Prairie Dogs, before the federal ban in 2003, were sold in the exotic pet trade. Many capturers/relocators use a variety of methods to remove baby Prairie Dogs from their burrows for this purpose and for wild-to-wild relocations. The need to remove unwanted, wild Prairie Dogs from public and private land while having plenty of suitable land available to absorb them all for release presents a tricky situation. Before the ban, having babies available as pets helped to provide some relief in keeping the population of an area of suitable land manageable for future relocations. Now more and more suitable land must be obtained for those displace from land developments, etc. This situation has created a double edged sword for the Prairie Dog and those people that help them. While many people may disagree with Prairie Dogs being removed from their homes in the wild, today, due to the ban, the thought of the Prairie Dog’s extinction is a very real possibility. If Prairie Dogs were able to remain in the pet trade, we would know that the species could still survive because overpopulation in the wild would be controlled whereas the ban will ultimately result in massive extermination efforts from landowners, ranchers, and developers because not enough suitable, dedicated land exists to absorb all unwanted Prairie Dog populations.
Prairie Dogs are very social creatures and can make a good pet for the right person, but many Prairie Dogs that were being sold in pet shops prior to the ban, could still be there today in need of the love and attention they deserve. In pet shops, Prairie Dogs live in small confined cages, small because they were meant to temporarily house babies, not adult Prairie Dogs. With little to no social interaction, Prairie Dogs are left to spend their days with a pet shop owner that never intended to keep them permanently and isn’t knowledgeable about their long term needs. Because of the ban, pet Prairie Dogs can no longer be sold, but they do find their way into rescues, even today. Some pet shops have been forced to euthanize their Prairie Dog pups, in order to free themselves from federal ban related restrictions, unaware that humane Prairie Dog rescue options exist.
There are many Prairie Dogs that have come into rescue that were abused or neglected by previous owners. It is important to note that the number of unwanted Prairie Dogs or those placed in rescue do not amount to as many animals in comparison to larger entities such as the Humane Society. Many people inaccurately believe that the amount of unwanted exotics is enormous. This is certainly NOT TRUE with Prairie Dogs, where the amount of Prairie Dogs in a rescue is minimal by comparison to the ratio of dogs, cats and other domesticated species at larger, public facilities. Thankfully, many people have done their homework before taking on the commitment to the special needs of this unique and special pet.
One case of abuse in particular relates to one Prairie Dog that came into rescue that could only be out of the cage for a few minutes at a time before he would bite. He gave no warnings with his body language and didn’t chirp; he gave no behavioral cues similar to what is read in books about Prairie Dogs as pets. We found out later that when this Prairie Dog had bitten people as a pup, he was thrown, thus making him fearful and on alert at all times. He was not held and did not have any of the care that is recommended in the pet section of this web site. His food consisted of parrot mix (seeds and nuts) with no hay of any kind. The sad part was he wanted to be loved and really enjoyed being pet through the cage bars. Let him out however, and he was fearful and distrustful of everything around him and would bite out of fear, perpetuating this cycle. It took years to work with this little Prairie Dog. There are worse stories to be told about abused Prairie Dogs that have been savagely burned, electrocuted, or tortured, but the fact of the matter is that it happens and is not uncommon regardless of what species of animal we are talking about. Because of the social nature of this special animal, this sort of abuse and neglect effects them long term and constant work must be done to gain their trust again. Prairie Dogs aren't just thrown into rescue and left to rot in a bigger cage. Prairie Dog rescuers are dedicated, loving individuals that take time to help Prairie Dogs recover from past trauma to meet their long term social needs.
Rescued Prairie Dogs also come in with terrible dietary habits, being fed regular canine dog food, seeds, nuts, parrot mixes, all kinds of fruits and sugary treats. Some Prairie Dog food on the market is not nutritionally balanced to be a complete diet for a pet Prairie Dog and is primarily geared as a dietary supplement, not a staple. Trying to properly convert a Prairie Dog's diet can be a very slow and gradual process. They have special dietary requirements and the process can take months to switch them over to a diet that meets their needs for long term health. You can't just immediately change their diet, because doing so can cause an intestinal blockage, lack of appetite, and the possibility that their digestive system will shut down. This are all just a part of what a Prairie Dog rescue takes into consideration, plus add the fact that there are MANY Prairie Dogs to care for, not just two or four.
Prairie Dogs have also come in from relocation efforts that have survived from being poisoned, shot, or have injuries. These Prairie Dogs come into rescue and/or a relocator facility and due to their individual health concerns need to stay at the rescue the remainder of their lives. These animals are in need of constant vet care or special medications. What would it be like to see a Prairie Dog with half of his face or limbs missing? Imagine if you will the special care that a Prairie Dog like this would need. Imagine the kind of individual that would take on such a task. Need I say more? These are the unsung heroes, the rescuers that are in need of help.
The price of taking care of all these Prairie Dogs is not cheap. Any type of rescue spends hundreds and even thousands of dollars annually which mostly comes out of pocket, unless they are huge organizations. Most Prairie Dog rescues are not huge organizations since they typically maintain only Prairie Dogs and want to provide specialized, attentive care. Therefore many are not opened to the public because of the nature of the Prairie Dog as a pet and out of consideration of their needs. Now that the ban seems to be in place permanently and Prairie Dogs are not nationwide news, these rescues have been somewhat forgotten by the public. The Prairie Dog community has not forgotten these special people and this is the purpose of this page.
Prior to the ban expenses to retrieve a Prairie Dog from an abusive or neglectful owner were also not too uncommon and could be quite high. Sometimes a rescuer would have to pay to save an unwanted Prairie Dog. New owners that decided they were no longer able to keep their Prairie Dog, for whatever reason, often wish to try and recover some of the costs that they initially put out for the Prairie Dog or when vet bills for an ailing Prairie Dog became unmanageable. The initial costs they tried to recoup often included the price they paid to obtain their pet Prairie Dog, their caging and materials, and any veterinary costs. The owner would sometimes ask for a good portion of their expenses back to make right in a relationship when one family member wanted the pet Prairie Dog while the rest of the family did not and are not appreciative of the costs of getting that wonderful but demanding and unique pet. Many owners knew that the rescue organization would often be willing to pay the cost in order to get the Prairie Dog out of a home where they were no longer wanted, abused, neglected, or kept in poor conditions. Depending on the situation this cost could be high, but it was not considered selling or buying, if this was a life threatening, abusive situation for the Prairie Dog, this would be a necessary part of being a rescuer. In dealings with cats and dogs, rescues must pay a fee to get animals out of a shelter that might be on the euthanizing list, they do not release animals for free. This was a similar type of situation.
Much time and dedication is put into helping the Prairie Dogs in any rescue situation. The costs mount up because of long term care due to the federal ban. Prior to the ban, adoptions for Prairie Dogs helped offset the cost because housing was temporary. This is no longer the case and now housing a Prairie Dog in a rescue requires that Prairie Dog to be a permanent resident.
Here is a list of the types of expenses a rescue pays on an ongoing basis:
Includes costs for the geriatric, injured, and medically challenged Prairie Dogs that need constant care. Rescues will spay and neuter Prairie Dogs when they come in, if this procedure was not done before. Rescues will have a vet perform routine blood and fecal exams to check for parasites and abnormal blood panels
Vet cost are usually the largest expense Medications
sweet potatoes, greens, fresh grasses, and more
Fresh Timothy Hay
and other Grass Hays
bedding, litter, water bottles, and other related items
barley grass, oats and Prairie Dog related treats
Monthly Heating and air conditioning costs
Special lighting needs and ventilation systems
depending on nature of enclosures
and tools to repair enclosures
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