A surprise 'drop-off' of a pot-belly pig at Helen Woodward Animal Center serves as a prime example of one of the major contributors to the overcrowded animal shelter system.
We hope that individuals will consider the responsibilities of owning a pet and do proper research before taking an animal, of any sort, into their home.
The staff members at Helen Woodward Animal Center are experts when it comes to the constant influx of orphan dogs and cats arriving daily from shelters throughout Southern California, Utah and Arizona. But on Monday, July 7th, a new arrival had staff members scratching their heads. A Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pig named Sherlock Hams stumped staffers when the "dog and cat only" adoption facility learned of his pitiful piggy "tail." Now the Center is hoping that unraveling the mystery of these pint-sized porkers will help educate the community about the perils of making uneducated purchasing decisions and how these purchases lead to the overcrowded companion pet shelter situation every day.
The "Teacup Pig" craze (also sold as "micro pigs," "pocket pigs" and "Juliana pigs") has seen an increase in recent years as the public learns of these creature’s sweet temperaments, surprising cleanliness and renowned intellects. The hype has led to an upswing in breeding pigs for pets at costs of anywhere from $750 to $3,500 per pig, with buyers able to choose everything from the pig’s coloring to the size of their ears. Unfortunately, breeders very rarely tell their buyers that while these pigs are "teacup" in comparison to their farm-bred brothers, who reach weights of 600 and 700 pounds, "mini" pigs average 120 to 150 pounds and may even reach 250 pounds. Additionally, despite being referred to as hypoallergenic, pigs do produce dander and individuals may suffer the same sort of allergic reactions they would experience with other household pets.
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.