Bought as a Piglet—with a Promise that she was a “Mini”—Amy’s Story Reflects All-too-Common Misunderstandings about Pet Pigs
BOSTON and Methuen, Mass. Dec. 18, 2018 – Two-year-old potbelly pig “Amy” was bought online in 2016 and shipped from Texas to live with a Franklin, Mass. couple who thought they were getting a “mini pig”—that is, a pig who would stay small and dog-like for her entire life and be comfortable living exclusively indoors.
That illusion was shattered once Amy started to grow. And grow she did, until she outgrew her small space, leading her owners to surrender her to the MSPCA at Nevins Farm in Methuen.
“The truth is that many pigs are sold by breeders with the promise that they will stay very small—like the size of a Chihuahua, for their entire lives, and that just isn’t true,” said Ellie Monteith, manager of the equine and farm animal program at Nevins Farm, where Amy has been living since she was surrendered on Sept. 27.
“Mini Pigs” – A Fad is Born
The MSPCA at Nevins Farm begin seeing a sharp increase in pig surrenders and in the last five years has taken in 96 homeless pigs. “Half of these surrenders are due to owners who only realized after their pigs grew larger than expected that they could no longer care for them,” Monteith added. “Pigs make wonderful pets but it’s essential that we know what we’re getting ourselves into when we decide to take one on.”
Amy’s former owners kept her inside their small and cramped house for the majority of her life. Uninformed about the specific dietary and exercise needs of pigs, they fed her anything and everything they could: from meat and vegetables to cookies and donuts. And they fed her far too much. The situation quickly grew out of hand.
“She got tremendously fat because she was fed too much of the wrong foods and was given no opportunity to exercise or express normal pig behaviors such as rooting and wallowing,” said Monteith who ultimately helped remove Amy from the home and transport her to Nevins Farm. “She was at least 100 lbs. overweight when we got her and was easily one of the fattest pigs I had ever seen in my life.”
“Lethargic and Depressed”
Largely due to her size, Amy could barely move, and she showed zero enthusiasm for any type of effort. “Basically she spent the first few days refusing to move—we had to coax her to take just a few steps to earn some food,” said Monteith.
The barn team put Amy on a strict diet that, combined with movement in the form of “piggy aerobics,” essentially encouraging her to walk the length of the barn several times throughout the day, started to yield results.
Amy has lost about 20 lbs. since she arrived and Monteith is hoping she will shed another 70-80 lbs. More than anything, Monteith hopes to find an educated owner willing to open their home and yard to Amy during the Holiday season.
“Most people just don’t know how to take care of pigs—which for years now have been marketed by unscrupulous breeders as no different from dogs in terms of their daily needs. For starters, they need plenty of time outside to root and explore, and they don’t need nearly as much food as most people feed them, because pigs have a tendency to gain weight easily.”
Monteith would also like to see the marketing of “mini pigs” come to an end. “We cannot stress this enough: if someone tells you they’re selling ‘mini pigs’ who will stay small for their entire lives, they are not telling the truth. The only mini pig is a guinea pig—so anyone who wants to bring home a pig should first understand their care needs to ensure the match is a success. And we’ll help in all ways that we can be sharing what we know!”
Brighten Amy’s Holiday by Adopting Her!
Nevins Farm receives about 60 calls per year from people who want to surrender a pig. “We are always, always looking for homes for these wonderful animals,” said Monteith.
A full roster of adoptable pigs can be found on the MSPCA-Nevins Farm Website and questions about Amy can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.