Where do your pigs come from, anyway?
When folks come out to visit the sanctuary, inevitably some of the first questions I hear are "where do you get your pigs?" and "how do pigs end up needing to be rescued?" These are honest questions. Most people can easily give you a list of reasons why cats and dogs end up in shelters and rescue organizations. But pigs? How do they end up in these situations, anyway?
Here are some typical reasons I've encountered why potbellied pigs end up with no home.
People are duped by breeders and false advertising.
Teacup "micro" pigs don't exist, and any breeder who tells you otherwise is just lying to make a sale. We've all seen memes and videos on social media with adorable little pigs running around someone's apartment with a pink bow around their necks, snuggling up with the puppy in a cozy blanket. Those pigs are NOT teacup pigs. They're BABY pigs. And those baby pigs will grow up to be big pigs. Unfortunately, by the time some pig owners realize the truth, they are totally desperate to surrender their pig. And finding a home is not easy, trust me.
For the record, a typical adult potbellied pig weighs anywhere from 80 to 180 pounds, sometimes even more. Just look at Bobby, a six-year-old adult male potbellied pig. He weighs approximately 160 pounds. He's a big boy, and he definitely doesn't belong (or want to be) in an apartment.
People can't control their pig's "destructive" behavior.
When people send me an email saying they need to find their pig a home because she's destroying their home and yard, I want to scream "but that's what pigs do!" Their natural behavior is to use their snouts to root around and forage in the dirt looking for food and things to chew. And they kill the plants and vegetation in the process. They seriously do this all day long. If you deny your pig a natural environment by putting her in your apartment, she's going to act out. And if you think she's going to respect your nicely landscaped backyard, think again. It'll look like the surface of Mars in no time.
Let me show you what I mean. Here's a glimpse of what pigs will do to your yard. That area in the foreground used to be lush woods with lots of vegetation. If you focus in on the trees, you'll see that most of them have died from the pigs chewing off the bark. They literally destroy everything in sight with their incessant biting, rooting, and foraging.
No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Pigs need to be outdoors, and they need a fairly large roaming area in the woods where they can do what they do instinctively.
Pigs can act out when they're lonely.
Another reason pigs can show undesirable or destructive behavior is boredom and loneliness. Just like people, pigs can get depressed when they lack meaningful relationships. Pigs are very intelligent, social animals with strong emotions. They form deep bonds with each other and thrive when they belong to a herd of pigs with a fully established social hierarchy. To be happy, pigs need companionship. Pigs should always live with other pigs.
Here's a typical scene of pigs enjoying each other's company here at Jenna and Friends.
People get pigs without having a stable living condition.
I hear it all the time. "My landlord won't let me keep my pig anymore." "We're moving, and our new place isn't set up for pigs." "My pig is getting too big for my apartment." I understand that circumstances can change unexpectedly, but so many of these situations can be avoided if people who are considering getting a pig can just spend time planning ahead and thinking about their living situation and how it might change. Pigs can live just as long as dogs, so you need to commit to at least 15 or 16 years.
People get pigs without having the required resources and funding.
Resources include the obvious things like food, straw, money for vet bills, and fencing, but they also include bigger things like transportation for sick pigs. How will you transport your pig to a vet in case of an emergency? Have you established a relationship with a mobile vet who can come out for vaccines and hoof trims? These are all important aspects to owning a potbellied pig.
Here is a typical pig enclosure that I have for newcomer pigs as they get to know other pigs through the fencing. Notice the sturdy house with metal roof, wire panels for fencing, and gates with chains. Also notice that the space is in a natural woods environment where they can root around in the dirt and feel the sunshine on their backs.
And here is that same little house with our latest rescues Randie Lou and Penny Lane relaxing inside. Notice the fresh straw and heat lamp for cold nights.
Take it from me. There's no shortage of pigs needing to be rescued. The calls and emails just keep coming. If you're considering getting a potbellied pig, please do your research, make a commitment, and please don't ever - under ANY circumstances - support a breeder. Instead, reach out to a respectable rescue organization and find out where you can find your new best friend. Make sure you have a stable environment with proper housing and fencing. Also make sure you're prepared for vet bills, including vaccines and hoof trims every two or three years. And if you can rescue two pigs, you are truly setting them up for happiness.
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Anna O'Neal, founder and caretaker at Jenna and Friends Animal Sanctuary