The Potbellied Pig

Writing a History of Suffering and Despair

Shelbyville, TN Abuse case, June 1, 2001…

Pigs starved to the point they could barely get up and their teeth were falling out, pigs with tusks grown through their cheeks into their jaws,

lice, distended bellies from malnutrition, huge tumors and worms......       A rare occurrence? Unfortunately not.. We rescue pigs in this state on a regular basis.. The aftermath of a fad gone cold and the lack of interest that follows. Even basics like food, water and hoof and tusk trims are often neglected because pigs are “hard to handle” as pets.

And health care? Even in some of the  " I love my pig! " homes, the planning and means to get a 200 pound pig to a vet for dental care or even life saving surgery is non existent.

When the new wears off, when the cute wears off, when they become difficult or too big or too costly, their lives are worth nothing to the people who have them and they lie in their own waste dying of cancer or despair  

      Verdict: Guilty

The potbelly pig fad swept America in the early 90's.

What happens when the new wears off?

Fate, above is one answer.

Alice, left, is another

Neither wildlife nor food animal, and often disallowed by county and city ordinances as pets, these pigs have no real place in our society.

Sanctuaries are full and every year a few topple and fall from the sheer impossibility of caring for so many.

Still breeders try to make that all important $10 off a few mange infested piglets with big winsome eyes.

Taken away from their mothers while they are tiny makes for a better selling product, but the piglets usually suffer and die in the hands of the inexperienced. Without seeking any information on care or behavior they take home a piglet. Soon annoyed by the behavior of this pet, which was supposed to be “just like a puppy” but instead screams  if picked up and runs from everyone in terror because it still carries its wild survival instincts and has no mom to run to, the discard pile awaits them.

 Babies as young as 3 weeks have been released to us by the shelters.

Babies 4 and 5 weeks have been handed around from one home to another, with dogs and children chasing and grabbing at them.. terrifying them into animals who, if they survive at all,  will have lifelong psychological problems.

Babies who should still be nursing and learning to be pigs (until at least 12 weeks of age) are being euthanized because they “didn't work out”.

Many pet owners discard one and go get another…... learning nothing more than…..  life is cheap.


In our country we have an Exotics Market. It is, quite simply, a way to exploit species of animals not common in the U.S.. by obtaining USDA importation permissions and doing some excellent marketing to create a demand at exorbitant prices. What becomes of the animals after the initial influx and the fad wears off is of no concern to anyone in the Exotics Market.

 In 1986, 14 sows and 3 boars were imported from Canada as exotic pigs and started a craze that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of innocent pigs dying horribly of neglect, abuse and owner disinterest.  The gene pool was irresponsibly small to create a viable healthy breed, and the marketing thrived on the ignorance of the public.  With the latest marketing of "Teacup" pigs, ignorance still seems to be winning and thousands more pigs will die from it.

Marketed as “house pets” and described as sweet tempered, intelligent and not exceeding 20 to 40 pounds at adulthood, people went crazy. I was there at the onset of this craze and saw pigs selling for $33,000 at a small auction barn in Lancaster, PA.  These animals breed at 52 days (boys) and 3 months (girls), have easily 2 litters a year and can be kept in small areas, like piggy mills. What a boon to the “quick buck” entrepreneur!  Now they are given away at every flea market and “thrown in” to livestock sales along with other pigs just to get rid of them.

The truth of the pig story is, they do not stay sweet tempered in confinement or small in size and need neutering and lots of room to be healthy and happy. They grow to be 120 to 200 pounds and require much medical care as they age..

The lack of good behavioral information has caused scores of thousands to be killed for behavior that is a normal part of becoming a mature adult in an unnatural environment. The deliberate misinformation of breeders of how to keep them small, by feeding them tiny amounts of feed a day, causes long lingering deaths from malnutrition as their organs fail to develop as they grow.

Most Animal Control and Humane facilities don’t offer them any services at all, not even a chance at a merciful death. 

Pigs simply aren’t very appealing as adults . A lucky few find their way to the handful of sanctuaries worthy of the name.  For the others, they are dumped in state parks, pushed out of cars along the road, used for baiting fighting dogs, sent to be killed in hunting parks, shot, taken to livestock sales for slaughter, or left out in the yard with no shelter or water to die of heat stoke, freezing or dehydration.


The story is full of bad endings to a life that started so full of promise in a tiny piglet.

               How big is the problem?

Statistically, the best estimate in 1995 was that the expectancy for a piglet was 1 in 200 that he would reach 2 years of age In 2009 that estimate is 1 in 1000.

The programs in place in this country to stop this landslide of brutality and death are few. The supporters are fewer still. Pigs simply don’t have the media and popular appeal that dogs, horses, lions, wolves and elephants do. Yet their suffering is too often a lifetime long. Please give them your compassion.

What can you do?

 Contact a sanctuary near you to lend your support to help these tiny immigrants who had no wish to be part of this Exotic business. Find out what programs they have that will help them help pigs everywhere. Here are a few ideas.

· Join the Kroger Cares gift card program where the sanctuary can earn money on every dollar you spend on groceries.

Tell people to read about potbellied pigs on our website before getting one..

· Become a Foster Home

· Find out if your employer has match giving programs and make a monthly or quarterly gift that is automatically doubled by the employer

· Donate sale items to the sanctuary for their sales

· Take a handful of sanctuary brochures and go to yard sales.. Ask for their left over items. Pickup the goods and deliver them to the sanctuary

· Make a “project” of a single item on the sanctuaries wish list.  For example.. We use at least 50 jars of peanut butter a year at the sanctuary for medication disguise.. At your next outdoor event or children's birthday party, ask everyone to bring a jar of peanut butter wrapped for judging.. Give a prize for the best wrap!

· Become a shelter hound.. Watch your local shelter for pigs needing rescue. Also watch Free Pig ads in local papers, on Craislist and direct them to our website

· Write a check or send stamps.. Every dollar given helps to save more lives


Tell the Pot Bellied Pig Story