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Rescue groups fear increase in guinea pig purchases because of Disney's 'G-Force' movie

July 29, 2009 |  3:13 pm

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A movie about heroic, world-saving guinea pigs has small-animal rescuers worried. Disney's new "G-Force" startled many film industry insiders by beating "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" at the box office last weekend, landing at "a surprising No. 1 for the weekend with a studio-estimated $32.2 million worth of ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada," according to our colleague Ben Fritz.

That's all well and good, if you're the movie's producer, Jerry Bruckheimer. But if you're a guinea pig rescuer, it's deeply worrisome. 

Dog rescuers are well aware of what's been termed "101 Dalmatians syndrome" -- filmgoers see a cute animal actor in a movie and want to take home an animal just like it. Problem is, the puppy they buy isn't an actor -- it's a real, live dog that has specific needs. In the case of Dalmatians, those needs make the breed unsuitable for many pet owners who aren't up to dealing with the dogs' seemingly boundless energy. End result: cute puppies grow up to be big problems, and in many cases end up in animal shelters or rescue organizations. 

Guinea pig rescue groups, including Orange County Cavy Haven in Costa Mesa ("cavy" is another word for guinea pig), are trying to combat what could be a big problem by educating potential pet owners.  While the "G-Force" guinea pigs are computer-generated, "the rest of us can't do martial arts or parachute and we don't want to learn," pleads a cartoon guinea pig on the Cavy Haven website.  "Our little bodies are very breakable and we get hurt easily."

The film's CG stars also make use of plastic hamster balls to get around; guinea pig enthusiasts are concerned that first-time owners might get the wrong idea. Hamster balls and wheels are not designed for guinea pigs, rescuers warn, because guinea pigs' backs aren't flexible. The little guys, they fear, could be hurt if owners try to mimic such scenes from the movie.

"We can only hope ... parents will all do their research before bringing any critters home," Whitney Potsus of Connecticut's Critter Connection rescue group told the Associated Press. "Otherwise, when the novelty wears off, rescuers everywhere are going to have their hands full with surrenders."

The Humane Society of the United States offers tips for guinea pig owners in this video:

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Abandoned movie dogs -- chihuahuas and dalmatians -- and the voiceless foreclosure victimes
Hollywood fame has downside for some animals

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A guinea pig named Oreo at the San Francisco Zoo.  Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Video: HSUS.org

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