Helen Woodward Animal Center (HWAC) is constantly in the news about particular canines or particular felines; perhaps groups of both, but seldom do we hear about them rescuing a Pot-Bellied Pig! A week ago, Monday, July 7th, a swine-sized stumper happened at the Center.
The Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pig named Sherlock Hams arrived in all his glory. Unfortunately the adoption facility in Rancho Santa Fe, California happens to be a “dog and cats only” type of rescue. But when the HWAC workers learned of his pitiful piggy “tail,” they decided to help Mr. Hams all the while educating the community at large about the perils of making uneducated purchasing decisions and how these purchases lead to the overcrowded companion pet shelter situation that occurs on an everyday basis.
While other animals arrive constantly from Southern California, Utah and Arizona, it is not often that the Center receives pigs of the “Teacup Pig,” “micro pig,” “pocket pig ” or “Juliana pig” variety. Although these pigs are one and the same, they have not been a typical choice for a pet until the recent craze. In recent years the public learned about these little creature’s sweet temperaments, surprising cleanliness and renowned intellects and decided that they just had to have one.
Unfortunately, the hype has led to an upswing in breeding the pigs as pets at costs from anywhere from $750 to $3,500 per pig. The buyers have been able to choose everything from the pig’s coloring to the size of their ears.
Normal pig sizes vary from 600 to 700 pounds so in comparison, these pigs are “teacup” in size but are still 120 to 250 pounds. Breeders don’t reveal this small bit of information. The size is overwhelming for many pig parents. In addition, the pigs are claimed to be hypoallergenic, but they do produce dander. If individuals suffer from allergies, they could potentially experience the same sort of allergic reactions that they do with other household pets, like dogs and cats.
Sherlock Hams was a Del Mar Fair “Swifty Swine Race” participant. The San Diego resident woman who purchased him had hoped to give her daughter a teacup pig as a present but couldn’t afford the elaborate prices of local breeders. When she inquired about the cute, black, pot-belly chasing Oreos around the pen, she was told she could take him home for $200 if she returned on Sunday when the Fair was closing. She did and, only hours later, Sherlock Hams was snuggling into his new bed and wagging his piggy tail when spoken to in a comforting voice. By morning, however, the woman who had purchased Sherlock was realizing her mistake. Completely congested and itching, she discovered that she was allergic to the new resident. She had never owned a cat or dog because of her problem with allergies but had believed the hypoallergenic myth of this newest fad in pets.
“We see this every day,” stated Animal Care Supervisor Amy Barnes. “An enormous percentage of our orphan pets were in someone’s home at one time or another. People think it sounds fun to have a pet and they enjoy looking at the cute pictures but they don’t do the proper research to really figure out if a pet is right for them.”
“This is why Humane Education is so important to us,” said Education Manager Heather Disher. “Helen Woodward founded the Center by starting with adoption and education. She knew that we really needed to change the perception of our responsibility to every living creature. We can’t be careless with the lives of the orphan pets we take into our homes. We put their lives in jeopardy if we decide we can’t care for them anymore.”
As for Sherlock Hams, he stole the heart of Center AniMeals Supervisor Erin Odermatt who has agreed to take him as her own. It seems this little piggy will finally go “all the way home” for good.
Helen Woodward Animal Center is a “dog and cat only” adoption facility. For information on local pig rescue, go to: www.grazinpigacres.org. For more information on Helen Woodward Animal Center, please go to www.animalcenter.org, call 858-756-4117 or stop by at 6461 El Apajo Road in Rancho Santa Fe. To view footage of Sherlock Hams, go to http://youtu.be/4fOTfuSIXzE.