In the last two decades, raising alpacas for fleece became an easy entree for many into an agrarian lifestyle. Herds of the camelid breed were popping up at hobby farms around the country. But with alpaca popularity boom came a nasty negative: the rise of alpaca abuse.
Economics, failing health of owners, and the deviant behavior of violent criminals, experts say, all contribute to a range of abuses inflicted upon the gentle and stoic alpaca.
For instance, a young man armed with malicious intent might sneak onto a farm under cover of darkness, then willfully attack a trusting and unsuspecting alpaca.
Or, a new alpaca breeder, looking to cash in on alpaca fleece popularity, might have over-invested in a herd and now finds caring for the animals too difficult a task to manage. The animals are left to starve or suffer in the cold.
Or perhaps due to owner death, hospitalization, or divorce, alpacas are left to fend for themselves, never mentioned in wills or legal settlements. They are alone without someone to care for them.
Not matter the cause, one thing is certain: The abuse is never justified or defensible.
“There’s no way to explain abuse,” says Jackie Glover, co-owner of Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue in Tonino, Wash. “They’ve put their trust in [humans], and we’ve let them down.”