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Domestic Hedgehogs in County?

Lance Guthrie, a 12-year-old, wants to make African pygmy hedgehogs a legal pet.

Considered wild and exotic, the African pygmy hedgehog is an illegal pet in Fairfax County.

Lance Guthrie, 12, knows — he almost bought one last fall.

Not yet a teenager, Guthrie got a pet chinchilla named Skippy last August. Within a month, he wanted an African pygmy hedgehog, too. The animal-loving Guthrie learned about the spiny little pet on a message board that focused on chinchillas and hedgehogs. Lance Guthrie and his father, Gary Guthrie, began researching the animal and looking for places to get one.

“I learned that they were illegal,” said Lance Guthrie. Naturally, he wanted to know why.

“Nobody could tell us why,” said Gary Guthrie. Officials only told them that the county did not include the animal within the definition of commonly accepted pets. Lance Guthrie and his father then turned to representatives in local government, where they learned that they were not alone in their interest to make hedgehogs permissible in the county.

LANCE GUTHRIE AND his father found out that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors had heard requests in 1999 and again in 2001 to make the African pygmy hedgehog a legitimate pet. Both times the motion was turned down.

Lance Guthrie and his father then expressed their concern to Supervisor Catherine M. Hudgins (D-Hunter-Mill).

Last week, Hudgins made a request to the Board of Supervisors to appoint a committee to identify an appropriate procedure by which domestic bred household pets could be defined. The request passed, and now Lance Guthrie is waiting for the committee to form and report back.

“I realized that [working with government] takes time,” said Lance Guthrie.

“The people [in government] have been very friendly,” said Gary Guthrie. “There are a ton of kids watching, and everybody is learning the process and the importance of government involvement.”

Waiting for the government to act has not diminished Lance Guthrie’s interest in the African pygmy hedgehog. He recently created a Web page about hedgehogs, www.fairfaxhedghogs.com, that went online last week.