Why Switzerland Won't Allow You To Own Just One Guinea Pig

Switzerland is a country of strange laws. It's known for its unique global stances, like its long-standing policy of neutrality, which it even managed to maintain during World War II (via History). But, some of its weird rules apply on a smaller scale.

Switzerland has some of the strongest animal protection laws of any country in the world. In fact, one Swiss animal welfare advocate, Katerina Stoykova, described her country's laws by saying, "Only Switzerland protects animal dignity at the constitutional level," according to SWI. Among those animal protection laws in place in Switzerland include breeding rules, such as laws against cloning; livestock rules, such as specifications on how large animals' pens must be; and rules for pet owners that can touch on such minutiae as whether or not owners can dye their animal's fur.

And, for many small animals, there are also rules about how many pets you can have at a time. Because for some creatures, including guinea pigs, Switzerland won't let owners have just one.

The social needs of guinea pigs

Despite their names, guinea pigs do not belong to the swine family. Instead, guinea pigs are a type of small rodent weighing a couple of pounds each, according to Britannica. These furry little creatures can vary in size and appearance, especially regards to their coloring. Originally from South America, guinea pigs can no longer be found in the wild. Now, they are kept as pets in regions as far as Europe and North America, but can also be used as a food source in other areas, like parts of South America.

Like any pet, guinea pigs must be cared for in a specific way to ensure that they remain happy and healthy. Guinea pigs are herbivores that must be fed lots of fibrous foods each day, including hay, greens, and veggies like lettuces, carrots, or tomatoes, as VCA Animal Hospitals notes. Most importantly, though, guinea pigs require social interaction. This pack animal, which can live up to 5-6 years, needs frequent contact with other members of its own species (via RSPCA).

Switzerland's minimum guinea pig ownership laws

Of course, no Swiss person is obliged to own a guinea pig. However, if someone does choose to get themselves a little guinea pig companion, they have to be prepared to get more than one, as SWI notes. According to an Animal Protection Ordinance first passed back in 2008, anyone who owns guinea pigs must own at least two of the animals. This rule is ultimately designed to protect the animals, and ensure guinea pigs get the social interaction they need, according to ZME Science.

But the law, though well-intentioned, has created problems for some owners as well. If someone owns two guinea pigs, and one of those guinea pigs dies, they will be breaking the law (via ABC News). It's not necessarily easy to find a replacement guinea pig on such short notice, which is why some people have turned to guinea pig rental services. These breeders can loan a guinea pig to a person until their second guinea pig dies. Then the rented guinea pig can be returned to the breeder, and the newly guinea-pig-less owner can go on with their life. It might sound like a funny proposition, but it's just one of the interesting side effects that come with living under Switzerland's strong animal protection laws.