Sonoma County Animal Services recently had occasion for a visit to wine country, but it wasn’t for a tasting tour. The officers were in Healdsburg, CA, following reports of a piglet running loose on a rural road alongside area vineyards. The officers were able to track down and capture the little runaway, who had likely escaped from a nearby pig farm. Her brief taste of freedom might have ended then and there.
The piglet was brought to the Animal Services shelter in nearby Santa Rosa to be kept for the requisite, 14-day hold period, and the agency posted her info on an online search site for animal adopters. The shelter supervisor and one of her colleagues, both vegetarian, didn’t want to see the piglet end up on someone’s dinner table, but the only inquiries they received were from pig farmers. Then they got a call from Farm Sanctuary Placement Coordinator Alicia Pell.
Alicia had been scanning the same search site for farm animals, since so many had recently turned up in animal control shelters in California. She was on the lookout particularly for pigs, since a member of our Farm Animal Adoption Network (FAAN) had recently adopted a 5-month-old pig and reached out to us seeking a companion for him. When Alicia saw the Sonoma piglet, she contacted the adopter, who agreed to take her in. The kind shelter supervisor was grateful to find a safe, permanent home for the piglet, and on Feb. 3, we were there as the shelter opened to pick up our new friend, now named Flo.
Flo’s first stop was the UC-Davis veterinary hospital, where she underwent a spay procedure, an important measure that will reduce her risk of reproductive-tract cancer when she’s older. Once Flo had completed the four- to six-week recovery, Northern California Shelter Manager Kate Powell drove her 11 hours to her adopters. Flo loves her new family, including pig friends Wilbur, Homer, and Belle, a 10-year-old pig who was adopted through our National Placement Board in 2004. Happily, Flo’s foray down the wine trail has led this lucky piglet all the way home.
It is important to note that had Flo wound up back on a pig farm, she would either have endured years of relentless pregnancy and loss as a breeding sow or been killed before the autumn. Pigs are slaughtered when they reach “market weight” at six months, though they can live ten years or more with proper care. Over the course of more than a quarter century caring for rescued pigs, we have witnessed how rich these years can be — full of fun, friendships, exploration, and contentment. All that now awaits Flo, one of the very few pigs in this world who are free to live as they wish.