Victim of one of the latest exotic pet crazes appears to be the African Pygmy hedgehog. Sadly, many of these animals are being mass-produced in "mill-type" situations where they are viewed as easily replenishable commodities. Novel pets, hedgehogs are oftentimes purchased by individuals who have done little research into how to properly care for them.
Although hedgehogs are protected under the Animal Welfare Act, the law's regulations are overly broad to cover a wide range of species and do not provide specific requirements for cage size, exercise opportunities, appropriate weaning age, and proper environmental temperatures to avoid hibernation attempts and possible death-by-freezing.
The Hedgehog Welfare Society (HWS) is an organization that exists to protect the well being of hedgehogs through rescue, research, and education of the people who care for hedgehogs. The HWS expends most of its resources on rescue of unwanted and abandoned hedgehogs, who are frequently purchased on impulse from pet stores. Members of the American and Canadian HWS have rescued hundreds of hedgehogs in the past year from situations where they were neglected, unwanted, and/or in desperate need of veterinary care.
Another objective of the HWS is advocacy, targeted at breeders and pet stores. The HWS has filed numerous complaints to the USDA regarding unlicensed pet stores and breeding facilities that practice inadequate animal care. These include reports of hedgehogs who have been left injured and bleeding in cages, animals in over-crowded conditions without sufficient room for movement or exercise, unattended cages piled with two inches of feces, hedgehogs soaked in urine, cannibalism, and hedgehogs shipped in bulk to pet stores across the country prior to healthy weaning age. Many unlicensed facilities have been inspected and, once informed of licensing and care requirements, agreed to cease sales of hedgehogs. However, there have been far more occasions where no action is taken in response to the complaint.
For more information about hedgehog rescue or to report abuse, please contact the HWS at http://www.hedgehogwelfare.org.