Southern New York Pig Rescue to hold fundraiser Saturday

HARTSVILLE — There is no such thing as a mini pig, and that is just one of the myths that Amy Mayer and her friends and family across the nation are trying to eradicate.

On Saturday, the 1st Annual Pins for Pigs fundraiser will be taking place at Maple City Bowl for the Southern NY Pig Rescue.

With most people throughout the area equating pigs with roasts, bacon and barbecue, it isn’t the first time Mayer has heard the question, "Why do pigs need to be rescued?" 

“Well, there are farm hogs and Vietnamese pot belly pigs,” she explains. “We rescue pet pigs and what they call ‘mini’ pigs." 

Pot belly pigs have only been in this country since the mid-1980s, and in that time they have become a popular pet. As usual, popularity leads to the demise of the breed, whether it's horses or dogs. It also leads to abuse and the need to be rescued.

One of the problems, Mayer explains, is that people believe that when they are spending upwards of $3,000, they will get an easy to care for small pig.

“There is no such thing as a mini pig by most people’s standards,” explained Mayer. “By classification, a mini pig is any pig under 300 pounds. When people see mini pig they’re thinking tea cup or something tiny. Scientists can’t make a mini pig, breeders can’t make a mini pig. There is no such thing.”

She went on to say that a pot belly pig is between 90 and 150 pounds, and grows not much taller than knee height. Disreputable breeders advertise a mini pig and sell them as four-week old piglets to uneducated buyers. They recommend feeding an eighth of a cup of feed a day, which basically starves the pig and stunts the growth of its skeleton, not its organs, which will keep growing and eventually kill the pig, Mayer explained.

“They’ll get to be 25 to 50 pounds and they will have all kinds of health problems and only live around five years,” she said.

But even if you get a Vietnamese pot belly pig, pigs on the hoof aren’t for everyone. The playful, intelligent animals have a herd mentality and they want to be the alpha member of the herd. Many people who get pigs don’t understand them. The pigs get too big, or out of control, so they end up being surrendered to kennels and SPCAs.

“That is where pig rescue comes in. We focus on rescuing ‘mini’ and pet pigs,” Mayer said.

Mayer and her family — husband Michael, and kids Landon, 14, and Ava, 13 — work with the Lollipop Farm in Rochester, the Central New York Humane Society, the Niagara Falls SPCA, and rescuers throughout the country.

Currently they have 11 pot belly pigs and a farm hog, and some of them live in the house with them, like a cat or a dog. The others are housed outside in a barn in pens, with several feet of hay to keep them warm.

Mayer, who grew up on a large horse farm and now lives on a farm in Hartsville with two horses, goats, six cats and dogs, said, “About a year and a half ago we decided to add a pot belly pig to the family. And we fell in love. Dogs are not good companions to pigs, because dogs have a pack mentality. Pigs are pushy and dogs don’t like that, so we got a second pig to be a companion to our first pig.

“Pig ownership is not something you should take for granted. Pigs can acclimate to the family and become a loyal friend to the family dogs and cats, but you must be the Alpha member of the family,” Mayer said.

Not long after they got their first pig, the Mayers were asked if they could foster another pig, and their herd has grown from there.

“We became the Southern New York Pig Rescue in November, and just since then we have adopted out 15 rescued pigs, and only one has come back to us and that was only a 24 hour rotation,” she said.

Ava Mayer says she loves having pigs — now.

“When mom first brought home a pig and said it was going to live in the house, I said there was no way I was going to live in the same house as a pig,” she said.

But the teenager changed her mind after meeting the pig. She now has three of her own and her friends enjoy coming to the house and meeting the pigs.

“You have to be open and do your research. Pigs are not like adorable little puppies. You have to earn their trust. But they’re smarter than a dog and learn quickly,” Mayer said. “Our job is to educate people about pigs.”

The Mayers offer training for new pig owners. After adoption they do home visits and offer instruction. Every pig they adopt out is spayed or neutered. They try to put their adopted pigs into forever homes to minimize the emotional stress on the pig.

Since becoming a pig owner, Mayer has become a vegan.

“I can’t see myself eating my pet dog. Why would I eat my pet pig?” she said.

While the Mayers make jewelry and some of the pigs create "snout art" to raise funds, Saturday’s fundraiser will help defray the costs for caring for the pigs that are rescued. Care includes any medical problems they may have and the cost of spaying and neutering, which runs up to $400. Vietnamese pigs cannot be castrated like farm hogs because of their physiology.

Pigs for Pins takes place from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday with open bowling starting at 12:30 p.m. at Maple City Bowl in Hornell. Tickets are $15 and include shoe rental, pizza and soda. There will be a 50/50 raffle and basket raffles, and pig inspired jewelry for sale. Families are encouraged to attend and meet Luna, the snout artist.