Have you ever given a pig a belly rub? Have you ever hugged a pig and had him cuddle back? Some of you may remember my blog last July about my visit to Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Maryland: that was when I first experienced pig-love. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit a sanctuary completely devoted to rescued pot-bellied pigs, The Ironwood Pig Sanctuary. Along with my husband Seth, my parents, and a group of law students who are members of the Animal Legal Defense Fund student chapter, we took the drive about forty minutes northwest of Tucson to tour the sanctuary and meet some of its amazing residents. Ironwood is home to more than six hundred pigs (yes, you read that right!) who were abandoned, neglected, abused, or unwanted. Many of the recent rescues have come to the sanctuary because of home foreclosures; and the sanctuary frequently takes in pigs from loving caregivers who had to give up their pigs because of HOA restrictions.
You don’t have to spend much time with these animals to remember how much as a kid you loved “SOME PIG” Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, and how you (no longer a kid) rooted for Babe when the odds were stacked against him in the sheep-herding competition. Pigs are cute. Pigs are intelligent. Pigs can be super-affectionate. And, as I found out today, sometimes they can be shy. Whether a pig is a pot-bellied piglet or a whopping 600-pound hog, he’s going to melt your heart. Just ask George Clooney, whose pot-bellied pig Max lived to be eighteen years old.
I also learned today that, although pot-bellied pigs are usually around as companion animals, they’re considered “livestock” in some jurisdictions. Having livestock status has a huge impact on an animal in terms of legal protection. As it is, there are few laws that offer any kind of protection to animals. On the state level, each state has its own animal cruelty statutes; on the federal level, there is the Animal Welfare Act. However, livestock are among the animals excluded from these laws. In fact, about 98% of animals are virtually unprotected by existing laws. Still, I’m optimistic that we will see changes in our laws and the treatment of all animals, especially when I visit a place like Ironwood and meet people who are so dedicated to giving animals a voice as well as a helping hand.
Thanks so much to Mary and all the sanctuary staff for welcoming us and taking time out of their already busy day to show us around!