The hunt is on to track down whoever dumped a box full of guinea pigs in the toilets at Debenhams – where one of them gave birth to stillborn twins.
Cleaners turning up for work at the Hemel Hempstead store rang the RSPCA after discovering the animals in the ladies toilets on Tuesday morning.
There were two adult females, one adult male, two that were less than a year old and two stillborn babies in the container designed for storing CDs.
Debenhams staff put the survivors in a new box and gave them fresh water, but the mother later died from the stress of her plight.
The others are now recovering in an RSPCA rescue centre.
Spokesman Jo Barr said: “The box they were left in was in a pretty wet and horrible state. There’s no excuse for anyone abandoning them in this way.
“It is a very cowardly and irresponsible thing to do. Guinea pigs do suffer from stress quite badly and the rest are lucky to have survived.”
Store staff are now reviewing CCTV footage to see who may have left the box in the store.
The RSPCA believe they may have been left there by a member of the public on Monday night.
Debenhams manager Patrick Taylor said: “We were shocked to discover the box of guinea pigs.
“We would urge anyone who feels they can no longer look after their pets to contact the RSPCA for advice.”
Mrs Barr said another box full of guinea pigs had been abandoned in the Hemel Hempstead area just two weeks ago.
She said: “Sadly we are seeing an increase in the number of animals who are being abandoned – probably as a result of the financial crisis.”
It is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal. Anyone found guilty can face up to six months in prison or a £20,000 fine.
If you have any information on who dumped the guinea pigs in Debenhams, phone RSPCA inspector Peter Warne on 0300 1234999. You can also adopt one of the survivors by calling that number.