WESTBROOK, Maine — The owners of Smiling Hill Farm want their guinea pigs back, no questions asked.
The disappearance of a mother and two babies from the 500-acre dairy farm Saturday afternoon has left owners feeling violated and confused.
“I hate to use the word ‘steal,’” said Warren Knight, a member of the family that owns the farm just outside of Portland. “It’s so unappetizing to think that someone would come onto my property and take them.”
The furry trio last were seen between 2 and 5 p.m. in the hatching house, an incubation hut that’s open to the public.
“They were not in a place where they could have escaped on their own. It’s all very confusing to us,” said Knight.
On Saturday afternoon, a farm hand “went to fed them and they were just gone … We were devastated,” said barnyard worker Debbie Tomasini.
The street value of a guinea pig is very low, but a new animal crime called “pet flipping” is on the rise. That’s where an animal, usually a dog, is stolen and sold for cash online.
On Facebook, Smiling Hill raised that specter in relation to their guinea pigs.
“Please let us know if you see them, or see them listed for sale. We miss them and would like them returned.”
Westbrook police have been notified of the incident, but it’s not a criminal case, said Knight.
“We can only surmise that someone took them away,” said Knight.
The last animal to be stolen from the farm was a calf that went missing in the 1960s. It turned out to be a college prank and the cow was returned by university students the next day, said Knight.
“For us the value is sentimental. They are part of the farm. People come and see them and they form a bond,” he said.
For now the hatching house is closed to the public.
“It’s sad for all the kids, it’s a shame,” said Tomasini.
All Knight wants is his guinea pigs back where they belong.
“If someone brings them back, we will consider that they are returning them,” Knight said.