NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Animal shelters in New York City are facing a guinea pig crisis as officials say many families bought the animals as pets during the pandemic.
Now, they are being turned in to shelters at an alarming rate.
It has gotten so bad, officials say, that the City Council is considering a bill that would ban the sale of guinea pigs in the city.
At Animal Care Centers of NYC in Manhattan, there are guinea pigs as far as the eye can see -- so many that they had to buy specialized housing with a price tag of $20,000.
In the past year, there's been a sharp influx of the tiny rodents, and workers can trace it back to a very specific time period based on the animals' ages.
Almost all are 3 or younger, and all signs point to impulse pandemic purchases.
"When we talk to people who are surrendering their pets, we're asking them, where did you get them?" said Katy Hansen, with Animal Care Centers, "And over half, 'From a pet store.'"
This year, roughly 600 have been dropped at city shelters, compared to 481 and 282 during the same periods in 2021 and 2019.
Now, the City Council is considering a ban, saying they worry folks buying in pet shops aren't being told what's involved in caring for the animals.
"You need to know they live 7 to 10 years," Hansen said. "Their gestation period is 70 days, so they can produce a lot of offspring."
And it's not just shelters, as many of those owners who bit off more than they can chew simply leave their guinea pigs in parks or in the street.
And that is a recipe for disaster.
"It's not natural," Hansen said. "They are not going to survive in a park. It's also illegal in New York City to abandon a pet."
Experts point out that guinea pigs can make wonderful pets, and at Animal Care Center, there are more than 55 now up for adoption.
If you're not ready to fully commit, you may want to consider fostering.
For more information, visit the Animal Care Centers of NYC website.