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Pot-bellied pigs – the new lost animal of San Diego County

Porkers grow into unwelcome guests

Marty Koontz: "Pigs will test the strength of your fencing."
Marty Koontz: "Pigs will test the strength of your fencing."

On February 1, animal services were called on a black-colored Vietnamese potbelly pig as he roamed by Hacienda Drive, south of the 76 in Oceanside. The San Diego Humane Society in Escondido refers to the 1-year-old pig by "Cannonball," who weighed about 18 pounds when they checked him in.

On January 23, Pumba, a white-and-gray colored pig with three dots on his ear, wandered off by the Logan Heights police station on Imperial Avenue a few blocks east of the I-5. The owner posted a photo of the "timid and very shy" oinker on the PawBoost site with a $150 reward. Juniorr said he spotted Pumba at Logan Avenue on the same Sunday the report was made. "I tried getting it, but it ran too fast."

Pigs are known to sprint at over ten miles per hour. Zach Johnson — the founder of the Swifty Swine Racing Pigs event at the San Diego Fair in Del Mar scheduled for June and July — is prepping their pigs for their 25th annual pig races.

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"We start training right when they're weaned, about four weeks old," Johnson said in a 2021 Reader article. "They're super-smart. It takes a week to train them. So at five weeks, they are ready to hit the road. We race them for two or three months, and already they're bigger, so we donate them to the FFA (Future Farmers of America) and 4H kids, go buy new piglets, and start all over again."

Tara Armbruster and Zoink. "They do what they want and when they want."

Katherine Upson, an agriculture teacher from Valley Center, instructs middle schoolers to raise livestock pigs. "Usually, kids get their pigs in February or March and raise them for the San Diego Fair," she said to me on February 6. "They are eight weeks old when they purchase them from a breeder. Mostly, in San Diego County, for livestock, it's a Hampshire or Duroc breed, while some raise heritage breeds like the Red Wattles."

In regards to pigs escaping from their homes: "Is that a common thing?"

Upson doesn't think it's a common occurrence. "Our pigs at the school farm like their home. I don't know much about the 'pet' pigs: mini, Juliana, and pot-bellied. They end up in shelters."

A week before Pumba bolted from Logan Heights, another pig escaped from its El Cajon confides. "Found this pig walking on Pepper Drive," posted a concerned dweller online. "I'm trying to find the owner before animal control gets a hold of the pig."

Over 30 comments were made in a short period, where East County locals identified the missing pig, then notified her owner. A couple of the commenters offered to raise the black-colored pig.

"Do your research and be more aware of what you are getting yourself into," Marty Koontz from Grazin Pig Acres in Ramona said on February 7. "Pigs will test the strength of your fencing, assuming you have something less than a brick wall, like a chain-link fence. They are extremely smart, affectionate and they get bored easily. They are social animals and love social interaction whether it's with a human or another pig, so when you leave them unattended for long lengths of time, they're going to get into things."

In February 2021, Tara Armbruster adopted Zoink, a Vietnamese potbelly pig. To keep Zoink safe within their Vista property, Armbruster added rebar stakes to secure the bottom of their chain-link fences.

"If for some reason they want something outside of your fence (food is their number one motive), they are going to do their best to bulldoze out and get what they want," Armbruster explained to me on February 7. "My advice for people thinking they would like to adopt a cute little pig as a house pet is to not. No amount of research or reading I had done could have prepared me for our pig's personality. He is part of our family now, and I wouldn't change that. But he took some getting used to. Also, thinking that an animal is smart and therefore trainable is a fallacy. These animals are smart to the point that they don't want to do anything to please you as a dog might. They do what they want and when they want. It is all on their terms. With all that said, I wouldn't trade my evening Zoink couch-cuddle time for anything; he will be my first and only house pig."

As this article goes to print, the black-colored Vietnamese potbelly pig found in Oceanside on February 1 has not been claimed. Pigs that are not claimed within the four-day holding period could be available for adoption, or they could be dropped off at Koontz's pig rescue. Koontz has been rescuing potbelly pigs for over 20 years, and he said 2021 was his busiest year. "I've gotten rescue calls and emails every week since the pandemic started. I've gotten several calls from the humane society about a pig running loose in the neighborhood that they picked it up at. Sometimes the owner shows up and tries to get the pig back, and the humane society won't give it back because they know the owner lives in an area that is not zoned for potbelly pigs; National City was one of those cities."

Another reason why many potbelly pigs go up for adoption or are dropped off at rescues is because of how large they grow, despite being much smaller than livestock pigs. Potbelly pigs generally measure 20 inches in height (measured at the shoulder) and 3 feet in length, weigh between 70-175 pounds, and can reach over 200 pounds.

"If you live in an apartment, a condo, or a place with a small yard — potbelly pigs are probably not the best choice. They need some space to go do pig stuff."

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Marty Koontz: "Pigs will test the strength of your fencing."
Marty Koontz: "Pigs will test the strength of your fencing."

On February 1, animal services were called on a black-colored Vietnamese potbelly pig as he roamed by Hacienda Drive, south of the 76 in Oceanside. The San Diego Humane Society in Escondido refers to the 1-year-old pig by "Cannonball," who weighed about 18 pounds when they checked him in.

On January 23, Pumba, a white-and-gray colored pig with three dots on his ear, wandered off by the Logan Heights police station on Imperial Avenue a few blocks east of the I-5. The owner posted a photo of the "timid and very shy" oinker on the PawBoost site with a $150 reward. Juniorr said he spotted Pumba at Logan Avenue on the same Sunday the report was made. "I tried getting it, but it ran too fast."

Pigs are known to sprint at over ten miles per hour. Zach Johnson — the founder of the Swifty Swine Racing Pigs event at the San Diego Fair in Del Mar scheduled for June and July — is prepping their pigs for their 25th annual pig races.

Sponsored
Sponsored

"We start training right when they're weaned, about four weeks old," Johnson said in a 2021 Reader article. "They're super-smart. It takes a week to train them. So at five weeks, they are ready to hit the road. We race them for two or three months, and already they're bigger, so we donate them to the FFA (Future Farmers of America) and 4H kids, go buy new piglets, and start all over again."

Tara Armbruster and Zoink. "They do what they want and when they want."

Katherine Upson, an agriculture teacher from Valley Center, instructs middle schoolers to raise livestock pigs. "Usually, kids get their pigs in February or March and raise them for the San Diego Fair," she said to me on February 6. "They are eight weeks old when they purchase them from a breeder. Mostly, in San Diego County, for livestock, it's a Hampshire or Duroc breed, while some raise heritage breeds like the Red Wattles."

In regards to pigs escaping from their homes: "Is that a common thing?"

Upson doesn't think it's a common occurrence. "Our pigs at the school farm like their home. I don't know much about the 'pet' pigs: mini, Juliana, and pot-bellied. They end up in shelters."

A week before Pumba bolted from Logan Heights, another pig escaped from its El Cajon confides. "Found this pig walking on Pepper Drive," posted a concerned dweller online. "I'm trying to find the owner before animal control gets a hold of the pig."

Over 30 comments were made in a short period, where East County locals identified the missing pig, then notified her owner. A couple of the commenters offered to raise the black-colored pig.

"Do your research and be more aware of what you are getting yourself into," Marty Koontz from Grazin Pig Acres in Ramona said on February 7. "Pigs will test the strength of your fencing, assuming you have something less than a brick wall, like a chain-link fence. They are extremely smart, affectionate and they get bored easily. They are social animals and love social interaction whether it's with a human or another pig, so when you leave them unattended for long lengths of time, they're going to get into things."

In February 2021, Tara Armbruster adopted Zoink, a Vietnamese potbelly pig. To keep Zoink safe within their Vista property, Armbruster added rebar stakes to secure the bottom of their chain-link fences.

"If for some reason they want something outside of your fence (food is their number one motive), they are going to do their best to bulldoze out and get what they want," Armbruster explained to me on February 7. "My advice for people thinking they would like to adopt a cute little pig as a house pet is to not. No amount of research or reading I had done could have prepared me for our pig's personality. He is part of our family now, and I wouldn't change that. But he took some getting used to. Also, thinking that an animal is smart and therefore trainable is a fallacy. These animals are smart to the point that they don't want to do anything to please you as a dog might. They do what they want and when they want. It is all on their terms. With all that said, I wouldn't trade my evening Zoink couch-cuddle time for anything; he will be my first and only house pig."

As this article goes to print, the black-colored Vietnamese potbelly pig found in Oceanside on February 1 has not been claimed. Pigs that are not claimed within the four-day holding period could be available for adoption, or they could be dropped off at Koontz's pig rescue. Koontz has been rescuing potbelly pigs for over 20 years, and he said 2021 was his busiest year. "I've gotten rescue calls and emails every week since the pandemic started. I've gotten several calls from the humane society about a pig running loose in the neighborhood that they picked it up at. Sometimes the owner shows up and tries to get the pig back, and the humane society won't give it back because they know the owner lives in an area that is not zoned for potbelly pigs; National City was one of those cities."

Another reason why many potbelly pigs go up for adoption or are dropped off at rescues is because of how large they grow, despite being much smaller than livestock pigs. Potbelly pigs generally measure 20 inches in height (measured at the shoulder) and 3 feet in length, weigh between 70-175 pounds, and can reach over 200 pounds.

"If you live in an apartment, a condo, or a place with a small yard — potbelly pigs are probably not the best choice. They need some space to go do pig stuff."

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