Some farm animal sanctuaries in Nova Scotia say they are overwhelmed by the number of pot-bellied pigs being surrendered to them, typically after their owners decide they’ve gotten too big or are too much work.

Jen Lussing and her husband, Will Cooper, own Lailo Farm Sanctuary in Lower Canard, N.S. They’ve been operating the non-profit animal sanctuary in the Annapolis Valley since 2018.

Lussing said this isn’t a new problem, but it’s a growing one — which she thinks has been exacerbated by social media.

“Piglets are so darn cute and so tiny, and there is kind of a myth about teacup pigs or micro pigs staying like this little pocket-pet size, when the reality is that a mini pig is any pig under 350 pounds,” Lussing told CBC Radio’s Mainstreet Halifax.

“So most of these pigs grow to about 70 to 150 pounds — a lot of them over 200.”

A woman crouches down to take a photo with a black pot-bellied pig.
Jen Lussing is shown with Hank, the first pig they took in at the sanctuary in the Annapolis Valley. (Jen Lussing)

Lussing said they’ve received about 30 requests to surrender pot-bellied pigs this year alone. Most are from people who had them as pets.

She said they’ve had to turn down most of them to keep the number of pigs on their farm to a sustainable level. 

“I was just feeling very overwhelmed,” she said, adding that they recently hit their limit of 10 permanent pig residents after taking in two adults.

She said they spent months trying to adopt them out, but didn’t get any offers.

“I think they’re super special, but there was nothing super unique about them or anything and we ended up just integrating them with our herd and they now live here permanently,” she said.

A group of small pot-bellied pigs snuggled together in some hay.
Lailo Sanctuary Farm has a maximum of 10 permanent resident pigs, but they take in some that can be adopted out. (Lailo Sanctuary Farm/Facebook)

Lussing said they’re also about to receive two young pot-bellied pigs that will go into their rehoming program, as they’re easier to adopt out.

Emilie Pece and Jessica Arseneault, who own Dandelion Acres Homestead and Rescue in Westville, N.S., say they are experiencing the same problem.

The couple started their sanctuary in March and have already taken in 60 pot-bellied pigs, about half of which were surrendered by pet owners. The others were either rescued from slaughter or were born on the farm from mothers who were rescued.

Arseneault said they receive one or two calls a day from people looking to surrender their pigs, usually when they’re four to six months old.

Pigs are seen outdoors.
Dandelion Acres Homestead and Rescue in Westville, N.S., has about 60 pot-bellied pigs in their care. (Dandelion Acres Homestead & Rescue/Facebook)

That’s when they start becoming hormonal, and possibly aggressive in some situations, if they haven’t been spayed or neutered, she said.

“Most people give them back once they realize they’re a little bigger than they want, or a little more sassy because pigs are like toddlers, but for life,” Arseneault said.

Pece said it’s disheartening that people choose to surrender these animals, because they are so special.

“They all have such intelligent and unique and funny personalities. They can learn to do all kinds of clever tricks, and they have great memories,” Pece said. 

“There’s just something about the way that they look at you like they’re like kids, they really are like children, and I think that gets overlooked a lot.”

Do your research before adopting

Lussing said people should do their research before adopting a pot-bellied pig as a pet. They should also determine what local veterinarians look after pigs and ensure they have enough space indoors and outdoors for the animal.

She said hobby farms with a warm, dry draft-free enclosure and space to run is always best, but pigs can also be kept in a home if they have the space and access to the outdoors.

If they are still interested, Lussing said they should consider adopting them from a sanctuary, rather than a breeder. They should also make sure the animal has been spayed or neutered, she said.

Mainstreet NS9:02N.S. farm sanctuary overwhelmed by pot-bellied pig overpopulation

Featured VideoLailo Farm Sanctuary’s phone has been ringing off the hook lately. The farm’s owners, Jen Lussing and Will Cooper, say it’s because there is currently an overpopulation of pot-bellied pigs in Nova Scotia, and people are looking to give them up. Host Jeff Douglas spoke with Jen about the problem.

She said about 90 per cent of pot-bellied pigs are rehomed in their first year. They can live to about 20 years of age.

“It’s really sad and for such a smart animal, it’s really tough on them … they’re not just like a dog. I mean, they’re amazing, but they’re their own unique animal, so they require different care.”

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