Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cryptorchid piggies - and a shameful event

Recently an intact male potbellied pig came into the care of a well respected shelter, a shelter which does a splendid job with dogs but with no piggy experience. The shelter contacted Janice at Hearts on Noses Potbellied Pig Sanctuary, who (as those of you following my blog and hers already know, is pushed to the limits both financially and physically right now) said she couldn’t take on an unneutered pig, and gave the shelter the name of a pig-experienced vet to do the neutering.

The shelter chose to ignore the recommendation of the internationally recognized pig expert, and selected a different vet. That vet discovered the pig was cryptorchid (undescended testes) and recommended euthanizing him, with tales of aggressive male pigs, arguments that pigs with undescended testes cannot be neutered, and other ill-informed and downright incorrect information. Instead of checking back with piggy expert Janice Gillett, the shelter approved the euth and the piggy was put down.

When I first accepted Scotch and Soda as foster pigs, Scotch was not neutered. And yet he was one of the most gentle, soft piggies you can imagine. Personable, funny, sometimes a little pushy but certainly never aggressive, he communicated with sounds and body language that were easily understandable and very manageable.

And he was cryptorchid.

When we took him for neutering, the vet was able to retrieve only one testes – the other had adhered to the bladder, but was shriveled and “almost certainly” nonproductive. Likely still producing testosterone, but not producing viable sperm, Scotch continues his life as a partially-neutered pig. And he continues to be mellow, funny, sometimes pushy, but always manageable and very loving.

Similarly, of the nine male piglets who were born from Soda (pregnant when seized in an animal abuse case and giving birth just a couple of weeks after arriving at my farm), seven were cryptorchid. All were neutered successfully by a vet experienced in potbellied pigs.

There are legitimate reasons for euthanizing an animal, the most pressing being severe, untreatable injury/pain. But euthanizing a pig for being cryptorchid is like euthanizing a human for being mentally or physically disabled. It is immoral, unethical, and downright inhumane.

The number of potbellied pigs abandoned and neglected continues to grow (and in fact some reports state that potbellied pigs, first made popular in Canada in the 1980s, are experiencing a comeback as a “trendy” pet – a thought which alarms me no end, given how many are homeless by the time they are full grown). Shame on the people who bred Freddy the pig in the first place and sold him, unneutered, to the first hand holding money. And shame on the people who took responsibility for Freddy and then abandoned him so he ended up in a shelter.

Shame on the shelter that didn’t acknowledge its own limitations and failed to rely on the expert advice available to them. And most of all, shame on the vet who failed to uphold the ethical standards of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, and who likewise failed to acknowledge his own limitations – both his limited knowledge of the species and his lack of surgical skills.

A piggy named Freddy was killed the other day, murdered by a man who believed that having an undescended testes was an incurable disease that would lead to others being harmed. His murder was condoned by a shelter who would, I am sure, have never approved the euthanization of a dog on the basis of an undescended testes.

Freddy, I am so sorry. Run free, piggyboy, in a field full of licorice and marshmallows and watermelon, playmates and cosy straw and sunshine, and all the other wonderful things you might have lived to enjoy had humankind not let you down.


Janice Gillett said...

I know our vets here don't see a lot of pot belly pigs but this surgery would of required only the skills of a someone who new how to spay one. I just can't comprehend how this happened.. it is a story about a vet who couldn't be bothered. Therefore should not be in practice , would you want him working on your pet???

Anonymous said...

Jean -I can certainly vouch for Scotch's disposition. When I first met him -before he was neutered I sat down in the straw and petted him. In fact he always seemed to have a much better disposition then Soda -the female one. I would happily have gone into the pen with Scotch but would be very watchful with Soda.

As far as the vet goes-he certainly should have got and followed expert advice, but there is nearly always another side to the story and we don't know his or where he got his bad information from. The shelter is surely as much at fault.

Big Sis