- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
In the opening scene of the reality TV show “Pig Little Lies,” country singer and animal activist Simone Reyes gets a call about two pigs—”husband and wife” Dante and Beatrice—who only have a few hours to get out of a shelter before they are slated to be euthanized.
Fortunately, she’s sitting by Jane Velez-Mitchell, founder and managing editor of UnchainedTV, a streaming network about plant-based lifestyles, who shares her concern and fierce desire to save them.
The women spring into action to save the pigs and launch five short episodes about the sometimes comical, always heartfelt effort to save Dante and Beatrice—who turns out to be pregnant with 13 adorable piglets.
“It’s fun and gives you a new perspective on pigs,” Velez-Mitchell told Rover. “Doesn’t it?”
It certainly does. They enlist the help of Cindy Brady, who runs the nonprofit farm animal sanctuary Tiny Masters from her home in Southern California. In the show, the no-nonsense rescuer laments the all-too-common problem of people surrendering pigs who “got too big” to shelters after buying them from unscrupulous breeders—an issue deeply concerning to Velez-Mitchell.
There is no such thing as a teacup pig. There is no such thing as a micro pig. There is no such thing as a pocket pig. This is a lie. – Jane Velez-Mitchell
“The ‘big little lie’ is that there is no such thing as a teacup pig,” she said. “There is no such thing as a micro pig. There is no such thing as a pocket pig. This is a lie. They are just infants, and they are going to grow—even the smallest pig.”
Getting Piggy With It
Velez-Mitchell—who adores her two rescue dogs, Foxy Lady and Rico—loved seeing how protective Beatrice felt toward her piglets, and the way pigs wag their tails almost like dogs when they’re happy. After filming, she even fostered one of the piglets, Valentino. Some of the pigs have already been adopted to loving homes.
But first, their antics made for great television. In one scene, the pigs split up to evade the rescuers trying to gently herd them from the laundry room where they were born into a larger living space in the yard. The hours-long event proved so stressful for everyone that the team brought in spiritual healer to perform a ceremony to help both pigs and humans alike.
While a healing ceremony might be unusual, the plight of pigs like Dante, Beatrice, and their babies isn’t. Teri Crutchfield, founder and owner of the nonprofit Saving Animals & Healing Hearts in Ramona, California, and who makes an appearance in the show, called the problem of people being duped into purchasing an allegedly small pig—whether called “micro pig,” “teacup pig,” or otherwise—a “huge issue.”
A Growing Problem
“Pigs grow until they’re between 3- and 5-years-old,” she told Rover. “I probably get between 10-15 calls a week of people trying to dump their pigs. Many, many of them say, ‘They just got too big’ or ‘It’s not like a dog.’ It’s just a horrible thing.”
Sometimes breeders will tell people who buy their pigs that they need to eat a specific diet—which is basically starvation, according to Crutchfield. She cares for a pig named Valentina who was starved for so long on a breeder’s diet that her head is a normal size but her body is tiny, and she has a deformed foot that essentially forces her to walk on her toes.
Another pig, Ginger, suffered stunted growth and lived in a tiny dog crate for years—without being let out to pee, poop, or eat.
But pot-bellied pigs can easily grow to over 100 pounds. Crutchfield and her team once rescued a pot-bellied pig named Jeremiah who weighed close to 400 pounds when he arrived—and could barely walk. His owners had fed him cake and junk food to try to fatten him for slaughter.
“Now his belly doesn’t drag on the ground anymore,” she said. “It was a slow process but we got the weight off of him. He could be a nice, happy pig again.”
Better Laws Can Help Pigs
As tempting as it might be to buy a cute little pig from a breeder, Crutchfield wishes people would not do so—and always demand proof of the mother’s age, since pot-bellied pigs can start having babies as early as 3 months old.
“We want legislation to stop that kind of breeding, but it’s years and years away,” she said.
Sometimes zoning laws and restrictions land pot-bellied pigs in animal shelters and sanctuaries, according to Nicole Brecht, founder of the nonprofit Good Life Refuge in Longmont, Colorado.
“Most of our pigs come from zoning violations,” she told Rover. “Not every city allows pot-bellied pigs. So when people get them and they’re tiny and small, you can kind of tuck them away. But later on when they get bigger, then the hiding is not possible because if you want them emotionally balanced, you have to give them indoor and outdoor space.”
Even if a city or town is zoned for pigs, many municipalities have weight limits of around 100 pounds—and as noted above, pigs can easily surpass 100 pounds.
“Everything up to 400 pounds is considered a pot-bellied pig,” she noted.
Brecht agreed that breeders won’t explicitly tell purchasers to starve their new pet, but that they amount of food they tell people to feed is purposely underfeeding. She’s also frustrated when people call and say they simply don’t have time to care for their pig anymore.
“Pigs are intelligent and they need a lot of enrichment. If they don’t get that, they get destructive and they can get aggressive,” she said. “And pigs are very social animals, so they should not be kept as solos. But often ordinances only allow one pig, so then the pig really attaches to the humans.”
Love for the Long-Term
A pig named Morgan landed at Good Life Refuge after living as an only pig for seven years. When the owner left, he became extremely aggressive—which was problematic with a 170-pound animal.
The team let him decompress for a month, then started training him. It took a lot of patience—”I’m not hand-feeding you or giving extra snacks until you stop biting my hand”—but now Morgan is no longer “pushy” and enjoys getting belly rubs.
Pigs can live 10-20 years and require a long-term, loving commitment to help them thrive.
Still, Brecht hopes people will understand that pigs can live 10-20 years so they require a long-term commitment on top of space to root, enrichment activities, balanced nutrition, and hoof care (she noted many veterinary clinics don’t treat pigs)—as well as at least one other porcine companion.
“They’re not like a dog or a cat—they’re just not,” she said. “They’re super smart and they’re cuddly and I love all of them, but they’re not made to live in a house.”
If people do have the space and time needed to properly care for a pig, she recommends adopting an adult from a nonprofit organization. Sanctuaries like hers also provide plenty of volunteer opportunities to interact with pigs.
There are over 40 adoptable pigs currently available at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, with names like Batman, Petunia, Wally, and Fifi. Jen Reid, a manager at the Sanctuary, recommends spending time around pigs before bringing them home to have a better understanding of the joys and challenges they will bring.
“Pig and farmed animal rescues and sanctuaries can be a great resource for getting some first-hand experience with them,” she told Rover. “And there are so many pigs in shelters and rescues looking for adoption.”
To watch the free TV series “Pig Little Lies,” visit: unchainedtv.com/pig-little-lies