Potbellied pig surplus

Lots of things peaked in the '80s, from leg warmers to big hair. Vietnamese potbellied pigs also were hot 20 years ago, and, like Michael Jackson, they have faded, but persist beyond their heyday.

There is a steady surplus, says Janice Skura of the Long Island Pot Bellied Pig Association, who runs the only rescue program for them in the metropolitan New York area.

“You would not believe the amount of pigs that are abandoned, abused, neglected and tossed out on a daily basis,” says Skura.

Many have behavioral problems created by owners who underestimate these animals.

THAT SMARTS: “Pigs have the intelligence of a toddler, and they get frustrated if they aren't mentally stimulated – they will find things to do on their own,” Skura warns. Since pigs are not very agile, romps in the park are out (though they will walk nicely on harness). Instead, “they are more trick-oriented – that's what keeps them busy,” from pushing balls to miniature bowling.

“They want to be top pig, and you have to let them know you are the boss,” Skura advises. “If you let them get away with something once, they'll do it again because they're so smart.”

HOW DO I LOVE THEE? Skura ticks off the many things that potbellied pigs have to recommend them: “They have hair, not fur, so they are hypoallergenic. They don't shed… they don't bark or chew, and they don't get fleas.”

And Skura says they are odor-free and easily potty-trained, happily using a dog door to do their business outdoors.

CAVEATS: Potbellied pigs “do need a fenced yard, they don't do stairs very well, and they don't make good apartment pets,” she cautions.

COUCH OPTIONAL: “Pigs don't have to live in the house,” Skura notes. “They can live outside if you make them a small wooden house, filled with straw, the lower to the ground the better, to keep heat in.”

PIGS IN A BLANKET: Skura stuffs dog-size airline crates with quilts and blankets, “and they bury themselves,” she reports.

PIG IN A POKE: In many localities, potbellied pigs are considered domestic pets, not agricultural farm hogs destined for a gastronomic end. But Skura warns that some municipalities do not make the distinction, and potential owners should check zoning restrictions to make sure they can legally own them.

WANT TO HELP? Find adoptable pigs all over the country by visiting www.pigplacementnetwork.com.