TRENDY Alpacas are being dumped on sites like Facebook and Gumtree as new owners realise they can’t cope with them as pets.
Alpaca rescue worker Dianne Summers says she has seen the number of people asking her to take in unwanted and neglected alpacas more than TREBLE in the last three years.
The 60-year-old runs Little Hamlet Alpacas Rescue Centre in Gwennap Pit Cornwall and has helped to rehome 405 of the adorable animals since 2008.
Dianne says she is alarmed by the flurry of pages popping up on social networking sites like Facebook selling the animals. A quick search found hundreds of animals on sale from as little as £150 to £4000.
She said: “People are being sold them as pets that you can keep in the garden. This is totally wrong unless you have large, two acre garden.
“Alpacas aren’t cute things that can be stroked and cuddled like a cat, a dog, or a rabbit. They’re lovely animals but they aren’t easy to look after and difficult to handle.
“People need to be educated about how much work caring for them entails. You wouldn’t buy a cow or a sheep to keep in your garden from Facebook and they shouldn’t be for sale on there!”
Dianne set up her charity in 2008 after tragically losing half of her herd of 19 to Bovine TB. The RSPCA asked her to rehome six neglected alpacas and her rescue work began.
Between 2008 and 2014, she took in 171 animals, an average of 21 a year. But in the last three years, she’s had to care for 234, around 78 per year, nearly quadrupling her workload.
She says that her cases range from decent owners who are no longer able to care for their alpacas and want a loving home for them through to heartbreaking neglect cases.
Dianne explained: “Sadly, there are breeders out there who put financial gain before the welfare of these beautiful animals and that breaks my heart.
“I hear of them being sold in car parks, being walked at fairgrounds, left alone in gardens and being completely exploited.
“I would never sell an alpaca but I do rehome them to those I trust to care for them properly. Only two cases out of ten pass the criteria required to be a rehomer.
“An ideal alpaca owner is someone who only wants them as pets, who loves animals, and who is willing to learn to look after them correctly.
“People love how they look but understanding how to look after them is so important too if we are to stop these animals suffering unnecessarily.”
To find out more about Dianne’s work, visit www.littlehamletalpacas.co.uk
Five things you need to know before getting an alpaca.
• They are herd animals and there must be a minimum of three in a herd.
• Alpacas mustn’t be taken as single pets and are not suitable to mix with other animals.
• An acre of land should be home to between three and five alpacas and they need to be provided with shelter, fresh hay and mineral feed daily and Vitamin D in the winter months
• Alpacas should be sheared, wormed and vaccinated once a year, and need their hair and nails cutting every eight weeks.
• Only buy from a reputable seller who will inspect your home to ensure you have the right set up and ensure you are aware of the work involved with caring for alpacas.