HAWS officials: Caring for 331 chinchillas costs $2,000 a day, families waiting to adopt them

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WAUKESHA (WITI) -- It has been more than one week since 331 chinchillas were pulled from a home on Melody Lane near Laura Lane in Waukesha. HAWS, the Humane Animal Welfare Society is caring for the animals -- but caring for them comes with a price that the owners may not pay.

The fate of these animals is in the hands of the Waukesha County District Attorney's Office. The District Attorney is still considering possible charges of child endangerment and animal neglect. While that's in limbo, HAWS is taking care of the chinchillas, and HAWS officials are keeping track of the cost.

HAWS is acting as an emergency shelter for the chinchillas -- caring for them until a decision is made as to whether the owners have to give them up. HAWS officials issued an update on Monday, saying the animals' owners continue to refuse to surrender them.

"We expanded our chinchilla operation. We have chinchillas, we have chinchillas and we have chinchillas," Lynn Olenik said.

Olenik is the shelter's director. She says since the shelter took in the chinchillas, the community has stepped up in a big way.

"This group of cages came form Kaytee. We got 30 cages from them. We've gotten donations of cages from the public and we've been able to set up some separate wards," Olenik said.

Initially placed in a heated garage, males have now been separated from females -- and even with the donation of cages, Olenik says the cost of caring for these animals is nearly $2,000 a day.

"There is still the cost to sheltering, to taking care of the labor involved, to taking care of the little critters, to having the vets come in to take care of the herd," Olenik said.

Olenik says so far, the total room and board for these chinchillas has topped $10,000, and it's a tab that goes back to the original owners, since they haven't surrendered the animals. However, in cases like this, there are no real guarantees of payment. The position of the shelter is in lieu of money, there is hope the owners will surrender the animals so they can be adopted.

"We have homes available for them and we have a good place for them to go," Olenik said.

In fact, Olenik says the shelter has 70 people on a list willing to adopt the chinchillas, and other shelters willing to help out as well.

Waukesha police and fire officials were the ones who determined it was not safe to keep the animals at the home on Melody Lane. Three children live at the home -- ages seven, nine and 17.

If you would like to help HAWS care for the hundreds of chinchillas now in their care, you can help by doing one or more of the following:

Donations of timothy hay, chinchilla dust, food and money to cover their care can still be made:


  • Reasonless

    They’re rodents!
    If you can’t find a home for them in a reasonable amount of time, call Orkin to rid you of the problem.

  • Heather

    PETSMART on the West Side of Madison, tried to resell the items that they advertised for people to buy for these chinchillas, and someone purchased. it had a donated sticker on it, and they still were going to sell it to me, until I kept asking questions. It was nine dollar chinchilla dust bath. I am greatly upset about this. Did the chinchillas recieve anything from this PETSMART, or are they just re-selling all of the items that they had people purchase?????

  • Peggy

    Not that I don’t absolutely agree that these chins needed removed from this situation, as well as apparently the children, but I have a huge issue with what they are saying it costs a day to care for chins. I take care of mine just fine for nowhere near $2000.00 a day, and yes, I am up near that number in my herd. You don’t clean cages daily. You don’t dust daily. They certainly don’t need to see a vet unless it’s necessary. So basically you have to feed and water daily, which for me takes about an hour and that’s with doing a visual check of every cage. If I hang around and play with the chins, obviously that takes more time, but you can’t expect to charge the owners for you playing with the chins. So grand total a DAY for me is about $15.00 for food, hay, and water. I do it by myself, so even if I wanted to give myself an outrageous hourly wage of $20.00 an hour, we’re still looking at $35.00 total. $2000.00 a day???? Not a snowballs chance in hell.

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