ANIMAL lovers have hit back after the Guardian reported a craze for African pygmy hedgehogs in last week’s edition.

We reported that WAGS and fashionistas are flocking to Northwich from as far afield as Scotland and Ipswich to buy the tiny creatures as the latest must-have Christmas present.

But readers have contacted the Guardian to urge people to think twice about the unusual pet.

Janet Thornton, from North West Animal Welfare, in Warrington, said: “These hedgehogs are not fashion accessories.

“They’re living creatures that don’t belong in Northwich, they belong in Africa.

“These WAGS are disgusting, deplorable people who swap and change their pets like their outfits.

“People should not buy pets as Christmas presents, and certainly not something like this.”

The hedgehogs are being sold at Cheshire Waterlife, at Blakemere Craft Centre, where staff have been surprised at their popularity.

Nicky Brookes, an animal rights campaigner from Billinge Green, said: “Novelty pets soon lose their appeal and just who is going to able to take in the post-Christmas glut of little hedgehogs?

“These creatures are from Africa, they sleep all day, they are not domestic pets – their little lives are going to be very shortlived and very deprived.

”The real people to blame for this latest animal welfare nightmare of course is the Government for permitting them to be imported in the first place, then the other culprits are the customers.”

Helen Gill, from Simply Seahorse and Simply Exotics, in Anderton, also breeds and sells African pygmy hedgehogs.

She said: “It’s giving totally the wrong impression that these little creatures can be kept in handbags – they just can’t.

“I deliberately don’t breed them for Christmas because I don’t want them to be unwanted Christmas presents.

“They’re not recommended for children and for anyone to think of getting them for a child is wrong and irresponsible.”

Steve Birchall, owner of Cheshire Waterlife, at Blakemere Craft Centre, said: “As a long established and respected pet care centre, we ensure that anybody who buys a pet from us knows and understands the importance of proper care for their pet.

“Our business is based on respect for animals and we provide as much information as we can to prospective pet owners to ensure that they look after their animals properly.

“Although we understand the concerns expressed by some, we must remember that media hype sometimes can take over when an unusual pet becomes popular.

“Despite the tongue-in-cheek comments, most people realise that all pets, including African pygmy hedgehogs, are for life and deserve respect and care."

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