Numerous animal rescue organizations are teaming up this weekend, seeking forever homes for a literal menagerie from around the Pensacola area. One of those groups is Animal Allies, which provides shelter to cats – and now to pigs.
It’s mid-morning at an undisclosed location and Crystal Ellard is handing out treats, cabbage and cucumbers, to the two dozen or so pigs of all ages and sizes. Like dogs, Ellard says pigs can be taught some basic commands.
“They can sit; some of them can stand and walk on their back legs,” says Ellard. “They’ve learned the command for ‘down,’ so if they get up on something you can tell them ‘down.’ [They’re] a lot of the same things that you want puppies to do because, well, [pigs] are even stronger.”
Volunteers also work with the pigs,who can get to 150 pounds, on being gentle and trusting around humans, and litterbox training if the pig is to stay indoors. Animal Allies has been taking care of the pigs since January, after about 30 originally were found in a wetland area near Avalon Boulevard and I-10.
“By the time we got out there, there were only six left south of [Interstate] 10; and there were only four left north of 10,” said Sharyn Berg, the Director of Animal Allies.
“A couple of them had been taken, from what we understand; people were going out to shoot them,” Berg said. “They had become a tourist attraction; people were going out there in truckloads to bring doughnuts, cakes and bread to feed them, and then they would leave.”
After rescuing the pigs, Berg says they had to learn about them in a hurry.
“Three of the pigs were pregnant; they were too far along for us to be able to spay them; so the whole pig birthing process is amazing,” said Berg. “They are viable as soon as they’re born. Pigs are good mommies; they grow up very fast – they mature very quickly. We had some of the boys neutered at three and a half weeks of age. Cats, you do at 4-6 months.”
The facility is also home to about 180 cats, tabbies, calicos, solid color, you name it, but no dogs.
“Dogs can be a real problem [around pigs]; everybody likes bacon,” Berg said. “And dogs see pigs are prey animals. And it doesn’t have to be a big dog."
On Saturday, Mama, Cole, Daisy and the piglets, along with many of the cats, will be among the animals that are available at the inaugural “Spring Into Love” mega adoption event, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Pensacola Fairgrounds on Mobile Highway. Berg says more than 20 rescue groups will be represented.
“We’re going to have dogs, cats, pigs, bunnies, ferrets; just about everything you could possibly want in a new family member,” said Berg. “We’re hoping for 100 adoptions in one day, and it this is successful, like we’re hoping it will be, we’ll be doing this annually.”
A large contingency of volunteers will be on hand, to provide information on the animals up for adoption. Those interested in adopting a pig from Animal Allies, says Sharyn Berg, will undergo an extensive application and interview process.
“We want people to volunteer for four hours at least, so they can get a real feeling of what it takes to take care of a pig,” Berg said. “Personal references; home checks with the pigs. And the most rescue [agencies] will do home checks with the dogs as well.”
The event’s primary mission is to reduce the number of animals that are killed in local public shelters. More than 10,000 animals in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties are euthanized each year.
“Escambia’s made huge strides in terms of reducing that number quite a bit,” says Berg. “To do that, the main thing is: spay and neuter; spay and neuter, spay and neuter. We spay and neuter the pigs before they get adopted; and we spay and neuter all the cats, and all the other rescues spay and neuter their dogs as well.”
Horses were also included in the original lineup, but Panhandle Equine Rescue will not be able to attend this year. More information on Saturday’s “Spring into Love” event, 10-4 at the Pensacola Fairgrounds, can be found at the Animal Allies Facebook page.