice that we have that outlet, so maybe people won’t go to the pet store to find a rabbit or guinea pig. Come to the shelter first. See what we have.”

To learn more about our small animals, visit us online. Also, see below for a personal story from Lindsay about her first small animal experience.