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North Hills Monthly

Pigs, Horses and More Benefit from Large Animal Rescue Organizations

Dec 30, 2015 11:22AM ● By Shelly Tower Rushe
When you think of an animal shelter, you typically think of the sad faces of dogs, cats and rabbits waiting for their forever homes. But what happens when you need a new home for your potbellied pig? Or that cute little Easter duckling that’s now a full-grown duck and needs more care than you can give? And what about horses rescued from abuse situations?

Hog Heaven in Crawford County primarily rescues potbellied pigs. President and founder Regina Martin Allman, formerly a Pittsburgh Police officer, now works as a Venango County humane officer in addition to her duties on the farm. The farm currently houses 27 pigs, eight horses, an alpaca and a llama.

Potbellied pigs, or what Allman refers to as the “throw-away animal of the 90s,” are similar in many ways to dogs and cats, and require at least the same amount of care. Their life expectancy is approximately 15 to 18 years. Allman describes them as very clean, and explains that they can be housebroken and litter trained. She also reiterates the importance of spaying and neutering to prevent males from smelling bad and females from becoming overprotective. Allman works with area farmers to educate them on proper animal farming techniques as part of her position as a humane officer.

Recently, Allman has seen an influx of pigs being surrendered because of their size. While they grow to about the size of a bulldog, they can weigh anywhere from 85 to 175 pounds. “There is no such thing as a micro-mini pig,” she said, referring to the influx of photos of impossibly tiny pigs that many see on social media. “Please ask people to do their research.” It’s also important not to overfeed a pig, as it can cause serious health issues including blindness, deafness and behavioral issues.

Besides pigs, there are plenty of other farm animals in need of rescuing. Allman has two horses that she rescued in the line of duty as a humane officer, and Hope Haven in Sewickley has a little bit of everything. Many of its residents were rescued from factory farms or are from owners who were unprepared to care for a nontraditional pet.

Karen Phillips opened Hope Haven after her experience working as a spay/neuter veterinary surgeon, where she became concerned not only with companion animal overpopulation, but with the influx of discarded farm animals. She decided to open her own farm animal sanctuary, and four years later, Hope Haven was born. The farm houses pigs, goats, sheep, llama, alpaca and poultry that come from local animal shelters and humane agents, as well as from factory farms. “They now live out their lives with comfortable housing, nutritious food and companionship from others of their own kind,” said Phillips.

Phillips’ secondary mission is to educate the general public about the individuality and personality of farm animals. “Our hope is that when people realize that these animals are sentient beings deserving of compassion, they will make up their minds to respect life and adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle,” she explained.

Hope Haven offers tours and volunteer opportunities from May through October for those interested in learning more. Hog Heaven also welcomes volunteers and holds event such a pumpkin chunking in which the pigs are able to eat the smashed pumpkins. Both organizations will be represented at the annual Biscuits Bingo held February 27, 2016 at IBEW Hall on the South Side of Pittsburgh, and each organization has adoption policies in place and hopes to rehome as many eligible animals as possible. Any animals that are not adopted out will live the remainder of their lives at their respective sanctuaries. To find out more about how you can help, visit them on Facebook.