October 25, 2006

Potbellied pigs rescued from hunters in Pierson
Staff Writer

Ten swollen potbellied pigs will have litters any day now. They and 29 others are being tested for diseases before being shipped to adoption homes around the country.

The pigs are being sheltered at a Gainesville farm after being rescued from hunters with bows and arrows on Still Road in Pierson on Saturday, according to Melissa Glikes, a volunteer with a Fort Myers-based rescue group called The Pig Preserve Association.

The situation has sparked the fury of potbellied pig enthusiasts monitoring the situation across the nation on Internet news groups. One organization, the Coalition of Pig Sanctuaries, said the pigs were released from the property of a feuding couple going through a divorce.

Dispatch records show the Volusia County Sheriff's Office was called out Friday night to an address on Still Road in response to complaints that a man and four to five juveniles were aiming bows and arrows at pigs in the street.

One hunter was an officer with the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who said he had the legal right to hunt the pigs, according to copies of e-mails between the responding deputy and sheriff's dispatchers.

No one was arrested because the pigs are not considered domesticated animals, Sheriff's Office spokesman Brandon Haught said.

Kat Kelly, spokeswoman for the conservation commission, identified the officer as Jeffrey Beal, who was off duty at the time.

"This situation involves a private landowner who gave permission for the pigs to be hunted and is well within his lawful rights to do so," she said. Potbellied pigs, she said, are not native to Florida and not regulated by the agency.

Reached by telephone, the man identified by rescue group members as the owner of the pigs declined to comment.

Members of the rescue groups don't share the law enforcement agencies' views of the pigs as non-domestic. They consider the animals, which generally grow no larger than 30 pounds, as pets.

A member of one group, founder of a Washington-based troupe of performing potbellied pigs, said in an e-mail that the breed is the "smartest four-legged animal."

Glikes said the rescued pigs will be tested for rabies and brucellosis before being offered for adoption.

About 60 homes around the U.S., including some in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Colorado, have offered to take the pigs, said Lana Hollenback of the The Pig Preserve organization.

"As we are able to raise the funds, they will be transported to places around the country," Hollenback said.

Glikes said a resident told her a few of the pigs have gotten loose in the past and multiplied. Glikes estimated there were about 85 pigs on and near the property.

"We don't want any more killed," Hollenback said.

patricio.balona @news-jrnl.com