Local shelter overcrowded by "pocket pets"
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- We've all seen a puppy in the window, but a guinea pig?
Abandoned animals so small they can fit in your hand are being dropped off in record numbers, forcing staff at Chattanooga's animal shelter to share office space.
"I came to pick out a new dog," says 7-year-old Jayla Beatty.
Jayla Beatty is still deciding on a name for the dog her family is adopting.
"I haven't figured it out yet," she says.
A few rooms away, a less likely shelter rescue is hoping for a home.
"This is Leo," McKamey Director Karen Walsh says. "He's been here for just over a week."
Leo is one of five rabbits McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center took in this week.
Add them to the guinea pigs and the two dozen hamsters dropped off, and you'll see why office space is being turned into what Walsh calls an "exotics room."
"We are inundated with pocket pets, hamsters, bunnies, and now today guinea pigs as well," says Walsh.
Normally one or two pocket pets come through the door each month.
Walsh attributes the spike to the heat, and the summer months when families like to travel.
"A lot of people go to the store, purchase these at pet stores, and then realize they are more work than they thought," says Walsh.
Walsh says some owners don't know what they're buying from local shops.
"They may think they have two females or two males, and actually they have a male and female, and they end up with tons of them," she says.
And then they end up at McKamey, which opened in 2008, and has space for dogs and cats. But Walsh is thinking of expanding.
"Really, we were built and designed to manage cats and dogs," she says. "It would definitely be helpful to have an area that's dedicated to these little guys."
Until that happens, Walsh's staff is making calls, trying to find Leo and his neighbors a home.
It costs $20 to adopt a rabbit or guinea pig, and $5 for a hamster.
Click here for more on how you can adopt a pet.