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Guinea pig sanctuary sees increased need because of pandemic

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Posted at 11:33 AM, May 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 11:53:52-04

From the outside looking in, you might have some questions about the way Kim Smothermon spends her days, but the 53-year-old grandmother spends nearly every waking hour running the Guinea Pig Sanctuary in Salisbury, Massachusetts.

Every guinea pig in this sanctuary has a name and a personality. All of them are rescues and these days, Smothermon has been busier than ever managing the nonprofit that is packed to the brim with cages. Each one is filled with a guinea pig needing a new home.

New surrenders are coming in every day.

"A lot of it is people going to pet stores, and they say this is an easy first pet and they’re not. They’re like puppies," Smothermon explained.

Smothermon believes the increase in the number of surrenders she's seeing is partly due to COVID-19. Some families are suddenly realizing the quarantine pets they've adopted maybe aren't working out.

"Overwhelming, there are days when I just want to sit in a corner and cry. This is a lot, handling all of this," she added.

Smothermon started the sanctuary a few years ago as a labor of love and in a way, it's a memorial of sorts. A few years ago, a fire destroyed Smothermon's home.

It also stole the life of her 6-year-old grandson, Nova. So, Smothermon keeps the guinea pig sanctuary going for her other grandchildren and for families who've just needed an outlet during the pandemic.

"We have a lot of kids. There’s nothing to do. They come in here and there’s a whole bunch of stuff to do," Smothermon said standing inside the sanctuary.

To keep the doors open, they rely heavily on donations and volunteers. Many of the guinea pigs end up going to kids with special needs who need an emotional support pet.

Smothermon does everything she can to help families who come in.

"If I can stop you from surrendering your pet by giving you the food, I will give you the food," she added.

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