Saturday morning I received a text from someone looking to rehome their hedgehog. This is not an unusual occurrence for me. On average I get two or three hedgehogs a month these days, although recently that number has increased during the quarantine. The level of people looking to adopt has also increased, but we’ve tightened our own restrictions due to COVID-19 as well. The last thing we want is for the animals we adopt out to end up in shelters when things return to normal. We want to make sure the animals go to the right homes.
What separated this case from the usual ones we receive was twofold:
1) I was being contacted from a number with a Pennsylvania area code.
2) After talking to the person, the hedgehog was in pretty grim condition and needed some medical attention ASAP.
The hedgehogs that we receive most often come from cases of mild neglect. They haven’t been handled in months, sometimes years, and require a bit of time to readjust to the attention that a devoted home might offer them. Sometimes they’re a bit skittish, sometimes they need a bit of a clean up or a nail trim. Truly grim situations? Those are rare. Nevertheless, they do occur, and this situation was definitely one.
First, though… Why is a Pennsylvania case something that requires immediate action?
Pennsylvania is one of the small number of states where hedgehogs are illegal. It’s illegal not only to own hedgehogs in the state, but also to transport them through the state. While hopefully at some point the ban will be lifted, in the interim, it is one of the most dangerous places in the United States to own a hedgehog. I’ve heard stories of SWAT teams being sent to confiscate and euthanize hedgehogs from homes, and the fine that one would incur for housing a hedgehog in the state is over $10,000. (Some sources say you can be fined up to $40,000 for possessing a hedgehog in the state – I have been unable to get in touch with the Game Commission to verify that at this time.) Why this is the case is a topic for another post. Suffice to say, it’s important to members of the HWS to act whenever we hear of a hedgehog in need of a home in Pennsylvania, as the ending most of them face there is not a very positive one.
Calling the people who had this hedgehog in Pennsylvania, we learned her story.
She was 9 months old, and had been kept in truly grim conditions. The rescuer, for he and his girlfriend had gotten the hedgehog from someone else, had not been handled in a very long time. She was in a cage that not only stank of cigarette smoke but was also stained yellow from nicotine and urine. Large cockroaches had infested the cage and the carrier, and the hedgehog herself had been stained as yellow as the cage she was in. In addition to all of this she had human hair wrapped around her back legs to the point that it was impacting her ability to move. Being in Pennsylvania, a vet visit was out of the question as vets are bound by law to seize and euthanize illegal animals. Could we take her?
We set up a time and place on Sunday to take the hedgehog in.
Unfortunately, the hedgehog ended up being in the condition that was earlier described. She had hair wrapped around her back legs, a significant amount around her left leg, a lesser amount around her right. The left foot had scabbed over with a mixture of scabbing and necrotic flesh. She was reluctant to put weight upon it when moving, actively holding it against her body until forced to move by something like running water.
We got out some tools when we got home, and set about fixing the problem.
The hair, to a degree, could be trapped with a mixture of scissors, dental tools, and tweezers. The skin could be peeled away here and there, scabbing flaking off, to break the grip the hair had around her ankle. We worked for well over an hour, my husband wearing thick winter gloves due to her biting so much, me working as quickly as I could. Unfortunately, the wound had existed for so long, that muscle and skin had grown around the hair itself. I was uncomfortable digging that deeply into the hedgehog’s body without anesthetic.
You can see her after our treatment in two videos here.
We needed a vet.
Thankfully, our vet had seen a similar case that we had brought in a year ago. Leg injuries of this sort are distressingly common with hedgehogs, as well as other small animals. As expected, they asked for permission to amputate if the foot was in too dire condition, and I granted the permission. Too often, that is the ending for these sorts of cases. Luckily, our vet does everything to ensure the limb can be saved before rushing to that conclusion.
The hedgehog was brought in on Tuesday, and put under General Anaesthesia for the operation. They were able to remove the hair from around both of the legs, as well as bandage the worse of the two. Unfortunately, she was very intent on getting the bandage off, and a bottle of No Chew was included to try and discourage the continued biting and attacking of the bandage. Also needed was a pain killer and disinfectant – the other medications that were necessary, we already had at home.
This situation – this surgery – is not a terribly uncommon one among not only our rescue and the hedgehog community in general, but also among other small animal rescues and owners. The surgery cost, likewise, is not a terrifically unexpected one. While the following bill doesn’t solely contain the surgery cost, but also a certification of health for a hedgehog that is going to be an Emotional Support Animal, as the markdown shows the bulk of the cost is still that of the surgery and medication for Zelda (now called “Bishop”).
These costs are not uncommon, nor are the maladies that afflict hedgehogs. Between Bishop’s surgery and recovery, Lareto’s medication, and Billy Butcher’s recovery costs we have been hit hard this season. The money that we normally would have gained from presentations at libraries and schools, likewise, will no longer be coming in due to the virus cancelling all such events for the foreseeable future.
If you can, every little bit goes a long way towards ensuring that we can continue to rescue these animals and give them the treatment and eventual homes that they desire. This particular case wiped us out of everything that we had made from adoptions so far this year as well as the donations that we received to aid in Butcher’s care and others.
We are accepting donations primarily through PayPal at the following address: http://Paypal.me/OtherwordlExotics
I’ll be posting more about her recovery (as well as Billy Butcher’s) in the coming week.