In summer 2018, Hog Haven Farm received a call regarding placement for a pig that had seen gross neglect most of his life. A caring neighbor intervened on his behalf, feeding him meals every day, loving him, and giving him much-needed affection. Sadly, the neighbor couldn’t keep Steve or provide the home he needed–so to Hog Haven Farm he came!
At the time, Steve was grossly obese, having been fed an inappropriate diet (though at least his caretaker was trying). He was uninterested in pig food, and was not a big fan of humans, not having positive human contact most of his life. Additionally, his hooves were overgrown and tusks in need of a trim. He was given a spa day to get him on track with mobility (vital for starting a weight-loss journey), and we slowly began the long process of not only physical, but emotional rehabilitation.
Steve spent the first year at Hog Haven Farm as a solo pig; he is very tough and does not shy away from showing other pigs who is boss! He seemed to enjoy his solitude, though over time became more and more friendly with humans. Even better? Steve was losing weight, and was spending more and more time roaming the property and seeing new pigs in different areas. But after the first year, we never imagined that Steve would make pig friends.
In summer of 2020, things started to change for Steve. One of his neighbors, Magneto, lost his best friend and was grieving; Steve recognized this and would lay next to Magneto through the fence. After observing this new behavior for a week, we decided to put Steve in the pen with Magneto, to see what would happen.
Over the span of a few weeks, Steve befriended the sad Magneto, though they never formed a strong bond that other pigs have. They enjoyed each other’s company, for sure, but would not sleep together or cuddle together in the sunshine. We knew, however, that Steve was on track to forming new friendships, and we would let him choose who he wanted to be with!
Magneto found his forever family in September 2020, along with his pal Morrissey, and when Steve’s friend headed off, he chose his new pig family right away. Steve has always been around our “rockstar” pigs (Danzig, Sid Vicious and Rudy), and he began spending time inside of their pen! Not even a week after Magneto left, Steve began sleeping with his new pals. When it was time to close the gate after dinner, Steve refused to leave the rockstar pen and head back to his area–he was set with these new pals.
Steve has spent the past few weeks with Danzig, Rudy and Sid, and though he loves venturing out for grazing during the day, always returns to his new pen and new friends at night.
It took two years, but Steve finally found his pig family. Our hearts are full seeing him so happy, and thriving, among companions who really understand him!
A sad beginning, a wonderful ending…the story of rescue, rehabilitation, and adoption of a handsome pig named Leroy, as told by his new human mom, Susan.
My son David’s 10-year milestone birthday was July 1st this summer. He started wondering what pet he would get to commemorate it months beforehand, because his brother Danny had gotten his cat Serena for his 10th birthday. We had planned on getting Danny a turtle, but ended up adopting our beautiful tortoiseshell huntress—that’s another story. Pigs have long been David’s very favorite animal. He’s done his school reports on pigs, read adult books like “Esther the Wonder Pig”, tells everyone they are the 4th smartest animal, and gave up eating pork 2 years ago. His New Year’s resolution was to convince more people to give up eating pork.
I began looking into adopting or sponsoring a pig. My internet search uncovered Hog Haven Farm (HHF) and I submitted an adoption application. I also stumbled on a breeder’s website that said they sometimes did rehoming/rescue and listed an available pig named “Leya” (no picture). I’m guessing the prior owners had named him “Leia” after Princess Leia, because they told the breeder he was a pregnant female when they surrendered him to her in March (their young boar was mounting him all the time). When I called the breeder, she told me Leia was: “2-3 years old, small—about 40 pounds but should be closer to 50lb since the other pigs keep taking his food, scared and shy, and would really be happiest as the only pig.”
Even though he was younger than I wanted (pigs can live to be 15-20 years!) I decided to visit the breeder. What an experience—animals everywhere: goats, llamas, horses, chickens, turkeys, cats, dogs, and so many pigs. Big pregnant pigs, rutting pigs, young pigs, all going back and forth between pens. She tried to coax Leya to us with an apple, but other pigs butted him out of the way and demanded attention. He ended up finally laying down in a corner out of the way where I could pet him and see how thin he was. The breeder seemed nonchalant and un-invested in Leya—I could purchase him for only $75 (compared to a piglet which cost $600!). She recommended that I contact Erin at HHF, since I was interested in an older pig (they can live to be 20 years!). I told her I had an application in.
After we left, I couldn’t stop thinking about Leya. Meanwhile, my adoption application was approved to Hog Haven Farm, so I visited the next weekend with a friend. What an amazing place–over 120 happy pigs on 40 acres, some adoptable and some lifelong sanctuary pigs. Of the pigs Erin thought would be a good fit for us, my favorite was Chauncey—8 years old, super sweet, with a precious face. He had a sunburn that day, but would poke his head out of his shelter for treats and pets. Erin knew I’d visited Leya and was concerned about his condition and environment. The fact that he hadn’t “blown his coat” suggested he was highly malnourished. I made a plan to buy him from the breeder and bring him to HHF so he could be evaluated. Erin said she could provide him a lifetime home with the expert care that we suspected he would need.
I wanted to make rescuing Leia part of David’s birthday and really wanted my boys to see the contrast between the two environments—the breeder’s (where pigs are a commodity and treated as such) and HHF (where pigs are obviously cherished). David’s birthday was a couple of weeks away, but Erin and I were both concerned about leaving Leia there for that long, so I decided to make it a two-part event. First, we would rescue Leia as soon as possible and get him to Hog Haven, and then later for David’s birthday, we would return to Hog Haven to see how he was doing and consider sponsoring or adopting a pig. In anticipation, I bought a large crate, a harness, and a ramp off of Craigslist, then we headed to the breeder’s early on Wednesday, June 24th.
Leia was even skinnier and dirtier than my last visit, and the boys saw how skittish he was with the other pigs, who continually bullied him. The breeder explained how he was at the bottom of the “pig totem pole” and was constantly being picked on. She said that she’d been feeding him extra to try to make up for it. She quickly got the harness on him and got him loaded into the car (finally gave up on using the ramp and just picked him up). I had already paid for him and there was no paperwork to sign. She gave me her standard “new pig parent booklet” and some de-wormer to put in his food. Finally, we were off to Hog Haven Farm, which was a little over an hour away. During the ride, we tried out different names—I suggested “Leo” as being close to “Leia,” but David tried “Leroy” and our guest seemed to respond to it right away.
When we arrived at Hog Haven, my son Danny and Erin’s husband Andrew unloaded Leroy from the car to his pen. His happiness and gratitude were totally evident, as he explored his surroundings. He kept coming back to the boys and the goodies they were offering him. Erin was immediately concerned with how underweight Leroy was and noticed that he had a “rickety walk” in his hind legs, characteristic of severely malnourished pigs. Whereas the breeder initially told me he was 40 pounds and 2 – 3 years old, Erin predicted that he was closer to 80 pounds and several years older, based on the length of his tusks and wear on his teeth. She feared he would have ongoing health problems, be susceptible to infections, and have a shortened life based on his poor appearance, scoring him as a “1” on the body conditioning scale for pigs. In the neighboring pen was my buddy Chauncey and his roommate Norman. Chauncey came right out to see what was going on, “hot panted” me a greeting, and hopped into his pool. I visited with him while Leroy acclimated to his new digs.
When Erin was able to give Leroy a more thorough exam the next day, she discovered abrasions and hematomas, his hoof was injured, and he had lice. I texted this information to the breeder, and her response was very matter of fact about it all, saying “pigs heal quickly” and she would wait until the weekend to disinfect her facility. Lice are very contagious (to other pigs, but not other animals, thank goodness), and her matter of fact response and lack of concern was upsetting. Leroy had to be moved to the quarantine pen, where he could see the other pigs but couldn’t infect them.
Here he had a cute shelter, pool, and was conveniently close to Erin’s and Andrew’s house. By that weekend, Leroy wasn’t feeling well. Erin suspected that his system was reacting to eating pellets and grazing on grass, and that he was dehydrated. She took him to the vet, where they ran tests and kept him overnight for monitoring. As she’d predicted, his weight was 81 pounds and he scored a 1, the worst possible on the body conditioning scale–his ribs and hip bones could be felt with ease, though the amount of hair covering his body helped obscure these signs of malnourishment. It was scary to think how likely it is that he would have died if I had brought him home after picking him up from the breeder.
Leroy continued to be on my mind and in my heart, and as he improved at Hog Haven Farm, I started to hope that perhaps we could safely bring him home, particularly if we stayed in close contact with Erin and Andrew. Leroy surprised us all by blowing his coat, an encouraging sign that his condition was really improving–Erin feared he wouldn’t lose his coat at all this year. He looked pretty scraggly when I next visited him, but was as communicative as ever and really wanted scratches. Every visit he jumps up at some point to cool off in his pool. Then he comes back smelling like a wet dog!
Meanwhile, poor Chauncey had to go back to the vet. He skin and eye issues had cleared up but he was losing weight and not feeling well. We were so sad to learn his bloodwork showed a rare autoimmune condition—and one to which one of Chauncey’s peers, Stuart, had sadly just succumbed. Prior to learning this, I started questioning whether Chauncey was the right pig for us to adopt. It felt like he was withdrawing from me more and more each visit. As it turns out, the poor boy was feeling so badly—I know he really wanted to be with his human mama and favorite person, Erin. She is amazing in her expertise and devotion to all her pigs. She concocted delicious, nutritious meals with extra iron and supplements to help him keep weight on and battle the disorder, and Chauncey became an official house pig, at Erin’s side whenever possible.
Leroy, on the other hand, continued to greet us every visit, as if he knew we were the ones who brought him to Hog Haven. I was surprised and thrilled when Erin said she thought we could adopt Leroy. I had to persuade David, however, because he selflessly loves Leroy so much–he struggled with believing Leroy should stay at Hog Haven for his own sake. With Leroy’s improved health and the possibility of adopting him, David kept worrying that Leroy had been through too much and would enjoy his life at Hog Haven more than what we could provide him. Forty acres to roam and other pig friends is a pretty awesome way to live, after all. It took Erin telling him that she thought Leroy would have as good a life with us, given all the love and attention we could shower on him, for David to let himself give in to his deep wish that we could bring Leroy home. This felt right, and I knew if Leroy had health problems or was unhappy, Erin would welcome him.
Friday August 24th, adoption day, finally came—exactly two months after we rescued Leroy from the breeder. Even though it was another early start and he still grumped that we were crazy for adopting a pig, Danny wanted to come with us, which made David and I so happy. It seemed to take forever to get everything together (crate, ramp, blankets, harnesses, snacks for humans and pigs, water, etc.) and get to Hog Haven Farm. When we arrived, we spent some time visiting Burgie (sweetest earless rescue found wandering in Grand Junction) and the piglets, Primrose, Ruth, and Florence. The usual crew that always surrounded us wanting treats was there, joined by Magneto, who took a shine to Danny. I keep telling him that if Leroy needs a friend we’ll adopt Magneto for him. Finally, we drove to Leroy’s quarantine pen to load him for the drive home.
Leroy has now lived at his forever home for one month. From the updates we receive on a regular basis from Susan, it’s very obvious how very loved this special pig is–and his body condition has drastically improved to a 3 on the scoring chart (perfection!). At Hog Haven Farm, we are firm believers that pigs pick their humans–and Leroy clearly made his choice to spend the rest of his natural life with not only the kind family who saved him, but the kind family who loves him unconditionally, ensuring he’ll always have the care, attention, and special snacks.
Four years ago today, Hog Haven Farm relocated to its current location (in Deer Trail, CO) from a much smaller property in Byers. This move completely changed the course of our rescue work, allowing us to expand, save more lives, and give our pig friends so much room to graze and stretch their legs! This move truly allowed us to be Hog “Haven.”
Thanks to our friend Ricky, who spent hours hand-mowing the overgrown grass and weeds, we were able to move the 28 pigs and 2 miniature donkeys in one day! Ricky also spent countless hours over the last few years helping build pens and shelters, designing name plates, and being a total asset for the safety of our pigs.
So much has changed in these four short years, and so much for the better! Hog Haven Farm is now home to 122 rescued pigs, and in the 6 years we’ve been operating, nearly 300 pigs have been saved.
When we first landed in Deer Trail, we only had 2 pens, and we didn’t allow the pigs free access across the whole 40 acre property (as we needed to fix some fencing).
Hog Haven Farm now has more than 20 pig pens, and the pigs are allowed access to the field during the day! We are so grateful for all of the support we’ve received over these years, to be able to follow our passion and dream of rescuing and rehabilitating pigs, educating the public, and showing the community just how special these guys really are. Thank you!
One of our frequently asked questions is how we determine what pigs are adoptable, versus what pigs will be sanctuary residents. It’s a great question, and we have given a lot of thought to how best explain our process.
There are a variety of factors that influence our decisions–not just regarding adoptable vs. permanent, but on how to best socialize a new pig, how to integrate a new pig with existing pigs, what pen a new pig should ultimately be placed in, and so forth. The first step in our process is to familiarize ourselves with a pig’s personality traits and behavior. Is the pig dominant, or timid? How does the pig interact with other pigs through the fencing? How does the pig interact with humans, both the regular caretakers he sees daily, and the random visitors who stop by?
When I was asked to join the HHF family by becoming an Adoption Coordinator, I was overjoyed to be a part of helping many of the pigs I’ve grown to know and love, find their forever homes. Over the past year, I have learned that a big part of this role is educating prospective pig adopters on the ins and outs of pig parenting. We tend to get a lot of requests for baby pigs, and we don’t see many babies because that’s the age they are the smallest. Usually, it’s not until pigs start to grow that people try to rehome their family pet. Not only is this very difficult on the pig, but it’s hard for us to watch, as well, knowing it only gets better! I’d love to share some of the benefits of adopting an adult pig and the joys that go along with being a pig parent.
Size. Along with people often wanting to adopt a piglet, they also want a small pig. Those 2 requests cannot definitively be fulfilled together. Pigs grow until they are about 5 years old; while a baby may be small initially, there is no guarantee what their actual size will be once they reach adulthood. Even when you see the parents, that is not always a great indicator of the adult size of their offspring. When breeders show their breeding pigs off, they aren’t always truthful about age, or have inhumanely stunted their growth by not feeding them correctly. When you adopt an older pig, there won’t be the surprise of having a much larger pig than anticipated. This is especially important in certain areas due to some ordinances having a weight limit on pet pigs. It’s important to note that mini pigs grow anywhere from 70 lbs at the low end, to 300 lbs at the high end, with most falling between 100-180 lbs at adulthood.
Personalities. Pigs are very intelligent and have big personalities to match. Just like with a human baby, we learn what type of personality they have as they mature. Adopting an older pig allows us to match you up with the type of pig that works best with your family! Some are shy, some are sassy, but they all have their little quirks. We know you’ll love getting to know them, just like you would with a baby!
Training. Adopting an older pig often allows you to sidestep some difficult piggy phases. Most of our grown pigs are already well-mannered and trained. While you can always teach an old pig new tricks, it’s kind of nice to bypass some of the piglet moments that lead to new pig parents surrendering their younger pig to a new home.
Companionship. Pigs make excellent companion animals. When they are young, they can be very needy or demanding, which can sometimes feel like more work than what you’re getting from the relationship. That’s why we usually will only adopt babies to experienced pig owners. If you are new to pig ownership, an older pig is likely going to give you more of that companion feeling that we often associate with dogs or cats. Mature pigs just want to Netflix and chill!
No matter the age, pigs do not make good gifts. During our adoption process, we like to have the entire family out to meet any potential adoptees, as we firmly believe that the pig picks their people. There is always an adjustment period for any new pet, but I’m confident that if you allow yourself the opportunity, you will fall in love with your pre-loved piggy. If you have any questions about pig adoptions, feel free to email me at [email protected]. If you think you’re ready to start the adoption process, I invite you to fill out an application on our website. –Chelsea
Rescue often involves heartbreak and heart aches. Some pigs arrive happy and healthy, but others arrive broken, neglected, and abused. At Hog Haven Farm, most of the pigs surrendered to our care come from that second category—so we can be a safe landing space, a source of comfort and healing, an option for those with nowhere else to go, and a voice for the voiceless.
Our newest rescue may not have purposely been neglected, but her physical condition desperately hurts our hearts. There are many breeders out in the world who claim “teacup” as a breed of pig, and their advice is to essentially starve the pig to keep it small. Unsuspecting owners take this poor nutritional advice with no question, feeding a diet of only ¼ cup pig pellets twice a day; but like any other species, as we grow and mature, our diet must also increase. ¼ cup of feed per meal (twice a day) for the duration of a pig’s life is not enough nutrition, and some folks do not realize the harm this diet causes.
A pig’s organs will continue to grow as they mature, and if their body does not keep up with internal growth, they will live a short life, stunted, starving, unhappy. A healthy diet is based on 1-2% of body weight, and the feed you select should be formulated specifically for potbellied pigs (some brands are labeled for mini pigs, but the protein content of a pig-specific food should range between 12 and 16%, or closer to 20% for piglets. Most hog feeds, and specifically grower feeds, should not be used). Hog Haven Farm chooses to feed Manna Pro, but other brands are widely available. It should also be noted that mini pigs are not a breed, but a size reference: healthy adult weights can be as low as 70lbs, or as large as 300lbs, and they are not considered adults until 4 years of age. In Hog Haven Farm’s experience, average adult weight is typically between 100 and 180lbs.
Big changes are afoot at Hog Haven Farm! To kick off a new year and a new decade, Hog Haven Farm reorganized its Board of Directors and added important, new subcommittee positions!
We are excited to focus on the growth and expansion at our rescue & sanctuary, to plan exciting new community events & fundraisers, and to keep on saving lives this year. Several of our previous board members are continuing this year, and we have some new faces, too! Say hello when you see our crew at Hog Haven Farm events this year.
Meet our Board:
Heidi became actively involved with Hog Haven Farm shortly after its founding, and adopted her second pet pig (Olivia) from us. From attending events, to volunteering at the farm, to assisting with rescue operations and transport, Heidi has been a key figure at Hog Haven Farm. With her husband, Jeremy, Heidi has three pet pigs (Ziggy, Olivia and Rue); when they aren’t snuggling the pigs and watching Netflix, Heidi and Jeremy enjoy traveling and the great outdoors.
The sweetest, cutest little face and round tummy you can possibly imagine. The quintessential happy piglet. Moo radiated so much light, life, and happiness when she arrived at Hog Haven Farm in January 2017. We made the decision to adopt Moo to a forever home, along with 3 of her friends.
When Moo left our care, she weighed around 74lbs, and was just under a year old. As with all of our adoptions, we looked forward to future updates, to see how she and her friends were growing up and getting along. Updates became few and far between after about a year, but from what we had seen, they were loved piggies in their new home.
Fast forward two and half years post adoption: we received a surrender request from Moo’s family, to take her back with her friends, due to a change of life situation. Part of our adoption policy is that pigs be returned to Hog Haven Farm should something happen in the future. We scheduled a day and time to pick them up, and we were totally unprepared for what we saw. Perhaps the novelty of keeping pigs as pets wore off; perhaps the pigs became too great a burden to pay much attention to; perhaps life was too busy to hassle much with pet pigs. Yes, the pigs had a cozy shelter and large pen space, and access to water and feed; three of these pigs were healthy, but incredibly timid, and Moo…well, poor Moo was totally different.
We were told the other 3 pigs were food bullies, and didn’t share enough food with Moo, and that Moo would eat too slowly. We don’t doubt that; feeding multiple pigs together can be challenging. The confusing aspect of this story is that one of four pigs not eating enough has a very simple solution–a separate area for feeding, and monitoring each pig’s eating habits, every meal.
While we do not think Moo’s family intentionally caused her harm, she was obviously in a state of serious neglect. In pigs, body condition is scored on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is emaciated, and 5 is morbidly obese. Moo ranked at a 1 upon intake, weighing a mere 30lbs; her spine and hip bones were highly visible, and her jaw line was sharp, with no fat or muscle mass on her body. Knowing that Moo weighed 74lbs at time of spay in January 2017, and should have kept growing, we know that she lost 60% of her body weight.
When pigs are emaciated, their immune systems become compromised–in addition to poor body condition, Moo was fighting an upper respiratory infection, and mange (a skin parasite). Her breathing sounded like a rattle of death, and honestly, when we picked her up, we didn’t think she was going to last through the night. Not only was she sick, but her eyes were dull; despite all of these problems, our vet was confident that we could make a full recovery with Moo, and we wanted to do everything in our power to save her.
Dealing with extreme starvation in any species takes time, routine, persistence, and patience. A rapid increase in nutrients can send the body into shock, so a strict diet plan was put into place by our veterinarian. The goal was to build Moo’s immune system, and allow her to gain back the weight she lost–but we may never get her back to 74lbs. Over the course of 25 days, we slowly increased her feed, providing her with 3 meals a day. She was also given a vitamin B12 supplement for her immune system, antibiotics weekly, and dewormer every 12 days. She has been given 3 sulphur baths to combat the mange (in addition to the dewormer).
Moo has shown, since day one, that she is a fighter. She was failed by humans, but refuses to let that slow her down. Today marks 8 weeks since we picked Moo up; today, Moo’s eyes are sparkling, her belly is nice a round, her breathing is better, and her skin has drastically improved. We still have a long road ahead of us, but Moo is on the uphill race, determined to be healthy. And boy, is Moo happy. Her tail wags constantly, she’s made friends with Morty, and she loves to explore and graze.
It’s hard to notice obvious results, even over the span of 8 weeks. Looking back at pictures from this time frame, it’s now obvious to us that Moo has made amazing progress. From her first day here, to today, our little Moo is fighting to be healthy. We are so proud of her. We can’t wait to see what another 8 weeks brings.
From Hog Haven Farm’s Executive Director and primary caretaker, Erin Brinkley-Burgardt, regarding the animal cruelty/hoarding case in Indiana
About 3 weeks ago, I was tagged in a Facebook post about 60+ pigs in dire need of rescue in Indiana. I reached out to a few individuals to get more information, and learn how I could best help these pigs.
When I saw the news stories posted about these pigs, I decided I could not turn away, and merely share the links asking for help. I wanted to be involved on a deeper level—I have personally worked on hoarding/neglect/cruelty cases before, and I know first hand how much these animals need a lifeline and support.
Communications began between myself and a few other rescuers, and over the course of a week, plans and arrangements to save these pigs were falling into place. I decided to fly to Indiana to see the situation first hand, assess the exact number of pigs in need, and document conditions with my photography skills.
Conditions on the ground were absolutely heartbreaking, and much worse than I fathomed. The areas the pigs lived in were deplorable—some of the large pigs (400lbs+) were in mud to their chests. There were areas of the pens I could not safely walk, as the depth of mud was greater than the height of my knees. The smell was powerful…laden with feces and urine, the mud had an overpowering, sickening smell—and in several areas, I had to cover my face to breathe. The flies were everywhere, and the sound in the still air was filled with their buzzing. Not one pen had grass for the pigs to graze, and many pens lacked dry ground or shelter as a relief from the mud and elements. Many pigs had no access to water, and none of the pigs had access to fresh water. All of these pigs (67 by my count) are intact, and we aren’t certain on how many pregnancies there may be among the 32 females.
Though this experience was a literal hell on earth, I tried desperately to stay strong for these pigs. I diligently went to each pen, a total of 18, to document the pigs, their conditions, and to make contact. Most were scared of me, and refused my touch. Some were curious after a few minutes, and would cautiously approach, smelling my hands.
Only one pig willingly approached me as I entered his pen. He was a little crusty from the mud, and the only pig with water in his pen. The word “water” should be used very loosely, as the container resembled that of a cesspool, and nothing I would allow an animal to consume. The look in this pig’s eyes was of genuine curiosity; he wanted to trust, but he wasn’t sure how.
In my heart, I made a promise to these pigs. We will get you safe; you will know the basic comfort of a soft bed to sleep upon, fresh grass in your belly, and the cool relief of fresh, clean water. You will know love and compassion, and be saved from hell. We will not let you down.
I made the decision to bring a couple of these pigs back with me, when they are able to travel across state lines, to give them the very best life imaginable. There will be happy tears when I see happily swinging tails of pigs enjoying freedom, at last, and the life they so desperately deserve.
While on site, two pigs seemed in dire need of medical attention: one lived in a horse trailer, without any ventilation or fresh water, and with visible respiratory distress. The other had a visible prolapse to be addressed. Working with a few other volunteers, we purchased crates to transport them to Purdue University Vet Teaching Hospital, where they could be immediately helped. Driving two hours north was the most stressful drive of my life, but both girls were able to receive much needed medical attention, and now, days later, are recovering well and have bright futures ahead.
Working with multiple other rescues, with the common goal of saving lives, has been a very humbling, incredible experience. Though this mission has been overwhelming, exhausting, stressful, and troubling, to say the very least, there are good humans who only want to reach a common goal. I am beyond grateful for teamwork on the Indy Pig Rescue, to simply save 67+ lives, and raise awareness about the power of compassion in rescue. To my friends, new and old, at Gracie’s Acres, Cotton Branch Farm Sanctuary, Kansas City Pig Rescue Network, Kanda Farm Sanctuary, Trail’s End Wildlife Refuge, and A Critter’s Chance: thank you for working by my side, through thick and thin, to save these sentient beings.
Tomorrow starts a new chapter for these pigs, and life will only get better from here on out.
If you would like to assist with this rescue operation, funds are needed to provide vet care for all 67 pigs. Basic care, including dewormer (for internal and external parasites), disease testing, and pregnancy screening will begin the week of June 10, 2019. After initial vet care, these pigs will be neutered and spayed, and prepped to safely head to forever homes. All donations are being handled by Kanda Farm Sanctuary, a 501C3 nonprofit in Indiana, and are tax-deductible.
On April 18, 2019, executive director Erin Brinkley-Burgardt presented to Colorado legislators the plight of pet pigs. Learn more about Hog Haven Farm began, why there is an overwhelming need for rescue, and how you can help.
Founded in August 2014, Hog Haven Farm was conceived from my childhood love of pigs, and from an incredible bond I formed with my first pet pig, Pipsqueak. After bringing Pippy home in 2013, and becoming active in Facebook communities for pet pigs, my husband Andrew and I became aware of the national plight of pet pigs, and decided to take action. Thinking our rescue goals would take 5 years to take off, we were blown away when Hog Haven Farm grew within 6 months. In the last 3 years, we have moved twice to accommodate the growing demand of rescue, and are now located on 40 beautiful acres east of Denver. We rescue pigs from situations of abandonment, abuse, neglect, and from slaughter.
Hog Haven Farm is currently home to 98 pigs, 7 equine, 1 dog and 4 cats. Of these 98, 80 are potbellied and 18 are standard or mixed breeds. In the 4.5 years we’ve operated, we have rescued nearly 190 pigs, with our intake doubling in 2017 when we were able to expand. Since founding, we have been able to adopt more than 80 potbellies to forever homes, and network other pigs in need to find sanctuary or permanent homes.
Sadly, only 2-5% of all pet pigs remain in one home during the course of their long lives, a 20-year average. One primary factor contributing to abandoned pigs relates to breeding practices. Because pig breeding is not regulated by the USDA or PACFA, false claims can be made to sell more piglets without consequence. Additionally, there are an estimated 500,000 pet pigs in the United States, so you can imagine why the retention rate of pet pigs is so alarming.
The terms “teacup, “micro-mini,” and others were coined by breeders to sell more piglets. No matter the breed, all piglets are typically less than a pound at birth, and the overwhelming cuteness of these babies draws a lot of attention. The myths about these tiny pigs include many alarming details; breeders will claim that teacup pigs reach a mere 25-40lbs at maturity. Additionally, many breeders suggest highly restrictive diets to keep these pigs small, or essentially advising their clients to starve the pig. Many breeders also welcome clients to meet the breeding parents, suggesting that the piglet will only grow as large as mom or dad.
The truth behind these myths is widely available to anyone performing a simple Google search. “Teacup” and other such breeds are merely potbellied pigs, who grow anywhere from 70 to 250lbs. The term “mini pig” is also misleading, as it refers to any breed of pig 300lbs or less. Compared to standard breeds, 300lbs is quite small! Females come of breeding age at 4 months old, and often, the breeding parents at breeders are just babies themselves. Because pigs don’t complete their growth for 4-5 years, meeting breeding pairs who are younger than that do not give an accurate size reference. Additionally, not all pigs will be the same size as their parents; just like human children, there is no guarantee that they will fit in a certain growth percentage!
Another contributing factor to unwanted pet pigs is zoning regulations and restrictions. In Colorado, some of the current cities with bans on pet pigs are Aurora, Loveland and Castle Rock. When people are caught illegally keeping a pig, the animal is either seized or the owner is given up to 30 days to remove it. Hog Haven Farm has received many calls from Aurora and Castle Rock, from both animal control and private owners, asking that we remove the pig.
In addition to bans on pigs, other jurisdictions have unrealistic weight restrictions for pet pigs. While potbellies can be as small as 70lbs, the more common range, in our experience, is 100 to 180lbs at adulthood. It is our opinion that, if potbellies are permitted as pets, the weight restriction should be removed all together, or should be at the high end of the range—250lbs.
Most jurisdictions that allow pigs as pets do not have licensing or neuter/spay policies in place. This contributes to backyard breeding, which is banned for other types of domesticated animals. Because of the lack of licensing and altering policies, about 50% of the incoming pigs at Hog Haven Farm are intact, and are rarely up to date on necessary vaccines, such as dewormer.
While pigs do make wonderful companion animals, they often do not do well in homes with other pets—primarily dogs. Because pigs and dogs have different methods of communication, they can become a danger to one another. Inherently, pigs are prey and dogs are predators; due to no fault of either animal, the result of their inability to communicate can lead to traumatic, and often lethal, results for the pig. That being said, pigs do coexist well with other species, including cats, goats, and other “farmed” animals.
One of the reasons I am so drawn to pigs is their sentience. Pigs are social animals with a herd mentality, and form strong bonds with their companions—they crave affection and attention. Ranked the fourth smartest mammal, pigs reach the intelligence of a 4year old human. Like elephants, pigs’ emotional intelligence is comparable to our own human experience—they understand joy, love, and happiness, but also deeply feel sadness, loss, grief, pain, and fear. When pigs lose their companions, they can, and often will, cry real tears and suffer from depression, just as we humans do.
Pigs use more than 20 sounds to communicate; when they are happy to see their companions, they hot pant to express affection. As intelligent animals, pigs are natural problem solvers—they are curious and food motivated, so learning to bust out of their pen or break into the refrigerator inside the house are mild inconveniences. More so than other domesticated animals, pigs appreciate human companionship, and love to cuddle or be around their people. As such, we advocate for a compassionate, plant-based diet.
Operating a pig rescue has its limitations. Pigs are dominant creatures, and will physically fight one another when meeting for the first time, so there is a process to integrate new pigs. As many of our intakes have not been vaccinated, and parasites can affect our entire herd, we have a quarantine procedure that lasts anywhere from 30 to 60 days. Many of the inbound females are not spayed, and the procedure, while necessary, is quite expensive. Current demand averages eight surrender requests for every one pig we adopt out. In 2019, we have rescued 12 pigs and adopted 8, but have a current waitlist of 5. We have had to say ‘no’ to more than 40 unwanted pets as well. Our average annual adoption rate is only about 20%, and that further limits the number of new pigs we can rescue.
To combat the overwhelming plight of unwanted pigs, we have several ongoing objectives. The first objective is to work directly with animal control units across the Denver-metro, for training purposes or to place abandoned, abused and neglected pigs. We also work directly with many animal shelters that are not equipped to handle pigs; some of the shelters we work with are partnered with animal control units, and we have been able to save many pigs from hoarding and neglect cases because of this relationship.
Hog Haven Farm also strives to educate the general public about pigs as creatures and as pets, to break the myths breeders have created and allow people a chance to interact with our rescued pigs. We are very active on social media, with the goal of teaching people about these amazing creatures. We currently have 7 pigs trained as therapy pets, and will bring them to fundraising events, as well as to schools, assisted living and nursing homes.
Our last objective is where we need your help! We are seeking change for breeding regulations and zoning restrictions across Colorado and ultimately nationwide. Without your help, and without our ability to educate the general public, the epidemic of unwanted pet pigs will only worsen.
You can become involved by sharing this truth, reaching out to your local lawmakers and demanding change, and by choosing to adopt your companions, rather than supporting breeders. Only through education can we demand change! To watch the full video of Erin’s presentation, please visit our Facebook page.