Shepherd's Green Sanctuary



                                               More than Survival


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Guide to the Impossible Save; A Rescue Roadmap

When a large number of pigs is discovered in need somewhere.. what can you do? These are usually pigs in horrible conditions, inbred, unaltered, suffering from malnutrition and all the rest of the ills that are heaped upon pigs without care.. they are cold, hungry, many pregnant,... how can these pigs find safety?  Since the first national disaster of the Marshall, NC pigs in 2002,  I have been involved in many of these, either directly or as an advisor/remoter helper.  Right on its heels that same year,  Florida's pig problem got put on the map, which has been a frequent event there ever since, where the climate and lack of animal welfare law has made it possible. And in between there have been crises on the order of 70 to 100+  pigs  in CA, MO, NY, MI and other places.   It is a fact that it is far easier to save a herd of 100 than a group of 12. No disrespect intended in this statement, it is simply that the bigger the disaster, the more noteworthy it becomes and the hearts of Americans respond.. Katrina, the tsunami, 9/11..  all these have been met with generosity and true caring because the need was so great. .

The numbers of animals involved will dictate where the best help will come from. Many national foundations and organizations may involve themselves in a 100 pig rescue where only your local shelter, if that, will help with a 5 pig rescue in Plainville, USA..

  Help is available. This roadmap will point you in some of the directions to find it; don't stop here.. ask others for their experiences which may add more to your resource pile.

The process of salvation is the same everywhere. It starts with one person taking on the responsibility of Champion. Ideally it is a local person with pig experience but may have to be a more distant pig sanctuary director or rescue working closely with a local task manager. This person will have the task to find transports, grants, send out the initial well detailed please for help to the animal welfare community. Regular updates of information and steps of the process completed keep the community aware and willing to help with the next steps

Here's the outline of things that need doing if the pigs are to have a chance. First and most important is to get the local team in place. It should include the spokesperson, legal owner or caretaker of the pigs, the decision maker.. When you have a transporter from 220 miles away at the door to pick up pigs, the spokesperson can't be calling her son or nephew to see if its OK to take the pigs. Get one  person committed to being the single decision maker. You need to have one person to call to say we are coming over today with fencing or pools or whatever. Someone has to work with you or you can quickly lose the impetus. Calling the son every time the volunteers need to get on the property and finding he is out of town or in a meeting or will call back will kill the rescue effort. If necessary, get a statement signed that allows you on the property to do rescue work with nothing but a phone call (leave a message). Having the next step at your side makes this all tidy and legal.

        The local Humane society or animal control agent . If they are reluctant to help.. INSIST.. that their knowledge of policy and protocols is necessary even if they don't actually DO a damned thing.. give them recognition and include them in every activity and email .. it is politically necessary and may someday actually result in a far more favorable environment at the shelter for some poor pig dropped there.

        Law enforcement may be taking no stand, and no charges may be filed at all but the local sheriff should be kept in the loop. If at some point resistance or a legal problem arises.. you won't be starting over. It is their job to assure the welfare of animals.. whether they choose to or not..  . Appeal to what they feel good about.. being a defender.. that's why they became police.. to defend the helpless. No matter where the realities of the job may have taken them, there is still that basic desire at the core. Use it. If they are willing to dispatch a deputy with you at every trip this is excellent and lends a lot of "substance" of the right type. Volunteers.. you will need a few people, hopefully one or two with trucks to haul supplies. .. won't hurt if they have credit cards that aren't full too! Short term you may need money on the spot.. it can be reimbursed later. Be sure you have the animal abuse laws in writing in you pocket, even the companion animal law,  as by definition in some places, potbellied pigs are companion animals.. the logic and history will help your argument even if the law doesn't spell it out in your state. Abuse Law by State.  These laws usually define exactly what and who can take on rescue authority.

Immediately get a local vet into the loop so that he can be anticipating what he needs to treat or care for those in need and be ready for the next medical issue which will be a group rate on neuters and abortions.

The big picture has three sections: Immediate need, Action Plan and Implementation

Immediate Need

  • Whether these pigs will ultimately be placed or euthanized, today they need their suffering addressed. Shelter, food and water.. a warm bed and a full stomach are the most important things in the world on day one.  The cost is low, the materials available. We suggest straw for bedding and a baby pig chow for the added nourishment it will give, but plain hog finisher will be fine if that's all that available. 
  • In a temperate climate where temps don't go below 12 degrees. easy to construct shelters can be made of cattle panels, plastic and tarps. Individual shelters can be made by standing on a cattle panel ( lying it flat on the ground)  to bend it at about 1/3 its length to make a floor section. Then arch that remaining panel to form the roof of the "dome." Cut a panel (you need bolt cutters) to make a "back" and wire these parts together. (You can also use hog rings and hog ring pliers which are easy to fasten but harder to take apart later) Cover with 6 mil plastic and then a tarp to secure it. Place it where its flat and dry, cover the "floor with sawdust or shavings and fill with hay or straw. Fasten a blanket over the front as a door. Each one  will take about 20 to 30 minutes to construct and costs about $20-25  and will house 4 to 6 pigs. Fasten two domes before adding the back and you can save some time and money and house more in a group. The structure shown is bigger and more permanent, used for summer shade, but the concept and materials are the same. By folding the panel as described it makes a quick, self supporting structure in minutes
  • But in colder climates, you will need lumber and builders or heavy duty plastic hutches, available through farm supply stores. You can, in a pinch use a water tank as shown below with a door cut in it and a rug put over the door. (Fancy "ladybug" spots are not required!) .. Each pig needs about 6 square feet at a minimum to sleep in.  The fastest construction will be A frames of plywood and 2x4's. Plywood is just barely wide enough to be used in an A-frame  as the horizontal if the pigs are normal pot bellied sizes.  The main objective is dry draft free shelter. Cover the front entrance and the side entrances (two are really needed to assure everyone can get in), with bath rugs to keep out the wind. Fill it full of bedding. A floor is a plus but if there is good dry ground it will work with a deep layer (1 foot or so) of sawdust if available under the bedding.  Ask the builders to put these huts together with screws as all these materials can easily be removed and sold or used elsewhere later.  You will need every penny for vet costs to spay and neuter. and transporters . so housing needs to be temporary in economic terms as well as real time terms.
  • Separate the sexes.  Abort all females over 3 months old..( typically larger than  football size and weaned). Neuter all males. Make every effort to find a remote facility to house the boys while you go through this process.. Errors happen and one boy doesn't get neutered .. the vet misses that second testicle on a day when he has just removed about 100 of them .. that boy gets returned to a herd of 40 girls who have all been aborted and thus are all coming into heat and you have just created your second major rescue.. because you won't have a clue what's happened until the piglets start being born or you start spaying very pregnant girls. .  Separating the pigs for a few weeks will not break family bonds, once returned to the herd they will find their families and re-unite.
  • If no separate facility is available, put up fences  to  separate boys from girls.  Pens 50x50 are big enough to hold 50 pigs short term. . Use posts every 6 feet and use hog panels or cattle panels for the fencing. It is easily put up, then taken down and used or sold at the end of the rescue and goes up fast with no special skills or expensive tools. You will need a fence post driver, a pair of lineman's pliers to cut and twist wire, steel posts, the 16 foot panels and some tie wire (we uses the green coated clothesline wire.. solid wire center, not stranded. Fasten tightly.). Two 50 x 50 pens can be up in 2 hours with one or two helpers.. (see the Pig Care section for pictures of this type of fence) Piglets still with their moms should be taken to the vet for neuter and returned to the moms, do them ALL in one day to be sure you don't miss one. A vet can do this as a farm call .  Gather all the piglets, girls as well as boys and then return the girls. Attempts to sex and grab piglets selectively is too stressful on them. Trap and catch all of them. Put the girls back. Make sure that the people who help with this can identify a girl pig. Forget trying to ID boys "parts".. they hide too well.. look for a vulva.. its obvious.. (See sexing pigs on the pigcare page for pictures)
  • Immediate veterinary needs. A farm call to walk through the herd is beneficial if your vet is willing.. often he can see things as a herd that will determine the individuals general needs, like a cough that he knows is pneumonia and could sweep through the group. Worming and vaccinations are not usually advisable in the first few days or week.. Get them food, shelter and water, necessary  Vet care.. and then start on stage two. Get the sick to the vet or a rescue facility able to keep them warm and dry while you get them checked out one at a time

The Action Plan

You need to know what the goal is to present it for funding and support. Expressing it as I want to "Save the pigs" is not going to get much help. Formulate a plan that is reasonable and possible and associate the costs with it.  Break it down into its practical sections and work on getting one section completed. Too big a goal overwhelms a lot of potential volunteers and supporters. Some possible segments would be:

Medical costs including s/n.

Temporary housing and transport costs

Feed and hay

Prepare your data :

  1.  Evaluate the rescue in data terms.. so many boys, AVG ages, girls, pregnant moms expected,  current needs for shelter, fences to work them through. 
  2. Assign costs: each pig will cost about $200  to get from where he is to a new  home. That's all inclusive (s/n, temp shelter, transport, vaccinating & worming) and based on negotiating rates on everything. Consider it a minimum expected cost.       Break it down by sexes and averages.. avg neuter $60, AVG spay/juvenile $100, adult $150, transport $50.. etc.. (Rescue Transporters typically charge $1.25 to $1.50 per loaded mile plus their expenses (motel/ food) .. and you will plan a route that maximizes the travel miles so you can move 15-20 at once (A 16 foot trailer will do this easily) so if the haul is 300 miles ($450 + 75 for motel and 30 for food = $555/20 or roughly $30 each.) Alternate transport means are suggested further down in the resources section. . But figure the AVG cost at $30 - $40. Vaccinations will be essentially free as someone in the sanctuary business will supply them but for estimating costs you can use $3 each to vaccinate and worm. Aborting costs is dependent on the cost of the vet doing the procedure or a competent person with a needle and some pig experience. Its a dangerous drug to handle but not expensive. Adult females with babies need not be aborted.. the odds are low they are pregnant or at least very pregnant. They should be first in line for spays. .  Aborting is an expense that can be minimized by doing it yourself . One shot has always been sufficient in my experience, but I have done VERY few aborts.. so ask  your vet.. The alternative to the abort is to go very quickly into the spays. More pigs may be born in the meantime. For purpose of estimating costs, I would figure the vet might charge $20 each to abort if you take several at once, avoiding the individual "office call" fees.
  3. State the needs. This collection of data will be the framework for your appeal and the record you will place actual results against. State the needs clearly.. We need homes for 10 families of 6 pigs, 2 homes for a family of 9 and 7, etc..  better to market them as families than as individuals  when you are looking for people who truly care about the pigs and are involved in pigs already,  instead of people who "always wanted a piglet". who may very likely not be a good home in the long run.  Spell out the costs associated with the rescue and the categories of estimates. Nobody will be concerned much if you are not exactly right in the end.. you won't be far off.
  4. GET PICTURES!! Pictures are the single most persuasive item you have to encourage help from anyone.
  5. Have someone review the data and make any suggestions.. especially someone who has seen a lot of such disasters.. Vernon Weir at ASA might be willing to look at it and critique it or someone at the HSUS national HQ.. You are looking for expert knowledge and they would have it.
  6. Assign some local bank or "official" person to handle funds for the rescue if you don't have time to keep up with it. Make sure that all funds in and out are documented and the info posted. Be careful about who you choose to handle funds, the lives of many little pigs can be jeopardized by the hint of impropriety in finances. Better to set up a bank or ask some National Organization to handle the receipts.  SG can usually provide website space and update it frequently  to keep up the data for you and those who are supporting it.
  7. Ask others who have sanctuaries to send out a mailing (electronic is free and reaches a lot of people)  to their supporters on your behalf. We usually raise several hundred dollars quickly this way for someone doing a rescue . If 4 or 5 sanctuaries do the same its a significant contribution.


Inform everyone: Seek financial support from everyone.

Send the message by email and if necessary also by mail to the Sanctuary associations, asking them to publish it to their membership, to HSUS HQ in Washington and ask for the regional office contact info from them,  to all the sanctuaries so they can forward it on. Contact the organizations dealing with abuse in other terms, such as PCRM and FARM who can send it along to their memberships. Ask everyone to forward it to those in the business of rescue. (Links to these and other organizations will be found on our Organizations page). Contact vets and animal rescue groups in your immediate area for names of people they might know who are interested in PB Pigs that could be sources of help. Put up posters in the offices.   Send the message to all the local TV and radio stations and ask for a feature story.... they usually give good coverage.. Send it with a request for a specific dollar amount to the sanctuary / emergency  funds of NAVS, PetsMart, AHIMSA, Petco, UAN, and your local  Community Center Foundation.  Contact BEST FRIENDS for a feature story or financial help.

Be sure to include to the Community Center the well known (documented by everyone on the planet by now) connections between animal and child welfare.. it works to the benefit as well as the detriment.. something we often miss I think.... stories of kindness to animals promote more kindness.. its not always the negative side that animal abuse promotes child and spouse abuse.  Local  Community Centers exist in all major cities I think, and are a good source of funds and information.  What is a reasonable amount to ask of any organization depends of their normal limits. Consider your total budget and figure 10% would be a high request. 5% a reasonable one in most cases.  Of all the things that have to be done in a major rescue, finding funds isn't the most difficult.

Organizations most often  need a 501C3 rescue to make donations. Ask a sanctuary near you (its best to be local) to allow the throughput of funds for the project if you don't have a 501C3. Some have programs that allow them to do this. . Give them a detailed reckoning of every cost and payment and provide all receipts. 


  1. Funds may not come in quickly so private sources of temporary funds must be used..  Heaven bless the credit card.. it has saved more pigs lives than I can count.
  2. Shelter.  Finding a horse farm , horse boarding facility or even good dairy barn with vacant stalls you can rent is one of the best solutions to a lot of problems if the stalls are solidly built and well sheltered from the weather and away from other animals, especially any farm dogs who might climb in and kill them. . Boys can be kept separated there and make it easier for the vet to neuter them all.. take them from one stall, neuter, put them in another.. .. girls recovering from spays kept alone for a few days (we keep them up a week). You may be able to arrange feeding and watering from the barn owner.. though trust would be a big factor in such an arrangement.. Pigs aren't high on anyone's list of priorities.
  3. Neuters; a negotiated rate and the first funds should cover neuters..
  4. Spays     Negotiate a rate and a payment plan if money isn't there fast enough.
  5. Finding and assessing homes. If the pigs are wild and untouchable you have limited private home options but often it makes for easier placing  in existing larger facilities like sanctuaries.  Ask questions of prospective adopters, ask for vet references, ask the local HS in their area to do a home check. Ask people if they have a fenced yard, good solid wood house and all the rest.. Anyone who doesn't want to answer isn't qualified; don't waste time on "working with them" . They are too stupid to realize its about the pig, not about them. (as a dangerously old and cranky sanctuary director  I suggest you be  sure the pig isn't the most intelligent being in the household.)  If you an find a rescue with suitable facility to hold a group, that will relive some pressure while more permanent arrangements are found. Seek placements  by sending the details to ASA and  to Best Friends.  Contact FIREPAW in NY.. they are a good source of helpful people and information  (Email:  A lot of these contacts will not be able to take pigs but may have other helpful information for placements in the area.
  6. Transporting:There are a number of people who do rescues transports in various parts of the country and are known to the different  sanctuaries. .Contact  the sanctuaries you know, search the internet for rescue transports of farm animals. Be VERY careful about moving pigs in hot weather. 
  7.                 There is a fellow in Fl who travels widely on national rescues and has hauled for many of us across country. Danny Ross: 813-215-0988
  8.         Transporting pigs can be a difficult thing as weather conditions and equipment have to coincide with rescue. Using livestock trailers that are well ventilated by having little or no enclosure at the upper half of the trailer allow moving in warmer temps. We typically do not haul in a horse trailer if its under 45 or above 70. .  The warmer temps can quickly become deadly especially if hauling in a construction zone or other slow down.  Cooler temps can be compensated by deep, deep hay so they are protected from wind chill. Do not even think about using Uhaul type enclosed trailers. Livestock need adequate ventilation and heat will kill a pig faster than a bullet. With horse trailers be sure that the back doors are high enough to prevent jumping pigs escaping.  That is one of the most common dangers.. Horse trailers often have a door only 3 feet high and a frightened pig can hurl himself out over that to freedom. Put a group in there and they can climb on each other and easily go over.  Too many of this type accident occurs. I have seen them happen myself. So put a barrier of wood or a piece of cattle panel over the opening. All "out of range"  weather conditions need climate controlled travel. We have found rental vans or cargo vans to be excellent. for long hauls.  Always protect the vans from urine and droppings by a tarp and heavy blankets . A full size cargo van can haul 10 to 16 Small to AVG adults. Cargo vans have no windows which protects pigs from sun and from attempting escape by throwing themselves at a window (it happens.. I had one smash out a van window to escape once). If you need convincing that these are wild animals, haul them..  But once safely installed in a trailer in the right temperatures and with plenty of bedding, they will ride quietly and well and long distances can be covered before they need water or rest. Best to let them sleep and eat and drink on the trailer than to risk escape or even the stress of being loaded and unloaded. If an overnight stop is needed park in a quiet state park where they can rest too. City streets have all the restfulness of a nightmare.  Give them water and some snack food and let them relax as best they can.


Don't lose heart.. every day gets them closer to safety. Fortune may smile this one time on the little pigs you help.