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Nothing To Snort At: Pig Rescue Group On Central Coast Saves Abandoned Pet Pigs

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Sue Parkinson feeds one of the residents of her pig rescue operation in the Santa Ynez valley, which is called "Lil' Orphan Hammies"

There’s a little known non-profit group with a mission that’s nothing to snort about. It’s a unique pig rescue organization based in the Santa Ynez Valley, called Lil' Orphan Hammies.

The non-profit was founded more than a quarter of a century ago by a woman who thought it would be fun to own a pet pig. Sue Parkinson soon discovered owning a potbellied pig was a lot more work than she expected. But, she loved it, and her little piggy soon became a celebrity of sorts in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Pet pigs became a fad. But, many people decided they didn’t want them, after the cute little piggies became not so cute big piggies, weighing hundreds of pounds.

Parkinson started the rescue when someone brought in their pig for training, and eventually didn’t want in anymore. So, what started as taking a few pigs from people who didn’t want them turned into a full blown pig rescue.

Parkinson hand her husband owned five acres of land outside of Solvang, a perfect spot for house the pigs. It’s currently home to about 140 pigs. Parkinson says it’s heartbreaking because if raised properly, the pigs can be loyal and well trained.

Parkinson says breeders have made the problem worse in recent years, selling so called “teacup” pigs online. They are small when they are young, but she says people don’t realize they can still grow up to weigh 150 pounds.

Kelly Holtzman operates a small pig rescue operation in Kansas, but comes out every year to help Parkinson, with “Lil' Orphan Hammies” which is really Parkinson and a handful of volunteers.

Parkinson says some of the orphaned pigs are eventually placed in permanent homes elsewhere, but says the spots are often quickly filled by pet pigs people dump with animal shelters. Her rescue has saved more than a thousand pigs over the years.

She says besides saving abused, or neglected pigs, one of the biggest goals now is educating the public. Parkinson says just because you see a pig in a TV commercial, or with a celebrity doesn’t mean it’s an appropriate pet for you. And, she says while they are cute while they are little, they won’t stay that way. They are going to get a lot bigger, and people need to be aware of it before they get one.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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