In researching this article I have gained some insight into the world of APH breeders. My main impression is that first and foremost they are pet lovers and hobbyists. They see breeding as a part of their hobby and its by-product, hoglets, as a way to finance something that can be very expensive, especially when their pets get sick. Most will claim that they do not make any money from breeding as anything they earn is ploughed back into their pastime.
There are breeder lists on several of the hedgehog internet communities I have visited but before breeders can be added to them they must adhere to a code of ethics. If you do read the UKAPH forum dedicated to this subject it is plainly evident that the breeders that post there are openly hostile towards Heavenlyhogs. They explain this hostility by referring to their past dealings with her when they were lied to or let down by her in various ways when they first tried to help her.
I’ve gone through several exotic pet forums where Heavenlyhogs is a member. She is a prolific poster and seems to be something of an attention seeker. On occasion she does not hesitate to use the “sympathy card” of her disabled children, her grandmother or her post traumatic stress disorder suffering partner when she is criticised for her actions. With her cavalier attitude towards breeding she is very prone to “putting her foot in it” and she has alienated experienced breeders of exotic pets of all types. When she is criticised about her ethics or lack of knowledge she claims that there is some kind of personal vendetta against her.
It seems to me that she is a person who is trying to turn what was initially a pastime into a money making venture. While it is debatable whether this is a bad thing in itself, what concerns most reputable breeders is that in her search for profit her ethics and more importantly the care of her animals have taken second place.
None of the breeders blame her for having the ringworm infection in her herd, although it is fair to say that several believe it is a consequence of her skirting around the quarantine requirement. Ringworm is basically everywhere, it is opportunist and will strike wherever it finds an opening. Nor is it incurable but, as Ian and Julie are finding out to their cost, it can be very difficult to eradicate. What many breeders, and non breeders alike are appalled at, is way in which she dealt with the matter as regards the new owners. Despite many promises of refunds, after 5 months they have yet to see a penny and are unlikely to do so. As she has publically admitted that her herd has never been checked by her vet for ringworm, but self-treated as a precautionary measure, many breeders believe that her herd is still infected with the disease.
Perhaps this latter belief is based the fact that within weeks of stating she was self-treating her herd for ringworm she was already advertising the arrival of new hoglets for the New Year. It should remembered that Ian, Julie and Chaz have been treating their pets for several months and in one case the infection has still not cleared up!
Michelle Fountain aka Viljoen is still selling pet hedgehogs, mainly through online classified ad sites such as preloved.co.uk. Her name has been removed from the Hedgehog Central breeders list. She no longer advertises on the Reptile UK forums as people are quick to flood her posts with warnings of ringworm etc. I strongly urge people who may be considering buying any kind of pet from this woman to read posts in the links to the forums I have posted on this page: Dodgy Dealers before they make up their minds.
After publishing this article I contacted Heavenlyhogs to inform her about its existence. The next link contains her reply and I will add to it with information about what happens in the future.