Pigs as pets? Animal shelter hopes to deter potential buyers

Lucie Cerny is the founder of Rescue And Sanctuary for Threatened Animals (RASTA), a no kill & cage-less rescue organization in De Winton. Global News

CALGARY – An Alberta-based animal rescue operation is warning of a growing number of unprepared people purchasing pigs as house pets.

They’re cute and can even be trained to use a litter box – but Lucie Cerny warns they’re often too much work for many homeowners to handle.

Cerny is the founder of Rescue And Sanctuary for Threatened Animals (RASTA), a no kill & cage-less rescue organization in De Winton, located about 30 minutes south of Calgary.

She says there’s a seems to be a growing trend of people purchasing pot-bellied pigs as suburban pets, thanks to misinformation about the breed and breeders who make fraudulent claims.

RASTA has 50 pigs that have been surrendered to their organization and another 24 in foster homes. In fact, they have so many pigs that they can no longer accept the animals.

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“Less than five per cent stay with original owners,” explains Lucie. “Before they’re even a year of age they’re given up.”

Lucie cautions that some breeders claim to sell “Micro Mini” or “Tea Cup Potbelly Pigs” – which don’t exist.

The average size of a potbelly pig is 120 to 250 pounds.

“Anybody that thinks pigs are cute come on down to the pig sanctuary and get a feel for what they’re really like,” says Lucie. “Rather than the fantasy of having a purse pet.”

Laura Combden is a pig owner who can relate to Lucie’s warnings.

She purchased her pet potbellied pig Mickey when he was just eight pounds – but five years later he has now ballooned to nearly 200 pounds.

“I did a lot of research,” explains Laura. “A lot of the websites said they’re really smart, they’re really clean, they make good pets and they stay generally quite small.”

About three years after purchasing Mickey, things started to change, and the farmyard animal started showing aggressive tendencies and growing tusks.

“They start treating people like pigs,” shares Laura. “If you don’t show your dominance, he’ll take you down.”

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She’s in a unique position, offering advice to people contemplating purchasing one of the animals as someone who owns one herself.

“I don’t want anyone else to do it,” she cautions. “When you talk to people about it they say ‘oh yeah, I’ve heard they make really good pets.’ Everyone tells me that every day – and I don’t think they do.”

NOTE: The City of Calgary says potbellied pigs are not permitted as pets in the city under the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw 23M2006. Potbellied pigs acquired prior to March 2006 may be permitted, provided that the animal is appropriately cared for, and that keeping the animal does not pose any environmental concerns or nuisances in the neighbourhood.

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