Drive slowly when pulling up to Outsiders Farm and Sanctuary in Hart County. You never know when a young pig will come darting in front of you between the ducks and roosters roaming around the farm.
That was the case during a recent visit to the pot-bellied pig rescue. About half way down the unpaved drive leading to the 11.7 acre farm, a small brown pig shot in front of the car at a speed many people may not realize a pig can achieve.
It turns out, there is a lot people don’t realize about pigs when they take one on as a pet, but that hasn’t stopped pigs from becoming popular pets that quickly become big problems. Being big is often the root of the problem for many owners.
Corrine Baker has seen that firsthand at Outsiders, part of a growing number of pot-bellied pig rescues in the U.S. and around the world. Baker said there are an estimated 7,000 homeless pigs in the U.S. right now. Other estimates put the number of pigs owned as pets in the U.S. and Canada up around 1 million. Of the thousands that are homeless or being mistreated, Baker said many either end up at shelters like hers or being euthanized.
That is how Baker fell into the pig rescue world. She knew a woman who owned a few dozen pigs, bought as small pot-bellied pigs that were supposed to stay that way, but didn’t. They grew. The woman was getting a divorce and needed a place for the pigs to go, or they would be killed, Baker said.
“It just tugged at my heart,” she said.
So she decided to help out, since she had some property on which the pigs could live happy lives.
“Ten is what I agreed to take,” she said. “And I went out to her house and came back with 23.”
She was hopeful to find a place for them once she had the pigs, but that proved more difficult than she thought.
“Surely there have to be pig rescues, right?” she remembers asking.
But other rescues were full, so Outsiders Farm and Sanctuary was born. Today it has 501(c)(3) status and houses 91 rescued pigs. Baker said she is just about at capacity and has had to turn away some pigs, but wants to take as many as possible.
Caring for the pigs and taking care of the veterinary bills is not easy though, which is why donations are always accepted at the farm. Most of that would likely go to spaying and neutering the pigs, which costs around $250 for each pig.
But money is only part of the equation for keeping the pigs happy. Donations of things like fresh produce, cereal, dried fruit, towels, straw, hay, blankets, batteries, fencing, construction materials and other items are needed too, Baker said.
Pigs, it turns out, consume a lot and can be destructive. Which is why so many pet pigs, often bought by owners who think they will stay small, wind up in shelters like Outsiders.
“It is not rare for people to come home from work and find their pet pig has raided their fridge,” Baker said.
Most of the pigs at Outsiders live outside, but a few of the better socialized pigs come into the house with Baker and her family.
Pigs like Toto, Pickles and Ernie, among many others, get along well with people and seek attention like dogs.
“They’re smarter than dogs,” Baker said, as she knelt to scratch Toto’s belly.
Ernie is a special case. He was abused, kept in a small chicken coop and fed junk food, especially super spicy stuff, until he grew to 500 pounds. Now he lives at Outsiders, has dropped 100 pounds and seeks human attention and affection. He also will likely need a tummy tuck to prevent him from stepping on the loose belly skin leftover from his weight loss, Baker said.
Those stories and many more are why Baker said she has heart for the pigs and wants to save them from bad situations.
She also hopes people realize that unscrupulous breeders are rampant in the pet, pot-bellied pig world. Many will sell baby pigs, as young as two or three days old, as micro, tea-cup pigs, when they are actually of the regular-sized variety. The new owners soon realize they got a bigger, tougher-to-handle animal than they thought.
“There is no such thing as a teacup pig,” Baker said. “Mini pigs are pigs under 400 pounds. Anyone who wants to have a mini pig as a pet needs to know they grow for five years and will be anywhere from 80 to 200 pounds. Sometimes larger.”
Pigs are at least a 20 year commitment, she added, and require regular vetting complete with vaccines, hoof trimming and tusk trimming.
Baker and her husband Daniel are happy to educate people about pigs and owning them as pets. She is also happy to take any volunteer help people may want to offer.
Anyone wishing to help out either through donations or by volunteering can contact the farm at 706-498-5677, or by visiting the farms Facebook page at www.facebook.com/outsidersfarmandsanctuary.
The sanctuary’s website is www.outsidersfarm.com.
Donations can also be made by placing credit onto the sanctuary’s account at Beggs Farm Supply by calling 706-376-4440.
Baker said the farm is also hosting a visitor day on Dec. 7, from noon to 3 p.m. People are invited to come to the farm at 131 Buck Hollow Road to interact with the pigs, learn about their care and learn how they can help. Tickets for the visitor day are $15 at the door for adults and $5 for children 13 and younger. All the money raised will go to medical bills for the pigs, Baker said.