Cute and fuzzy with a sweet-sounding name, sugar gliders certainly look like delightful pets. However, Alexandria Animal Control is cautioning residents to think twice before bringing them home.
Staff at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria is currently tending to seven abandoned sugar gliders that came to the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter on Nov. 7.
“A person came in and said they found them in a shopping center parking lot,” said Joe Seskey, Alexandria’s new chief animal control officer. “But their cage was clean. It was pretty clear they had exhausted their efforts to take care of them.”
Sugar gliders, small marsupials native to Australia and Indonesia that resemble flying squirrels, are legal to keep as pets in Alexandria and Arlington County. They are not legal to own in Fairfax County.
The nocturnal animals require a substantial amount of care and attention, including an exotic diet, late-night feedings and frequent cage cleanings. If they get loose, they can become quite destructive chewing through wires and other things when under stress.
As colony animals, sugar gliders need companionship of their own kind. Left alone, the animals get depressed and can self-mutilate.
They stay up through the night barking and hissing and procreate multiple times a year. In captivity, they can live up to 15 years—nearly three times as long as their expected lifespan in the wild.
“They’re very difficult and need constant care,” Seskey said. “Residents need to be cautious when selecting pets and understand some animals require more care than others.”
Seskey said sugar gliders are often purchased on impulse, sometimes at pet shows or through Craigslist. He said he would have to look as far as Louisiana to find a proper longterm residence for the sugar gliders currently at the shelter.
He says residents should do their research before deciding on purchasing or adopting any kind of pet.
For more information about Alexandria Animal Control, visit the AWLA website.