In good news from Pennsylvania, a majority of breeders licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) who kept their guinea pigs in filthy and unsafe conditions and who were exposed by a Lady Freethinker (LFT) investigative report now have had their federal licenses canceled or revoked.

In February 2022, LFT published the report detailing how more than 1,200 guinea pigs were suffering at the hands of 43 guinea pig breeders in Pennsylvania, with documented deficiencies noted by federal inspectors including untreated illnesses (including hair loss, swollen and lame feet, muscle wasting, skin and eye abnormalities and masses), filth, and lack of access to clean food, water, and bedding. 

Since then, 26 of the original 43 breeders covered in LFT’s 2022 report — or about 60 percent — have canceled the licenses they held at the time of our reporting, according to the USDA’s public records portal.

While a status of “canceled” does not mean definitively that a breeding operation has shut down — in fact, licensees will frequently jump to a new license number — a cross check of the portal revealed no additional licenses in operation for these breeders.

The USDA also has revoked the licenses of two of the breeders and taken enforcement action on an additional two breeders since the last time we provided an update on this investigation.

The newest filings include a permanent license revocation for a breeder operating in Clinton County, Pennsylvania, who failed to provide clean and safe enclosures, proper food, and proper veterinary care to his guinea pigs.  The settlement agreement prevents the breeder from ever again commercially breeding guinea pigs or any other animal covered by the federal Animal Welfare Act. The agency also fined the breeder $3,000, according to USDA records.

The USDA also revoked the license of a guinea pig breeder in York County for sanitation issues, failure to follow his veterinary plan or properly treat animals, and failure to provide adequate space or drinkable water to guinea pigs. The breeder must sell, transfer, or donate all of his guinea pigs within the next 12 weeks, although the agency will allow him to keep some of the animals for his “personal use” upon written request, according to the settlement agreement.

Another Clinton County breeder will have to pay $4,400 in fines for sanitation issues, including feces-filled food, as well as failing to keep guinea pig enclosures repaired properly or warm enough. 

The USDA also has filed an administrative complaint — a serious step toward imminent fines or possible license revocation —  for a third Clinton County breeder who refused to allow federal inspectors to conduct a welfare check at least once and who also failed to provide proper veterinary care to numerous animals suffering in part from hair loss, lameness, and swollen and crusty eyes, according to the USDA.

This action follows the four official warnings that the agency issued and that we reported in September 2022.

While we are heartened that many of these breeders appear to now be out of operation or are facing enforcement action, we remain concerned that more than a dozen of the breeders detailed in our report are continuing to operate with deficiencies and without seeming accountability.

All but one of the remaining 17 actively-licensed breeders detailed in our report have had additional violations since our report was published — with 10 having violations already this year in 2023.

The continued neglect documented by USDA inspectors sadly mirrors what our report detailed years ago — specifically, inadequate space for weanlings (with one breeder crowding 51 babies into a space a USDA inspector said could hold no more than 38), sanitation issues (including brown water, rodent droppings, large amounts of accumulated feces, and a strong ammonia smell in enclosures), untreated veterinary issues including masses, enclosures that were too cold, and one breeder who had no regular veterinary visits to his property, according to USDA inspection reports.

We thank everyone who signed our petition on behalf of these sweet, small souls, and we will continue to monitor this situation.

SIGN: Justice for Sick, Dying Guinea Pigs and Rabbits at USDA-Licensed Pennsylvania Breeders