Little Oink Bank Sanctuary in Aldergrove has become a safe haven for B.C.’s abandoned pigs this year, many whose last option is the slaughterhouse.
Carrie Shogan, and her husband Ron, first took in sow — Momma and her daughters Bear and Sweet Pea on March 28 of last year.
“We used to have a hobby farm and would focus on growing vegetables, but when these girls came along everything changed,” Carrie said about their five-acre property on the 1700-block of 252 St.
The initial three female rescues expanded quickly to 18 pigs in two months, after the couple discovered the surrendered sows were, in fact, impregnated breeding stock.
Once the Shogans saw Momma’s attachment to her liter, they began naming the lot.
Minnie, Milos, Strawberry, Star, Axel, Birdie, Bernie, Buttons and Dudley are some of the adorable names Carrie has allotted for her pigs, whom she admits treating similar to children.
“There is such a sweetness, innocence and earnestness to pigs. Just like kids they play, fight over bed space and get jealous over others in their family receiving attention,” Carrie explained.
As soon as the family announced their intentions to be a sanctuary, they were fielding calls the very next day from people asking, “can you please take this pig?” Carrie said.
Sixteen months later, the self-professed 100 per cent vegan farm teems with 32 pigs, including 17 unique rescues from locations across Western B.C.
“We’ve been all over the province to bring abandoned pigs home,” Carrie said, mentioning trips to Quesnel, Kelowna, Surrey, New Westminster and even drives through the Interior – during white-out conditions – to bring back a sow in need.
For most, pigs don’t make good pets, Carrie said.
The Shogans received a call from a young lady saying her ex-boyfriend bought her a piglet from someone selling them out of a basket at a gas station. She asked if we could take it, Carrie recalled.
“Breeders tell pet owners that they are ‘teacup pigs’ or ‘micro-pigs’ and that they’ll only grow to be fifty-pounds, which is just not true,” Carrie said, and she emphasized that a pig under 300 to 400 pounds is a mini-pig, and that they grow exponentially until the age of five.
“That’s why up to 90 per cent of mini-pigs end up being re-homed,” she said.
“We’d take them all if we could.”
Ron, whose retired and in his 60’s, stays home full-time to oversee farm activity while Carrie’s off at her day job as a caterer.
“He wakes up at the crack of dawn, 5:30 a.m., and is only able to rest after the inside herd settles down at around 8:30 p.m.,” Carrie explained.
The 17 pigs in the outdoor heard — 15 of which are related — have not yet embraced the 15 rescues that stay in the Shogan’s indoor enclosure.
The makeshift shelter is comprised of beloved misfits, a “catch all herd,” Carrie calls them.
“It’s a ‘top hog’ mentality,” she said, noting the challenges of new rescues being accepted into the fold of pre-existing herds.
Their outdoor pig enclosure includes a barn and an acre and a half of greenery. Both herds sleep up to 16 hours a day during the winter season.
“They’ll be more active in the spring, they’ll swim in our pond, have mud baths and play a lot outdoors,” Carrie said.
The indoor enclosure is likely to be discontinued after a second shelter is built for the the new herd adjacent to the Shogan’s home outdoors.
“We might even integrate the two herds once we have more space,” Carrie added.
All male pigs in the sanctuary are neutered as it is often a less invasive surgery for the sex.
Minnie, or Minerva, is the sanctuary’s youngest and biggest gilt. The family rescued her from the Surrey SPCA.
“Minnie the maxi-pig,” Ron teased aloud.
At just eight months old Minnie towers over the other pigs in the indoor enclosure and is expected to keep growing to where she is 600 pounds.
“She loves to steal chapstick,” Carrie added.
Pepper is the sanctuary’s only harness-trained pig. In the mornings, the dark-haired little pig follows Ron as he goes about his farm work, and even cleans up scrap food off the ground.
Friendly little Pepper is an “opportunity for outreach,” the couple mentioned. When they visits Ralph’s Farm Market to pick up donated vegetables and fruits, she is fawned over by customers and workers alike.
The Little Oink Bank Sanctuary acquired B.C. nonprofit status in September, and is supported by Little Oink Banks Catering – which is Carrie’s vegan catering company that and bakes to raise proceeds for the teeming sanctuary.
People who want to support the growing nonprofit can give financially through Little Oink Bank Sanctuary’s Facebook page or donations of new or used blankets and towels for nesting purposes are also welcome.
“We are spreading the message of pigs as the wonderful, caring and intelligent animals,” Carrie said she sees an opportunity to not only to be the pig’s caretaker but also their voice, she said.