Monday, 11 March 2013

An Alpaca is for Life ... Not Just Christmas

Both here, and on the Facebook page, I've made no secret of my love for alpacas.

And while I genuinely believe that many people would benefit from a couple of these whimsical, curious animals in their backyard, it is probably time for 'The Responsible Alpaca Ownership" post.

Yes, they are cute, friendly, low-maintenance creatures. And there are many situations in which they make a very good pet. But there are at least 5 good reasons why you need to think very, very carefully about whether you're ready for ownership:

1. Alpacas have a lifespan of around 20 years. If you thought it was difficult to arrange pet care for your dog over Christmas, just consider the likelihood of finding a kennel to take your aging Huacaya.

2. Alpacas are herd animals. Owning only one is not only going to cause you problems, but is also out-right cruel.

3. You may have heard that alpacas are great herd-guards, and you want to get one to keep the foxes from dining out in your chook pen. Just remember that like all animals (and people!), not all alpacas are the same. Slightly older, castrated males are generally recommended - but they do have different temperaments, so you can't necessarily assume that they would all be willing and able to defend Chicken Little. The Alpaca association has some very good advice on this topic, and there are also breeders that will offer guarantees, so keep this in mind if this is what you're after.

4. While they look cuddly, these are not animals that necessarily like to be touched.  If you want a pet for snuggles and cuddles, an Alpaca isn't going to be your best choice.

5. While rare, inappropriate handling and socialization of 'cute little babies' can lead to dangerous aggression as the animal becomes a hormonal teenager. There are increasing reports from the US of former petting zoo alpacas being put down due to developing  Beserk Male Syndrome (now known more commonly as Aberrant Behaviour Syndrome).  Let's not allow this to happen, ok?

All of this is not to say that you shouldn't get an alpaca. But with the increasing popularity of the animals, as well as the talk of all their positive traits, it's just important that we are also aware of our responsibilities.

And if you really want an animal to cuddle. there are many cats and dogs at your local shelter looking for their furever home.

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