If you’ve been following us on social media in the last few weeks, you’ve likely noticed that we have recently taken in quite a few new pigs. Simba the owner surrender, Rafiki who was neglected and then abandoned, and five pigs who came to us from a petting zoo that was shutting down, two of which are pregnant. In a matter of weeks we went from having four pigs to having eleven, with more on the way!
Being at capacity or over capacity for resident pigs is very common in rescues in our country right now because potbelly pigs are experiencing an overpopulation crisis. Lack of proper knowledge, responsible homes, and veterinary care, especially spay and neuter surgeries, coupled with the novelty of the “mini pig” myth, leads to many homeless and neglected pigs needing rescue. While we could simply explain these issues in detail here in this blog post, we prefer to educate through the stories of our animals and allowing them to speak for themselves.
We’ll begin with Simba, who came to us as a local owner surrender, but like many pigs, he was bounced around a bit before he arrived at his last home. When Simba was born, he was purchased to be a house pig. His original family was likely told he would stay under 50 lbs and would be as easy to own as a dog or cat. Sadly this myth of “mini pigs” and what easy pets they are is so detrimental to the animals. The truth is that the term “mini pig” is often used as a substitute term for potbelly pigs, which can grow as big as 300 lbs depending on their care, exercise, feeding, etc. They have the mental capacity of a human toddler, and without the proper stimulation they can become frustrated, angry, and destructive. When unsuspecting owners purchase potbelly pigs for the novelty of owning a pig and without doing their research, and that pig grows to be larger than 50 lbs (Simba is 100 lbs and still on the small end of the pigs we currently have), and becomes dominant and destructive from being bored, many are at a loss for how to rehome them safely.
There are so few pig rescues, and most are at capacity. Rehoming a pig online can lead to them being purchased for slaughter or worse. Most animal controls or municipal shelters will not accept pot belly pigs. Some owners turn their pigs loose. What we were told is that Simba’s original family found a greenhouse that was willing to take him in as an exciting attraction for their visitors. Sadly it seems his life there was not as he deserved. We were told he was kept in a tiny enclosure without any access to the outside world. There he sat until he was posted as free to good home on Facebook. This could have led to him being abused or slaughtered, but luckily a kind family saw the post and took him in. They brought him home, and when they realized he deserved a better life than they could provide, they sought to rehome him. They posted him again for free on Facebook, which again could have been very dangerous for him, but this time we saw the post and when we reached out and offered to help, they were thrilled to surrender him so he would be safe and loved for the rest of his life.
Simba is a difficult pig. Unneutered, and having had so little human interaction in his recent years, he is territorial and needs a great deal of behavioral rehabilitation before he will be able to be rehomed responsibly to a forever family. Pigs need very specialized care, but the breeders simply see them as a way to make money, with little to no concern for what happens to them when they outgrow the promised size limitation and become aggressive from lack of proper training and stimulation, many of these pigs, just like Simba, are then abandoned.
Rafiki, also known as Rafi, is another new arrival. Rafi is another example of a pig who at one point was likely purchased from a breeder to be kept as a house pig. Unfortunately, before he came to us his family had brought him to a dog rescuer’s home and abandoned him overnight in their dog pen. When the rescuer came out in the morning and saw him she decided to take him in until she could find a safe place for him to go. In the weeks he stayed with her, he showed how much he missed being part of a family by breaking into her home through the sliding door so he could get on the couch, tuck himself into the blankets and take a nap. It is clear that at one point in his life, Rafi was loved. He trusts humans, he is affectionate, he is gentle and sweet, but whoever loved him did not know how to care for him and when they could no longer keep him, they felt abandoning him was their only option.
Rafi’s family clearly did not understand the basic care that is involved with owning a potbelly pig. Their hooves and tusks needs to be properly trimmed, they need to be dewormed and given mite treatment regularly, and their skin needs a proper diet and care to thrive. When Rafi came to us his hooves were overgrown to the point where it was a struggle for him to walk. His tusks were completely overgrown, making it difficult for him to chew properly. His skin was in terrible shape and it will be a long time before it will have fully recovered.
Owning a piglet is something so many people have on their bucket list, but what about owning a senior pig with arthritis who needs daily attention and care? While pigs should be considered a lifetime commitment, just like dogs or cats, often they are abandoned once the novelty wears off, many times in bad shape due to neglect and having owners who did not properly educate themselves on the work that goes in to properly caring for and owning a pig.
Moana is another one of our new arrivals. Moana came to us from a petting zoo that was shutting down. We saw posts on Facebook about how this petting zoo was closing and all of the animals were going to head to slaughter, and reached out to the owner offering to help. While we were ignored at first, eventually he agreed to allow us to help him by taking in three of his adult potbelly pigs. When we arrived at the petting zoo, we realized we had to help as many as we could. All of the pigs running around had mange, a treatable but contagious skin mite, and many were young piglets. None of these pigs were spayed or neutered, so every female we saw appeared to be pregnant, including one very small juvenile pig we rescued and named Moana.
Potbelly pigs have the ability to get pregnant as young as just three months old. However, they do not finish growing to their full size until they are 3-5 years old. This is how many breeders are able to perpetuate the “mini pig” myth by introducing a buyer to their piglet’s “fully grown” parents who may be under 50 lbs simply because they themselves are just piglets. While the owner of the petting zoo told us Moana is over a year old, to us and to our vet she appears to be 6-8 months old. Even at a year old, she is still far too young and too small to be carrying the litter she currently is. This has the potential to cause many complications with her pregnancy, delivery, and raising of her piglets.
Just like with feral cat colonies, we need to put a much larger emphasis on potbelly pig spay and neuter programs across our country. One potbelly pig can have up to 12 piglets per litter, and they can have multiple litters per year. Even if all of the females we saw on the property had one litter of 6 pigs this year, that group of 30 pigs would turn into a group of 120 easily. This is how pig hoarding cases begin. Owners who start out with 2-3 pigs see that number grow exponentially, especially if they don’t realize they should be spaying and neutering their pigs to prevent breeding.
It is generally healthier to spay and neuter pigs just like it is for dogs and cats, and there are many behavioral benefits. An unneutered pig will be dominant, territorial, and more likely to roam. A neutered pig is easier to own, train, and keep contained. We couldn’t take all of the pigs from the petting zoo, but we did save five, with Moana and Pua both being pregnant. We couldn’t stop these girls from getting pregnant, but we can guarantee these will be their last litters, and their babies will never be bred. Moana, Pua, and all of their piglets will be spayed and neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped and then adopted out to responsible, educated homes.
How can you help with the pig overpopulation crisis? Here are a few ways:
Educate yourself on this problem and educate your friends and family, so that if anyone you know ever considers buying a pig from a breeder on a whim, you explain why that is such an irresponsible thing to do!
If you decide to get a pig yourself, do as much research as possible ahead of time! Visit minipiginfo.com to look up useful facts and tips. Visit and volunteer with a pig rescue or farm sanctuary close to you to see firsthand the work that goes into caring for a pig. Before committing to bringing a pig home, make sure you find a well educated veterinarian that can help you care for your new pig. Make sure you are prepared to properly trim tusks and hooves of your pigs and that you feed them a proper diet so they are not under or over weight. Finally, make sure you are zoned to be legally allowed to own a pig where you live!
If you have a pig, have them spayed and neutered!
Do not financially support petting zoos or other businesses that exploit pigs and give them improper care.
If you choose to get a pig, always adopt, never buy!
If you would like to help support Wayward Ranch as we maneuver our way through this Pig-Pocalypse, you can donate at: https://www.waywardranch.org/donate
Wayward Ranch Animal Sanctuary, Inc.