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Pig Rescuers Await Vote on Donation

Pets: Ventura County supervisors will decide today whether to give surplus equipment from the jail's hog farm to groups that save potbellied porkers.


For Marty Fast, there is nothing quite as gratifying as saving a potbellied pig from the slaughterhouse.

"It's that nose, that face," said Fast, who runs Ojai Pig Rescue. "Most people don't realize how intelligent they are. They feel pain. They know exactly what's going to happen to them."

If plans go as expected, Fast will be able to change the destiny for many more doomed porkers. Ventura County supervisors today will decide whether to allow the Sheriff's Department to donate equipment from its jail-yard pig farm to her nonprofit organization.

After 70 years, the swine program at the overcrowded Ojai Honor Farm--the biggest pork producer in Southern California--will close in July to make room for more female inmates.

As a result, surplus equipment such as houses and feeders may be donated to local and regional groups such as Ojai Pig Rescue and the Lil' Orphan Hammies Pot-Bellied Pig Sanctuary in Solvang.

Ojai Mayor Pro Tem Suza Francina helped get the equipment donated to the nonprofit groups. She sent letters to Sheriff Bob Brooks urging him to give them the houses and feeders.

"I love potbellied pigs," Francina said. "I've had one for seven years named Rosie. She's the love of my life."

The swine rescue groups provide shelter, food and nurturing to more than 120 abandoned and neglected pigs from Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles counties.

"We're getting all this equipment and it's wonderful," said Sue Parkinson, founder of Lil' Orphan Hammies. "It's going to allow us to bring in more pigs, that's for sure."

The groups, which are operated by volunteers out of private homes, could not otherwise afford the 10 state-of-the-art Smedley pig shelters that cost about $600 each, Parkinson said.

Also needed are the three feeders the groups expect to receive, Parkinson said. Currently, Parkinson assembles by hand the wooden troughs for the fleshy creatures who wolf down pig pellets, carrots, apples, watermelon and air-popped popcorn.

Parkinson lamented that so many people buy piglets as pets and then abandon them once they gain 200 or so pounds. The local groups retrieve wayward pigs from shelters before someone buys them for meat or they are euthanized.

"Often we hear, 'Oh my God, it's biting my kid,' " Parkinson said. "Or, 'My pig's too big. It was supposed to stay at 30 pounds.' People don't know the truth about potbellied pigs. They get big. They like to dig. They may dig up your garden."

But Parkinson and Fast also said pigs can be loving pets. Fast has owned an albino pig, named Guido, for years.

"He's completely housebroken," Fast said. "He spends most of the time outdoors, comes in at 6 p.m., I throw a blanket over him, then don't hear an oink from him all night."

Pig lovers who want to donate money, food or time to the local groups can call Fast at 646-8349. People can also sponsor a pig for $25 a month.

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