An animal sanctuary outside of Stratford, Ont. is asking the public to stop keeping pigs as pets.
Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary says it has had 18 pot-bellied pigs dropped off throughout the summer at its farm because owners aren't doing proper research.
"We are constantly contacted for homes for pot-bellied pigs," the owner of the not-for-profit sanctuary, Siobhan Poole, told CBC Toronto. "We don't have the space for all of them. We try to find as many good homes for them as we can."
Under Toronto's animal bylaw, pigs are considered prohibited, meaning they must be kept in a "suitable home" such as a zoo or sanctuary like Poole's.
Already Poole and her husband, Peter, care for dozens of animals from pigs to cows and chickens. Some of the animals have been abused or neglected, they say, while others are there because people couldn't take care of them anymore.
'Teacup pigs' trendy
But Poole says pot-bellied pigs have been "trendy" the last couple of years.
"People post photos of them to Instagram and others see it and think they're cute," Poole said. "They are cute when they're little, but they get pretty big."
A pot-bellied pig takes four years to reach full size, which comes as a surprise to some pet owners.
Poole says she receives emails weekly from people who don't want to take care of their pot belly pigs anymore and the breeders often won't take them back.
"The breeders have a new term they call them micro pigs or mini pigs or teacup pigs," Poole said. The farm owner says those names can be deceiving because the people purchasing the pet aren't aware that they grow to be much bigger.
Ace Howard says he isn't a breeder, but posted an ad for three pot-bellied pigs on Kijiji after rescuing them from the woods.
Howard found the pigs malnourished and took care of them until they were healthy again. He says he's being very mindful of who he allows to take the pigs home.
"It's easy to spot someone who's never owned one," Howard said. "I believe that anyone who has not owned a regular pig, is not ready to own a pot belly. I ask how much and what they would feed [the pigs] right off the bat."
'It's not an animal you can just leave at home'
Some owners don't realize until after they take the pigs home that their city's bylaws don't allow them to have pot-bellied pigs in a house, Poole says, emphasizing people need to do their research before taking the animals home as pets.
That's why her sanctuary is taking steps to educate people through with informational posts on their Instagram page.
"We love animals. This is our way to help. We want to get the word out."
The message Poole says she hopes prospective pet-owners will take home:
"Make sure you are allowed to have a pig. Pigs need a lot of space. Pigs need a lot of attention... It's not an animal you can just leave at home and go to work for eight hours a day."
Responsible owners frustrated by issue
Natalie Land from Guelph, Ont. owns a pot-bellied pig that she got from a breeder in Quebec.
Guelph's bylaws indicate people can own pot-bellied pigs as pets in the city.
When asked why she'd opt for a pet pig, Land laughed. "We are very weird people," she said. Land also has allergies to many pets, and pigs are hypoallergenic. However, she took the responsibility very seriously when she first took home her pig — named Bacon — two years ago.
"You need a fenced-in yard," Land said. "We changed our whole house around so she would be able to walk around easy."
Land says pigs are very social pets and need attention. "She follows us around all day. She doesn't like being alone."
She adds that it saddens her to hear people aren't taking care of pigs after adopting them.
"We love Bacon and we would never give her up."
An earlier version of this story stated that as many as 18 pigs were dropped off in one day. In fact, 18 pigs have been dropped off throughout the summer thus far.Jul 24, 2017 9:26 AM ET