As pets go, guinea pigs aren’t super demanding. They require food, water, a comfortable and size-appropriate home, checkups with the vet and some TLC. Sadly, for a pair that were being sold by a PetSmart in Nashville, very few of these basic needs were being met — and even worse, they were knowingly neglected by the humans who were in charge of caring for them.
All day long, Duke and Bogart suffered; both were sickly and stuck in tiny tanks 24/7. Duke had a persistent, crusty yellow eye infection, while Bogart had an abscess on his back and required hospitalization. But the three managers of this particular PetSmart location refused to get the animals the proper veterinary care they so badly needed.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) had eyewitnesses investigating this PetSmart location, as well as others across the country. Duke and Bogart were rescued by the group and given the medical attention they deserved.
“Thanks to PETA, Duke and Bogart finally have the respect and happiness that they deserve,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “It’s a joy to see them playing, snuggling, munching on fresh food, and simply getting to live as guinea pigs should at last.”
As the PETA rescue video above shows, with the proper medical attention and a loving home, these sweet pets are currently happy, healthy and thriving. Duke and Bogart are now best friends, living with their new mom, Michelle Kretzer, in Clearwater, Florida, eating fresh leafy greens and going on picnics in the park and to movie nights on the couch with their favorite veggie snacks. One of Duke’s new hobbies is eating fresh produce from the garden (see below).
Kretzer says, “Duke is very picky about his salads. He only likes the freshest lettuce, peppers and other produce, and it needs to be organic and straight from the garden. He can tell the difference, and if I don’t have anything from the garden to give him that day and I have to buy it from the grocery store, he will just sniff it and look at me disapprovingly.” Considering his former life at PetSmart, Duke is truly living a rags-to-salad-riches story.
Kretzer reports that Bogey’s personality has flourished in his new home, as well. The cute black guinea pig now knows that the sound of crinkling plastic (from a package of hay or a sealed bag of veggies) often means “treats.” His mom says he squeaks and starts “popcorning,” a.k.a. jumping for joy, whenever he hears the sound.
Kretzer also tells PEOPLE that Bogey is always on the move. She leaves his “house” open and trusts him to run around her condo at his own free will. It’s a far cry from his daily imprisonment in a tiny store tank.
“They are such loving little animals, even after everything they’ve been through,” says Kretzer. “They love to be wrapped up in a blanket on my lap and will sit like that for as long as I’m holding them and petting them. They’re also great nap buddies.” She reports that Duke particularly loves to curl up in her lap for his naps.
PETA’s investigation of Duke and Bogart’s former residence in the Nashville-area PetSmart prompted officials to rescue other sick animals on the premises.
“Based on PETA’s evidence, on March 29, 2018, Metro Nashville Animal Care & Control (MACC) executed a search and seizure warrant at the store,” according to PETA. “MACC seized six sick and injured mice and guinea pigs and opened a criminal investigation. On April 13, 2018, the Nashville District Attorney’s Office filed cruelty-to-animals charges against PetSmart store managers.”
On June 26, 2018, all three store managers pleaded guilty. They were then ordered by the judge to perform community service and to repay the veterinary and care costs — in total, $16,156 — on behalf of the rescued animals.
In response, a PetSmart rep tells PEOPLE, “We believe our associates did not commit any wrongdoing and that these charges were a direct result of PETA’s systematic and unethical tactics. PetSmart stands by our Nashville associates who made the personal decision to take a standard conditional plea deal to avoid a long, drawn out legal process.
“Our pet care practices continue to be the standard of excellence in the industry and we will continue to defend against PETA’s ongoing clandestine operations as they attempt to disparage our associates and company,” said PetSmart’s Vice President of Corporate Communications, Michelle Friedman.