Pet Pig Crisis: Unwanted animals filling up sanctuaries

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"Micro pigs" are the biggest pet fad right now but some customers say their animals are getting much larger than they expected. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) "Micro pigs" are the biggest pet fad right now but some customers say their animals are getting much larger than they expected. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Love-blind pig parents spend thousands of dollars to take one of the pint-sized porkers home. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Love-blind pig parents spend thousands of dollars to take one of the pint-sized porkers home. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Pigs don't usually stop growing until they're two or three years old. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Pigs don't usually stop growing until they're two or three years old. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
MARANA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

They may be cute and cuddly, but they don't all stay small.

"Micro pigs" are the biggest pet fad right now. But some customers say their animals are getting much larger than they expected.

It's turning into a pet pig crisis.

Teacup, micro, micro mini, are all names given to tiny pigs made popular by social media.

Their little snouts are enough to make anyone squeal.

"They're super clean. They don't shed," said pig advocate Lauren Blumber. "They're really really really smart. And they're just really fun, they bring so much joy."

Love-blind pig parents spend thousands of dollars to take one of the pint-sized porkers home.

But there's another side to these innocent looking babies. Babies grow up.

"People are just trying to make a fast buck, and anyone can sell a cute little piglet," said Blumber.

One early Saturday morning in April, Blumber helped three of these pigs find a new home. She says the three female animals were sold to their original owner as micro pigs.

"The gray one, her name is Chanel, and then the all black one is Ebony, and the black on with white feet, her name is White Socks," said Blumber.

She says they quickly outgrew their home and were surrendered.

Two of the pigs are only eight months old. They've already grown to be about 120 pounds. Pigs don't usually stop growing until they're two or three years old.

These pigs got a second chance, adopted by a young Scottsdale family as a surprise for their children.

Others aren't so lucky. Some are abandoned, or dumped in the desert.

Ironwood Pig Sanctuary in Marana is home to nearly 550 unwanted animals. It says most are actually potbelly pigs sold to unknowing consumers.

Blumber has two pigs of her own, 75 pound Peony and Kevin, who is still 35 pounds at two years old. She attributes his small size to underfeeding at a young age.

"Micro. We don't even use that term in the pig world unless it is starved. Generally, those pigs see health issues down the road because their feed has been restricted to a quarter cup of pellets. Imagine one-quarter cup a day on these pigs, and they're not fun pets because they scream all day because they're starving all day and they're ornery and they get re-homed," said Blumber.

Over the last couple of years, a new group called the American Mini Pig Association has been trying to regulate the industry.

"I wish that breeders were held to a higher ethical standard and there were things like farm visits to ensure ethical breeding practices across all breeders," said Ashley Aakre with Lil' Smokies Julianas.

We found multiple breeders around Arizona, but only one, Lil' Smokies Julianas, is AMPA certified. Aakre says she only breeds one type of pig called Julianas. She says they grow to be about the size of a bulldog.

"There are breeds of them that are small enough to be house pets. They make great pets. They have a lot of great qualities, and I don't understand why people feel it's necessary to lie about them," said Aakre.

She says she got in the business to change that.

"I felt there was a real need in the industry for honesty and transparency," said Aakre.

Experts recommend potential buyers do their research first. They say ask to see the parent pigs and wait till the babies are 6 to 8 weeks old before you bring one home.

Or, Blumber says, consider rescuing an adult.

"There are so many pigs that need to be adopted," she said.

The only way the Arizona Department of Agriculture says it could get involved is in a case of animal abuse. They say if you suspect pigs, or any livestock, are being abused, you can call their hotline at 623-445-0281 or 1-800-294-0305 ext 3, or call your nearest law enforcement agency. 

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Lauren ReimerLauren Reimer joined the 3TV/CBS 5 family in June 2016. She is originally from Racine, WI but is no stranger to our heat.

Click to learn more about Lauren.

Lauren Reimer

She previously worked for KVOA in Tucson, covering topics that matter to Arizonans including the monsoon, wildfires and border issues. During the child migrant crisis of 2014, Reimer was one of only a handful of journalists given access to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Nogales, where hundreds of unaccompanied children were being held after crossing into the U.S. from Central America. Before that, Reimer worked at WREX in Rockford, IL. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and still visits home often. When not chasing news stories, Reimer loves to explore, enjoying everything from trying new adventurous foods to visiting state and national parks or local places of historical significance.

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