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Five Patagonian cavies find home at rescue shelter

By Caleb Warnock - Daily Herald - | Apr 25, 2012
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Patagonian cavies move around their enclosure at the Friends in Need Animal Rescue and Sanctuary in Eagle Mountain on Monday, April 23, 2012. SPENSER HEAPS/Daily Herald

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A Patagonian cavy at the Friends in Need Animal Rescue and Sanctuary in Eagle Mountain on Monday, April 23, 2012. SPENSER HEAPS/Daily Herald

A cross between a rabbit, a miniature deer and a rat? However you describe them, five Patagonian cavies have been given a new home at “The Cavy Shack” in Eagle Mountain.

Patagonia is a region in South America shared by Argentina and Chile. The cavies are native there, and how five of them ended up in the western United States is not exactly clear. At some point, the cavies were rescued by an animal shelter in Montana. When that shelter shut down more than a year ago, the cavies were adopted by a rescue in Wendover. When one of the caretakers in Wendover died, the rescue was forced to downsize, and Friends In Need, a five-acre animal shelter in Eagle Mountain, agreed to give the cavies a new home, Friends In Need co-director Kim O’Donnell said.

One of the cavies is female — and has been fixed — and the other four are male. Given the demographic, Kim and his wife, Karen O’Donnell, have named them after “Gunsmoke” characters — Miss Kitty, Matt, Doc, Festus and Chester.

The animals are considered to be the second-largest rodents on earth. The shelter feeds them leafy greens, including kale, parsley, cilantro and beets, Karen O’Donnell said. The animals have been skittish since their arrival here, in part because they are naturally shy and in part because, well, you’d be skittish too if you weighed 20 pounds and your next-door neighbor was a 2,000-pound yak with long, curling horns and an occasionally grumpy disposition.

More than 100 volunteers worked on building a new enclosure for the cavies, which has been painted with the name “The Cavy Shack.” The enclosure was inspected by Utah Division of Wildlife officials and the state has issued the rescue a special license to keep the animals.

To help cover the cost of feeding and caring for the cavies — including the $180 state license fee — Friends In Need is looking for family or corporate sponsors for the cavies. Sponsors can pay $10 a month or $120 to sponsor a cavy for a year.

Sponsors get a photo and biography of their animal, and the opportunity to visit their animal at the shelter. Sponsors also are needed for everything from dogs and cats to goats, emus and yaks on the property. Friends In Need is a registered nonprofit.

“The rescued animals at Friends In Need are safe and happy, but they rely on sponsorship support for their care each day,” Kim O’Donnell said.

Friends In Need also has good news to report about a 23-year-old horse named Spirit who was rescued, on the verge of starvation, from a home in Eagle Mountain. As the Daily Herald reported in October, Spirit arrived 400 pounds underweight. Since then, Spirit has gained about 300 pounds and is on track to make a full recovery.

All told, there are 150 animals on five acres here, including almost every farm animal imaginable — llamas, emus, goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, water buffalo, yak, geese, ducks, sheep, dogs and cats.

Beyond rescuing the large animals in the most need, the facility is used for education.

Many volunteers come here every week to help feed the animals, take the dogs for walks, clean up “and most importantly, to give the animals companionship,” O’Donnell has said. “We can’t do it all. We feed all day long.”

For information on sponsoring an animal, visit friends-in-need.org or call (801) 753-8PAW.


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