Due to the continuing massive influx of potbelly pig rescues, I have had to set up a special page devoted just to the pigs’ stories as the previous rescue page crashed due to the large volume of content.
FIRST & FOREMOST: PLEASE STOP BUYING POTBELLY PIGS!!!
Over the past ten years, I have typically had around three potbelly pigs at The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary with a new surrender coming in every year or two. However, in the last three years I have taken in over FIFTY new potbelly pigs that had nowhere else to go. Faced with certain death, The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary was the only hope for these sadly exploited creatures. The excuses are always the same; “we had no idea they would get so big”, “the breeder guaranteed us she would stay small”, “we didn’t think he would be more than 50lbs.”, “she’s supposed to be a micro mini” (there’s no such thing!!) “we didn’t realize they were so much work”, “we had no idea how destructive they are”……etc.
As The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary can not serve as an endless-dumping ground for potbelly pigs and other novelty pets after people eventually come to realize the extensive needs of these unique animals and their subsequent inability to provide an adequate home for them, I do my best to educate the public about NOT GETTING THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE! Unfortunately, there are many unethical breeders out there that couldn’t care less about the well being of the animals they are exploiting and will use whatever underhanded and shady tactics necessary to sell, sell, sell and make as much money as possible. Using such headings as “Micro Mini” & “Tea Cup Potbelly Pigs” – “Guaranteed to Stay Tiny” – “Max 40lbs.” – “no larger than a chubby chihuahua” – “Special Imported Line” to attract people and fool them into what they are getting themselves into.
Contrary To What Most Potbelly Pig Breeders Would Like You To Believe:
- There is no such thing as “Micro Mini” or “Tea Cup Potbelly Pigs” – This is a SCAM! It is simply a marketing tactic used by unethical breeders to sell more pigs.
- Miniature Pigs or Potbelly Pigs grow to an average size of 120lbs. to 250lbs. NOT 40lbs.!!
- Potbelly pigs are called miniature pigs because when compared to their cousins, farm pigs who can grow in excess of 1,000lbs. they are obviously miniature in comparison.
- While some breeders will declare that they have a “Special Line” or “Special Breed” of tiny pig and guarantee that it will stay small, ALL potbelly pigs in North America and Hawaii come from the same line. Period!!
- The pictures you see of tiny pigs advertised are of babies that are usually just a couple of days old. The average pb pig weighs 50lbs. when they are six months old.
- Some especially corrupt breeders will breed baby potbelly pigs as young as three/four months old to create the illusion to prospective buyers that the offspring will not grow larger than the parents.
- As for the “Guarantee” that breeders give about the pigs staying small, they will not take them back when they exceed their 50lb. weight – after nearly 15 years of rescuing potbelly pigs, I have yet to meet a single ethical breeder!
- Starving or underfeeding potbelly pigs, or any animal for that matter, will not keep them small but rather cause deformities and serious health problems.
- Potbelly Pigs are illegal in most cities and towns including Calgary!!
- They are very expensive pets as they require an exotic animal vet. Spaying and neutering is far more costly. They require special anesthetic. The average spay/neuter is anywhere between $300-$900, depending on the vet you use.
- They need a minimum of four hoof trims a year which most farriers (horse hoof trimmers) will not do. A veterinary hoof trim costs an average of $300 – that’s $1,200 a year!!
- Males grow tusks that need to be professionally maintained.
- They require a closely monitored diet of specialized feed (not hog grower!!) which is expensive and hard to find.
- Potbellied pigs can be terribly destructive in the home and garden as rooting is a natural pig behavior for them. They will rip up your lawn in no time!!
- They can become quite aggressive towards other animals and people if not socialized and trained properly.
- They do not behave like dogs and hate being picked up, cuddled and dressed up in costumes.
- Potbelly Pigs can live for twenty years.
- They are not good pets for children or the average person as they require a great deal of expertise.
- Potbelly pigs are pigs, which are farm animals that need to live on a farm with other pigs!
Juliet (Potbelly Pig)
This precious, not-so-little princess came to the sanctuary all the way from St. Albert, Alberta. Juliet or “Julie” for short, was surrendered by her family that was unable to keep her due to her escalating aggression issues. As predominantly a house-pig, Julie had her very own bedroom inside the family’s home and spent much of her time grazing and enjoying the sunshine in their yard during the summer months. However with the horrendous Alberta winters being so long and cold, Julie spent the majority of her time inside her bedroom where her relatively inactive lifestyle turned to boredom and eventually aggression.
As the fourth most intelligent animal in the world, pigs require a great deal more mental as well as physical and emotional stimulation than a dog or cat. When their environment does not provide sufficient enrichment they eventually become either depressed, destructive, aggressive or (more often than not) all of the above. Due to Julie’s relatively inactive previous lifestyle, she is also currently quite overweight and has vision problems due to the fat wrinkles pushing down on her eyes.
While most people that surrender their animals to the sanctuary claim that they love them dearly and promise to help with the burden of their life-long financial costs (pelleted feed, hay, straw, barn heat, de-wormer, medication, supplements, hoof trims, vet, etc.) very few actually follow through with their commitments and more often than not it’s like pulling teeth trying to get any sort of support for their former pet after they drive away. However, I am most pleased to report that Julie’s former owners are the exception to the norm as they have committed to sponsoring her for life and have written out two year’s worth of post-dated cheques for her sponsorship right off the bat!! It was a very welcomed change to not having to beg and plead leaving multiple messages, listening to an array of lies and excuses as I generally have to do; ultimately wasting time and energy that would be better spent caring for the animals.
Marley (Potbelly Piglet)
Marley was surrendered to The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary in October 2012 by his previous owner as a result of being lied to by yet another shady potbelly pig breeder regarding the size he would be when fully grown. I was initially contacted about Marley regarding a foul smell coming from his urine and after learning that he was not castrated, I informed his owner that this was the cause and would be resolved with the simple and very important neuter surgery. The second question I was asked related to Marley’s size as his owner was concerned that at six months of age he was already exceeding the 50lb maximum weight that she had been guaranteed by his breeder. I subsequently informed the owner that potbelly pigs in fact grow for four years and their average size is between 120lbs to 250lbs as there is no such thing as micro mini or tea cup pigs (this is just a scam!) and that her young boy would most likely exceed 100lbs within the next year or so.
Shortly after, I was told that due to Marley’s projected weight his owner could no longer keep him and planned to sell him on kijiji in an attempt to recoup her costs. When learning this information I offered to help find a suitable home through a more reputable means but prior to re-homing I pleaded that Marley first be castrated. Having seen the pattern countless times where unaltered (non-spayed/non-neutered) pet pigs bounce around from home to home due to hormonal aggressiveness, I did my best to educate his owner to make her understand that this would most likely be Marley’s hopeless fate until eventually being abandoned at a shelter or ending up in the greedy hands of yet another unethical potbelly pig breeder. Unwilling to spend any more money on a pet she no longer wanted, I even offered to pay for Marley’s neuter just to ensure that it was done. However I was then informed that the owner did not own a vehicle and getting Marley to a vet would not be an option.
Fortunately in the end the owner agreed to surrender Marley to The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary where she understood it would be in his best interests to not only receive the much-needed medical attention but also to live the life of a real pig in a proper sanctuary set up amongst other pig friends. My friend Amy Corpe from the Red Deer SPCA helped me tremendously with Marley’s transport as she drove all the way to Wainwright, Alberta to pick him up and brought him back to Red Deer where I met her. Marley was eagerly welcomed by Karma, another young piglet that was rescued the previous month and has been accepted by the 45 other pigs currently living at the sanctuary.
Karma (Potbelly Piglet)
This little boy was left abandoned at the front gates of the sanctuary. In late September 2012 I was horrified to find a 12 week old piglet in a crate so small he couldn’t even stand up, laying in a pool of his own urine and feces (with not so much as a towel for comfort) and sweltering in the hot sun at my front gates. The Donation Drop Off Box, located at the front of the sanctuary that is intended for donations of food, refundable bottles & cans, bedding and other things to help with the care of the rescued animals is where Karma’s former guardian made the choice to abandon him. The combination of the driveway at the sanctuary being very long, with the gates hidden from view of my house and the fact that I do not leave the property on a daily basis there was a good chance that Karma could have died before I discovered him. I was deeply sickened by this heartless act of cruelty but the fact that Karma’s former owner didn’t even bother to call and find out if I had found her former pet was the most distressing part.
Not surprisingly, Karma was not castrated and suffering from mange when he was dumped. As it’s highly unlikely that a person who is capable of such a cold-hearted act would spend the least bit of money on the comfort of their pet, Karma’s previous guardian was no exception. Despite the deeply upsetting manner in which Karma came to join the R.A.S.T.A. Family, he has overcome his disturbing past and is now a healthy happy boy. He has found a new best friend in Marley, another young potbelly piglet.
Justice for Karma!!
Fortunately, I am pleased to report that the identity of the woman that abandoned Karma has since been discovered and with the help of The Alberta SPCA we are having her charged with Animal Abandonment. I named this little boy Karma, as in; “what goes around comes around” as I am confident that justice will be served.
Buster & Bailey (Potbelly Pigs)
Buster, along with his companion Bailey (who was pregnant) were seized by The Alberta SPCA from a neglectful home. As both pigs appear to be very afraid of people, it is doubtful that they have had many positive experiences in their lives. Buster has since been castrated and I am hopeful that with enough time, patience and trust both he and Bailey will come around to being more social and outgoing pigs.
To my complete and utter surprise, I was very disappointed to hear that the case pertaining to the last animals R.A.S.T.A. received as a result of an ASPCA cruelty/neglect seizure (six potbelly pigs and one goose) from over two years ago still has yet to go to trial as the former owner of the animals has generously been granted continual extensions due to his inability to secure legal council.
On May 9th 2012, Bailey gave birth to eight healthy piglets at The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary; five boys and three girls. The piglets have since been named; Jengo, Mugsy, Mojo, Mortimer, Guinness, Josie, Lola and Tinker Bell.
Tinker Bell was the smallest female born, approximately one third smaller than the rest of her brothers and sisters and required special care to ensure she received enough nourishment. Since Tinker Bell was initially too weak to nurse on her own, I bottle-fed her for the first few days of her life.
Harvie (Potbelly Pig)
Harvie, formerly Harley was surrendered by The Calgary Humane Society shortly after his former owner dropped him off at the shelter in a plastic bin claiming that she could no longer provide for him. Harvie’s most-recent former owner admitted that she had only had him for a week or so prior to which someone else had had him for a few weeks. As this is a common pattern that sadly so many potbelly pigs suffer through, it is most likely that this poor old boy was passed off from home to home several times before ending up at the shelter.
Harvie’s most recent rejection of a home claimed that it was due to his alleged aggression with “climbing on top of her children” that she was not able to keep him. Since Harvie was an intact male and none of his multiple former homes had bothered to have him castrated, it was easy to see where his frustration, dominant traits and alleged aggression was stemming from. Harvie’s most-recent former home also claimed that he was no more than eight months old. As he had a full grown set of tusks that were protruding from the sides of his mouth and he appears to be a fully matured pig, it is more likely that Harvie was between the ages of three and four years of age at the time of his most recent and final surrender.
It truly never ceases to amaze me just how ignorant some of these people that think; “having a potbelly pig would be oh-so-much-fun!” really are! At the very least one would hope that even the simplest minded individual would consider doing some basic research before going out and getting a pig as a pet.
Fortunately for Harvie, his ordeal with dealing with ignorant people that don’t understand him is over as he is finally home at The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary. Harvie, an especially timid boy by nature (go figure with his former owner’s claims of aggression!) has found a friend in Hamlet, another timid pig with whom he currently shares a stall.
Talula (Potbelly Piglet)
This young girl’s story is one of heartbreak and anger as it makes your blood boil when it reveals the callous cruelty that some people in this world are capable of. Talula began her life as a once-loved and cherished precious pet but when her family grew tired of her they not only kicked her out of their home in the middle of winter, but they locked her out of their yard as well. In the bitter cold and at no more than a few months of age, Talula struggled to stay alive as she desperately scrounged for morsels of frozen garbage amongst the bins in her former family’s back alley. With no protection from the cold, Talula’s only hope was to find shelter amongst the garbage to keep her tiny body from freezing to death. Cold, hungry and alone she wandered the back alley for more than a week all the while the lowlifes that had abandoned her continued to ignore her agony. Talula was eventually picked up by a stranger that took her into the local veterinary clinic. Shortly after, I was contacted by the Riverview Veterinary Clinic in Devon, Alberta asking for R.A.S.T.A.’s help.
As Devon is a small community the identity of the individuals that had abandoned Talula was known and thus I had requested that charges be laid. I am still waiting to hear back for the result of the investigation. Fortunately for Talula, her story is one that ends happily at The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary but for so many other potbelly pigs, as well as countless other animals suffering from homelessness as a result of being abandoned by their once-loving families, their stories do not have a happy ending.
I am grateful to the Riverview Veterinary Clinic for all their patience and help in caring for Talula until I was able to prepare a space for her in the barn and for also coordinating her ride to the Sanctuary. I am happy to report that Talula has not suffered any life-threatening conditions as a result of the abuse she had endured and that she has recovered completely from her ordeal and is once-again a happy little girl enjoying her childhood. Talula currently shares a stall with Webster, another young piglet and Myla, an older mother figure.
Daisy-May (Potbelly Pig)
Surrendered on the very same day as Myla, just a few hours later, Daisy was also given up by her owner who was no longer able to provide for her. At just over one year of age, Daisy who had come from a “specialist micro mini pig breeder” (AKA professional scam artist!) was already suffering from cataracts among other health issues. Despite the breeder’s claim of expertise, premium specialized breeding lines and unbelievably high sale prices (as much as $2,500 for a piglet!!) Daisy was suffering from mange (a highly contagious and yet easily treated uncomfortable condition caused by mites crawling on the skin) when she was purchased from the breeder. Fortunately for Daisy, her former owners sought immediate veterinary attention for her ailments and took the best care of her they knew how.
However as first time pig owners, Daisy’s former parents quickly learned just how intelligent, sensitive and emotional pigs truly are and when Daisy began to urinate relentlessly around their home declaring her unhappiness they eventually realized that they could not meet all her needs adequately.
When they contacted the breeder regarding Daisy’s escalating issues, the once-promised ironclad “guarantees” were quickly rescinded leaving Daisy’s owners feeling abandoned, helpless and frustrated. Fortunately The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary was in a position to take in yet another pig in need of rescue, even a designer one.
Despite the hardships Daisy’s former parents had endured due to being misled and downright scammed by the crooked pig breeder, I hold onto the hope that they will one day choose to be a part of Daisy’s life and help me with providing care for her for the many years she has yet to come.
Maggie-May (Potbelly Pig)
Originating from the very same irresponsible breeder as Daisy-May, Maggie-May was surrendered by her owner (a completely different family) just a couple of months after her sister Daisy. Received just two days before Christmas of 2011, Maggie was given up due to allergy issues in her home. As a result of being kept separate and isolated from the members in her family suffering from allergies, Maggie had begun to develop behavioral issues including aggression towards her owners. Such behavior is common among pigs that feel depressed and excluded from family life.
After contacting the breeder regarding the issues concerning Maggie, her former parents got the same run-around as did Daisy’s former parents and not surprisingly the breeder refused to claim any responsibility, take Maggie back or even help out in any way whatsoever. Once again, this blatant refusal to assist with Maggie (one of many pigs the breeder had made a great deal of money on and was essentially responsible for bringing into this world) came after she had “guaranteed” she would follow through and always be there to help. This could not be further from the truth as the breeder had proven herself time and time again to not care in the slightest about the welfare of the animals she was exploiting once the money form the sales of her piglets had changed hands.
I was happy and relieved to learn that this particular breeder had since taken down her website and even skipped town (perhaps others she had scammed had driven her to do so…?) but my relief was short lived as I was informed that she had moved to Red Deer and just a few short months later I started to receive calls of unwanted and abandoned piglets from that area.
After a careful re-introduction, Daisy-May and Maggie-May appear to have remembered one another and were happy to be reunited. Affectionately nicknamed “The May Sisters”, the girls enjoy spending much of their time together exploring the sanctuary and meeting the seemingly-endless stream of other pigs that have suffered the heartless, greedy and downright cruel exploits of irresponsible breeders and the novelty pet industry.
Webster (Potbelly Piglet)
At just a few months of age, this little boy was surrendered by The Red Deer SPCA shortly after he was received “from a friend of a friend that was not able to keep him”. After speaking to the initial party that alleged to have received Webster as an “unexpected gift from a friend whose name eluded them and that they had no way to contact” it became clear that I would be unsuccessful in retrieving any useful or valid information about his origins.
After learning that the initial “home” had kept Webster in a Rubbermaid container for much of his short life it became imperative to get him away from them as soon as possible. As a small volunteer-based organization with limited resources I regretfully do not have a pick up service, let alone an out-of-town pick up service, as so many people that demand to get rid of their pets “right now!” want me to have, but yet are unwilling to contribute towards.
I was thus very fortunate to have found a friend at The Red Deer SPCA that took it upon herself to drive little Webster down on her own time all the way from Red Deer to the sanctuary in De Winton, something that Webster’s former legal “guardians” simply refused to do. To add to my good fortune, my new friend from The Red Deer SPCA also managed, by some miracle to get a $100 surrender fee out of the former owners which she transferred the full amount to The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary to help go towards Webster’s neuter. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you Amy as your compassion and support is truly appreciated more than you know!!
Widget (Potbelly Pig)
Widget was surrendered by The Calgary Humane Society shortly after he was dropped off by his former owner who was no longer able to provide him with the specialized care that potbelly pigs require. Being given up at five years of age has been very hard on Widget as he has had a lot of new things to adjust to.
Due to his extremely timid nature, Widget’s socialization with other pigs and people, as well as his adjustment to a completely new way of life has taken him a lot longer than most of the pigs. To help Widget build his confidence, he has been integrated with three of the baby pigs with whom he currently shares a stall as well as a day-time grazing pasture.
Junior (Potbelly Pig)
Junior was surrendered as a two-year-old intact (non castrated) pig by his owner who was moving and unable to take him along. At the age of two years, Junior (formerly Buddy) had spent the majority of his life living in a basement suite in Calgary where he was kept confined to a washroom “so he wouldn’t destroy the house”. As Junior was not castrated at an early age he had developed a great deal of aggression and had actually attacked the owner’s girlfriend landing her in the hospital.
Over the past year at the sanctuary, Junior’s aggression has subsided a fair amount.
Zoe (Potbelly Piglet)
Zoe has one of the more “creative” stories as to where she came from. Although she was surrendered by The Red Deer SPCA, she was received the same day by a lady that claimed; “that she was asked to watch a pig while ‘this guy‘ (whom she didn’t know) went to the store”. Needless to say, “the guy” never came back and Zoe was dropped off at the SPCA which later contacted R.A.S.T.A. for help.
Oddly enough, Zoe was initially named “Bruce” when she was surrendered leading me to believe that she was a boy. This observation alone gave me some pretty good insight as to just what kind of a home Zoe came from. It often makes me wonder about the general competence of people when grown adults can not tell the very obvious difference between a boy and a girl.
Although the stories that people tell me as to how they came to “find” a potbelly pig or (if they actually admit that it is their pet) why they can’t keep it vary, in the end the outcome is always the same in that it never works out! And yet again, this affirms my very strong belief that people should not breed or buy potbelly pigs!
On the lighter side of things, I wish to thank Amy Corpe from The Red Deer SPCA for once again chauffeuring a rescued pig on her own time all the way from Red Deer to The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary in De Winton. I am also happy to report that Amy has generously chosen to sponsor little Zoe and Webster!!
Suzie & George (Potbelly Piglets)
Suzie and George, formerly “Charlotte” and “Wilbur” were rescued from The GuZoo roadside zoo in Three Hills Alberta by a couple of concerned individuals who were worried about their well being at the roadside zoo. After several weeks of fostering the piglets and kindly having them spayed and neutered they were eventually surrendered to The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary.
The piglets’ names were changed because there is already a “Charlotte” and “Wilbur” at the sanctuary and having the same names for animals of the same species makes things too confusing for both the volunteers and the animals alike. Suzie and George were affectionately named after two very special volunteers and friends of The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary.
Since coming to the sanctuary, Suzie and George have made many new friends and experienced a great deal of new and exciting things such as playing in kiddie pools, wallowing in mud, rooting up the earth, sampling an array of fresh fruits and veggies, grazing in sunny pastures and burying themselves in mountains of fluffy golden straw.
Hamlet (Potbelly Pig)
Yet another potbelly pig surrender, this time given up due to a move. As R.A.S.T.A.’s barn was literally maxed out for space with all the box stalls occupied at the time of Hamlet’s surrender, I was not able to accommodate him immediately at the sanctuary and it was necessary for him to spend some time at a foster home. At his former foster home, Hamlet lived with two other companions; Jack the sheep and Cornelius the rooster. Together the eclectic trio was affectionately known as “The Three Amigos”.
Hamlet has since made his way to the Sanctuary where he currently shares a stall with another potbelly pig by the name of Harvie.
As Hamlet’s former owners had promised to stay in touch and to help out with his care, it’s been three years now since his surrender and despite repeated attempts to contact them, I am most disappointed that I have never heard back from them.
Hanna (Potbelly Pig)
Hanna is a two year old female potbelly pig that was surrendered by The Calgary Humane Society. She was initially brought in to the Humane Society as an alleged stray by a couple that found her “wandering in the middle of the street” (in the city of Calgary) and were nice enough to stop for her to “hop into their car”.
In my fifteen plus years of experience in dealing with pigs, I have never had the good fortune as to be able to catch a stray pig in the middle of a street without the help of several volunteers, a series of elaborate chutes and several hours (sometimes days) let alone convince them to “hop into my car” – not to mention that potbelly pigs are not particularly good “hoppers”.
As I try to monitor Kijiji and various sales sites for fraudulent and inhumane animal ads (such as “Micro Mini” & “Tea Cup Potbelly Pigs” – of which there is no such thing!! And two-week old piglets ready for new homes, four-week old puppies, kittens, etc.) I noticed a photo and description of a two year old female potbelly pig in Calgary that was listed as “Free to good home”. I contacted the owners to warn them about the dangers of giving an animal away for free, especially a farm animal and suggested that they charge at the very least a minimal fee and be very careful with screening potential homes. I never received a reply. A couple of weeks later, Hanna was surrendered to The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary. Not surprisingly, she matched the description of the pig I saw in the photo on the kijiji ad.
At two years of age, it would have been nice to have at the very least known what her name was prior to her surrender. Nonetheless, the newly-named Hanna will have a wonderful forever home at The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary living like a real pig should amongst a large social group of other potbelly pigs in an enriched piggy-suited environment complete with wading pools, grazing pastures and plenty of space with unlimited rooting potential.
Hanna has since been introduced to all the other potbelly pigs at the sanctuary and I was able to raise enough money to have her spayed shortly after her surrender.
Fern (Potbelly Pig)
Fern was five years old at the time of her surrender, this time coming from The Cochrane Humane Society. She was given up by a family that was no longer able to care for her. As pigs are exceptionally intelligent, sensitive and loyal animals, they form very strong bonds with their families and will often go through a deep-set depression when they are given away, especially when they are older. Given Fern’s age, this was a concern for me and thus I had provided her with plenty of mental, physical and emotional stimulation as well as an array of “edible distractions” in the way of unique snacks. Similar to men, the easiest way to a pig’s heart is through their stomach!
Fern’s transition into her new life has gone very well and despite losing her family, I have managed to keep her spirits up and am happy to report that she has not shown any signs of depression.
Petunia (Potbelly Piglet)
Petunia was also surrendered by The Cochrane Humane Society after she was found wandering alone on the Morley Indian Reserve. She was suffering from mange, a painful skin disorder, and was cared for at a foster home until she was healthy enough to join the rest of the pigs at The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary.
Petunia has since been introduced to the many other pigs and farm animals at the sanctuary. She has made a close friendship with Bella and Baxter, two other young pot belly pigs rescued close to the same time as Petunia. The tiny trio had been affectionately named; “The Kindergarten Club”.
After a couple of weeks, Petunia went into heat. Although believed to have already been spayed due to what appeared to be an old surgical scar on the underside of her belly, it became evident that Petunia was still very much intact. I have since had her spayed by R.A.S.T.A.’s local vet in High River and she has recovered nicely from her surgery.
I prefer to use a side incision with the spaying of the pigs as these animals tend to have a greater concentration of fat in their belly area, there is a greater strain on the incision if it is underneath the animal and there is a risk of the stitches bursting open. Also, as potbelly pigs are very close to the ground, their risk of infection is far greater if the incision site is underneath.
Spaying and neutering potbelly pigs, as with most animals, is an absolute must as this greatly reduces aggression, behavioral and territorial issues as well as eliminates the risk of a number of cancers affecting reproductive organs and glands (testicular, uterus and mammary).
Bella (Potbelly Piglet)
Bella’s story began with her being sold by yet another unethical potbelly pig breeder to yet another admittedly uneducated individual who lived in Calgary (where it is illegal to own potbelly pigs) and wanted her simply because she was “oh so cute”. Having done absolutely zero research on the proper care of potbelly pigs and their needs, the owner eventually realized that Bella was indeed a farm animal with typical pig behaviors, like rooting and ripping up carpets. Shortly after, R.A.S.T.A. was contacted and I was pressured to take her.
Baxter (Potbelly Piglet)
Although Baxter (formerly “Linas”) came from a different home than Bella; his story is much the same, as it is with the majority of the potbelly pigs that come through the gates at the sanctuary. Baxter originally came from yet another potbelly pig breeder, this time in Airdrie who sold him to a family in Okotoks. Shortly after, the family realized that they were unable to provide Baxter with the care that he needed and so they re-sold him to a couple that lived in an apartment in Calgary. Four days later, he was surrendered to R.A.S.T.A. after his last home declared that an apartment was no place for a pig and they couldn’t believe that breeders would market these animals as “Apartment Pets”!!
Baxter’s former guardians were adamant about the young pig not being turned into a carcass on someone’s plate and thus were very happy to have found the R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary where he would be able to live the rest of his long life among many other pig friends, root up the earth, wallow in the mud, bury himself in straw and live like a real pig. Although Baxter’s former family claimed that they would help with me with the costs associated with his lifelong care, unfortunately I never heard from them again.
Update on Bella & Baxter
Although they came from a different home and one is black and the other white; Bella and Baxter have fallen in love. Their romance started the night that Baxter bailed his little girlfriend out of “jail” (her crate – as they were initially kept separated for safety reasons when not supervised) in the middle of the night. Ever since, they have been inseparable. Having Baxter neutered and Bella spayed has helped their relationship greatly as they do not have aggression towards one another or the other pigs at the sanctuary. They truly make the cutest couple!!
Maggie (Potbelly Pig)
Maggie (formerly “Babe”) was yet another surrender from The Calgary Humane Society shortly after she was received from an owner that was starving her; perhaps this was yet another breeder’s attempt at marketing a “Micro Mini Potbelly Pig” mother in order to sell more piglets or perhaps it was a home that was told to starve her as this would keep her small. I’m not sure as the information I received about Maggie’s past was vague so I can only guess but I was told that there was a cruelty investigation as a result of her emaciated state but have yet to hear back what charges, if any, were laid for the abuse that she suffered.
Maggie was in such poor condition when she came to R.A.S.T.A. that I had to keep her quarantined for some time. In addition to being severely underweight, Maggie suffered from some sort of fungal skin disorder which was believed to be ring worm. She was kept separate from not only the other pigs but all animals at the sanctuary and treated with rubber gloves, special creams, medicated ointments and various conditioning oils for quite some time until she was cleared medically.
I am happy to report that Maggie has recovered wonderfully, has since gained some weight and her skin has improved beautifully. She has benefited greatly from her new diet of fruits and veggies, grains and various supplements loaded with nutrients to help speed her recovery. She has since been socialized with the many other potbelly pigs at the sanctuary and enjoys grazing and napping in the sunshine.
Sophie (Potbelly Pig)
Sophie came to The R.A.S.T.A. family as an owner surrender. Sadly, Sophie spent her entire life living alone in a small dark shed with little to no stimulation and thus has had a great deal to adjust to since her arrival. Like most of the potbelly pigs that come to The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary, Sophie has never met another pig and at four years of age, it took her some time to adjust to family life.
Since her arrival, Sophie has had a lot of new and exciting experiences including feeling the warmth of the sunshine on her back, enjoying the refreshing experience of wallowing in the mud on a hot day, rooting around for hidden treats, and laying in a bed full of fluffy straw. Exceeding 300lbs. Sophie is currently the largest potbelly pig at the sanctuary.
Rosie (Potbelly Pig)
Rosie was regretfully surrendered by her owner who due to personal reasons was no longer able to provide her with care. Despite a slight weight issue, it is obvious that Rosie was greatly loved by her family as her hooves and skin were in great shape and she was a very social and happy girl.
Since arriving at the sanctuary, Rosie has met a number of new friends, both porcine (pig) and otherwise, and she enjoys going for long walks and exploring. Since, she is one of the more physically active pigs at the sanctuary this has helped her to shed a few pounds. Truly a beloved pet, Rosie’s former “mom” has sponsored Rosie (as well as two other pigs!!) by contributing monthly donations to help with her care and she plans to visit her also.
Update on Rosie
I am very pleased to report that Rosie has lost a great deal of weight and enjoys better mobility and vision as a result. It took her nearly three years to shed the excess pounds and get to a healthier body size as weight loss for potbelly pigs is a rather difficult and painfully slow process due to their slow metabolism and relatively inactive lifestyle.
In the above photos Rosie is in the midst of shedding and regrowing her annual bristle, hence the funny hair-do.
Max & Isabelle (Yorkshire Pigs)
These two cuties, believed to be brother and sister, were picked up as strays running down the road. They were approximately six months old at 250lbs. which is when pigs are usually killed and my theory is that they were the lucky two that got away while being loaded up for transport. Somehow, on their own they managed to find their way to less than 1km of the sanctuary gates! As there are no pig farms anywhere near R.A.S.T.A.’s area, it has always remained a mystery as to how Max and Isabelle suddenly appeared one day.
Although both animals are very large at an approximate weight of 900lbs. they are very gentle and eager to flop on their sides for belly rubs. Their size is truly impressive so much so that they stop traffic on the road in front of the sanctuary on a regular basis. Since the majority of pigs are killed as mere babies or shut away within the confines of factory farms where they spend their lives immobilized in Gestation Crates, most people never get a chance to see a full grown pig enjoying life.
Contrary to popular belief, pigs are not dirty or mean animals. Much smarter than dogs or cats, they are very intelligent as they have been documented to have the intellect of a seven year old child. They are extremely clean animals and will not go to the bathroom in their stall, unless they are not given a choice. The reason that they roll in the mud in the summer time is to cool off, protect themselves from the sun (as the mud serves as a sunscreen) and to protect themselves from the mosquitoes. They are very social, gentle and very sensitive animals.
Maya, Lulu, Scout, Maui, Joey & Pixie (Potbelly Pigs) and Sergio the Goose
R.A.S.T.A. initially received these six pot bellied pigs; a mother an her babies, along with one very large male pilgrim goose for safe keeping. The animals were seized from a bad home by The Alberta S.P.C.A. and brought to the R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary for a ten-day hold during which time the owner was given the opportunity to improve the living conditions of the animals. As the owner failed to comply, the animals were officially seized and legally transferred to The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary. I was very happy with this outcome as this potbelly pig family will remain together and unexploited for the rest of their natural lives, something that almost never happens for most animals, let alone farm animals.
Dolly (Potbelly Piglet)
Referred by The Calgary Humane Society, Dolly’s former owner surrendered her to The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary as he was no longer able to provide her with the proper care that she needed. Dolly has made several new friends since arriving at the sanctuary.
Rudy (Potbelly Piglet)
Rudy came to R.A.S.T.A. as a result of being returned to a breeder that no longer wanted him. At eight weeks of age, Rudy suffered a devastating injury in his short life resulting in a fractured and dislocated hip. Due to the injury, Rudy was unable to walk and simply standing up caused him a great deal of pain. Although many people would see this to mean the end of an animal’s life, I searched far and wide for a skilled veterinarian to help me save Rudy. I was very fortunate to have met Dr. Dave Dempsey from Highview Animal Clinic in High River that gave me the confidence I needed to go forth with a specialized, first of its kind, surgery that presented the potential of Rudy being able to walk again. Although such elaborate surgeries are more commonly done on dogs and cats as most people do not spend the kind of money it takes to save a pig’s life.
Left with a large scar on his left hip and a slight limp, as one of his hind legs is shorter than the other, Rudy has recovered wonderfully from his surgery and enjoys a full and happy life with the many other pigs at the sanctuary. He is now full grown and I’m very happy to report that he has regained full mobility and is even able to run!
Wilbur & Big Boy Rudy (Pet Pigs)
Once beloved family pets, these two young boys were rescued from their owner who had abruptly decided she no longer wished to provide them with the care that they needed. More specifically, their hooves were starting to get long and cracked and rather than having their hooves trimmed, the owner thought that it would be best to simply have the animals killed.
I was initially alerted to the urgency of the situation concerning the two pet pigs by a friend of the former owner who had called me very distressed and desperately pleading for my immediate help. She had told me that the owner had been calling around to local butchers and had also called her asking to borrow a shotgun. Fortunately for the boys, luck was on their side as local slaughterhouses do not butcher potbelly pigs, the cost of having two large animals euthanized by a vet can be quite expensive and discharging a firearm in the hamlet of De Winton is illegal. So at the end of the day, surrendering the animals to The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary turned out to be the cheapest and most convenient option. Transporting the two large pigs proved to be quite the challenge. However I was very fortunate to have the help of the owner’s husband, a kind-hearted, patient and gentle man as well as the help of a couple of very determined and very strong volunteers.
Upon their initial surrender, both pigs had some adversities to overcome. Big Boy Rudy weighed an astounding 326 pounds! He was officially the heaviest and most morbidly obese potbellied pig I have ever seen. Not surprisingly, he had a great deal of health issues due to his immense size. His vision was non existent due to the large fat rolls covering his eyes, his breathing was constricted and he had difficulty moving around and supporting all his excess weight. Also, due to a lack of essential training and socialization in his young formative years he lacked a great deal of social skills which had resulted in very dangerous and unpredictable aggression.
Fortunately for Wilbur, as his is still a young growing boy and his metabolism remains quite high, he was not afflicted with the same physical hardships as his friend. However as Wilbur’s hooves had been neglected for quite some time, they were overgrown and had some deeply imbedded cracks which made walking quite painful.
Update on Wilbur & Big Boy Rudy
Over the course of the last few years, both boys have made tremendous progress towards recovery. Both pigs have since had their hooves trimmed numerous times and made many new friends at the sanctuary. Wilbur has bonded very closely with Rocky, another large breed pig, while Big Boy Rudy has been integrated into the large and ever growing potbelly pig family. Big Boy Rudy has lost nearly seventy pounds which has made moving and breathing much easier for him and he has begun to regain a bit of his sight. His aggression has subsided and he is showing a renewed interest in life. Wilbur’s hooves have been treated several times with both oral and topical supplements and he is getting around with greater ease.
Jacob (Potbelly Pig)
This poor boy was purchased as a novelty pet, like so many potbelly pigs are and lived in small upstairs bedroom his whole life. At three years of age, he had never experienced the outdoors; never felt the warmth of sunshine on his back, the grass beneath his feet or enjoyed the fresh air. He also had never met another pig. In fact, his former owner informed me that her new boyfriend did not like Jacob and so she kept him locked up in a room all by himself and admitted she rarely went in to visit with him.
When I got the call about Jacob, the lady told me that he had grown too large (at 200 plus pounds) to manage the stairs in her home and thus was literally trapped on the upper floor. As she also had no means to transport Jacob to the sanctuary, some R.A.S.T.A. volunteers borrowed a truck and went to help with the herculean effort of removing Jacob from the home.
Once safe at The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary, Jacob, like the majority of the potbelly pig rescues, began to experience a whole lot of “firsts”; first time laying in the sun, first mud bath, first friend, first time grazing, first walk… Although it took Jacob some time to come out of his shell, as his previous world was so small and dull, he has since grown to enjoy the freedom his new and exciting life has to offer.
Rocky (Yorkshire Piglet)
I picked Rocky up as a stray running around the Balzac area when he was just a little baby. He was approximately three months old and his tail had been cut off, a common practice on factory farms where thousands of pigs are confined to tiny pens. Their tails are cut off and their testicles and teeth are ripped out at birth, with no aesthetic or pain medicine, to minimize the damage that they cause to one another while confined in insanely overcrowded pens.
As Rocky has been at The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary for a few years now, he has grown into quite a big boy at approximately 800lbs. He has formed a very strong bond with another large breed pig at the sanctuary named Wilbur. The two are practically inseparable.
Spartacus (Potbelly Piglet)
Spartacus is probably the one animal that I have had to work the hardest to get to the sanctuary. I was notified of a tiny piglet that got loose at a local auction yard and was running wild amongst dozens of cows in a stockyard. The staff at the auction informed me that they intended to shoot the piglet as they didn’t want a “crazy wild pig running around”. With this threat and the fact that it was the middle of winter, I knew that the little baby didn’t have much time and so I rounded up a half dozen volunteers, some nets and headed out. To make a very long story a little shorter, it took us two days to catch little Sparta but in the end we succeed and were able to bring him home safely.
Chelsea (Potbelly Piglet)
Formerly known as “Miss Princess Kitty Pickles”, this little cutie pie was surrendered by The Calgary Humane Society after they received her from a lady that was unable to keep her due to the City of Calgary’s restrictions on potbelly pigs.
Classified as farm animals; potbellied pigs are not allowed in the City of Calgary as well as most cities and towns! Potbelly pigs need to live on an acreage or a farm where they can be free to live as pigs and enjoy their natural behaviors such as rooting, digging holes, wallowing in mud and socializing with other potbelly pigs. As they can be quite destructive, it takes them no time at all to tear up a perfectly manicured lawn or the prized rosebushes!!
Charlotte (Potbelly Piglet)
Sadly, Charlotte’s story is one that is much too common. At just six weeks of age, Charlotte was purchased as a novelty pet from a pet store in Brooks, Alberta. Failing to do any research on potbelly pigs, Charlotte’s former owner quickly grew irritated with Charlotte’s “unpuppy-like” behavior” and one week later resorted to disposing of her at a local veterinary clinic with strict instructions of having her destroyed. Fortunately the clinic did not see ignorance as a justifiable reason to ending an innocent animal’s life and Charlotte was subsequently surrendered to The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary.
“At this point we have had so many potbelly pigs surrendered to the sanctuary that we may as well change R.A.S.T.A.’s name to “Alberta Potbelly Pig Rescue!!”
- Lucie Cerny, Founder R.A.S.T.A.