For Immediate Release:
September 5, 2023
Brittney Williams 202-483-7382
Northumberland County, Pa. – Damning U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports obtained by PETA reveal that a lethargic guinea pig lying “flat … with all legs extended” and another guinea pig with a “red and bulging” eye were denied veterinary care at a Northumberland County breeding operation run by John and Verna King—the latest in a string of animal welfare violations at the facility. In response, PETA sent a letter to District Attorney Tony Matulewicz urging him to investigate, have a veterinarian with expertise in guinea pig health visit the facility with investigators, and file cruelty charges under state law against those responsible for the neglect.
According to the latest report, on July 14 a USDA veterinarian documented that a brown-and-white adult guinea pig with all four legs splayed out was reluctant to move when nudged. On April 17, the veterinarian found a young guinea pig, newly separated from her mother, whose right eye was “red and bulging” and whose left eye was red with a white discharge and partially closed. In both cases, the Kings hadn’t sought veterinary care for the animals.
“Suffering guinea pigs were ignored at this hellish breeding facility, even after warnings from the feds,” says PETA Vice President of Evidence Analysis Daniel Paden. “This repeated neglect is why PETA urges everyone to adopt from animal shelters and never buy animals from breeders or pet stores.”
In May 2022, USDA inspectors found a guinea pig who was “unable to support” her weight and was left to pull herself around on her front legs, and in January 2021, a guinea pig was found with “sunken eyes and heavy breathing” and “tissue protruding” from her hindquarters. The Kings hadn’t sought veterinary care for either of the animals.
PETA is now pursuing charges under state law because the USDA doesn’t render relief or aid to animals during its inspections and these violations carry no federal criminal or civil penalties.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
PETA’s letter to Matulewicz follows.
September 5, 2023
The Honorable Tony Matulewicz
Northumberland County District Attorney
Dear Mr. Matulewicz:
I hope this letter finds you well. I’m writing to request that your office—and the proper law-enforcement agency, as you deem appropriate—investigate and, as suitable, file criminal charges against those responsible for neglecting guinea pigs at a breeding facility operated by John and Verna King at 2285 Seagrave Dr. near Watsontown. PETA hopes investigators will visit the facility with a veterinarian who has expertise in guinea pig health and welfare so that they can identify any animals in need of care and determine the conditions of and for the nearly 600 guinea pigs there.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinarian has repeatedly documented neglect at the facility in the attached reports, the latest of which was just made public. On July 14, she found a guinea pig lying “flat … with all legs extended” who “seemed unable to move.” The Kings had failed to contact a veterinarian about the animal’s severe condition. On April 17, the USDA veterinarian found that a guinea pig’s right eye was “red and bulging” and that their left eye was emitting a white discharge. Again, the Kings hadn’t sought veterinary care for this animal.
In May 2022, a guinea pig was found “unable to support” her weight on her hind legs and left to pull herself around on her forelegs. Ms. King apparently knew the animal was in this condition but neither contacted a veterinarian nor provided her with any treatment. Although the following neglect is beyond the statute of limitations, she also evidently failed to seek veterinary care for a guinea pig found in January 2021 with “sunken eyes and heavy breathing” and dragging her hindquarters, which had “tissue protruding” from them.
The findings in 2022 and this year may violate Pennsylvania’s animal neglect statute, 18 Pa.C.S. § 5532, which requires that individuals provide animals under their care with “[n]ecessary veterinary care.” (You may also be interested to know that the USDA veterinarian found a total of 160 guinea pigs denied sufficient space at the Kings’ operation in 2022.) The USDA renders no aid or relief whatsoever to animals on site, and these reports carry no criminal or civil penalties and don’t preempt criminal liability for acts of animal neglect under state law. If you’d like to learn more about the USDA’s findings, please see the contact information for its Riverdale, Maryland, office here.
Thank you for your time and consideration and for the difficult work that you do every day. Please let us know if we can assist you.
Vice President of Evidence Analysis
Cruelty Investigations Department