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'He came here to be an ambassador' | Pig rescued from 'deplorable conditions' now helping educate people on proper way pigs can be pets

Clay County Sheriff's deputies and Animal Services rescued Templeton the potbelly pig from a home in Middleburg in October.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — Pigs as pets may sound farfetched, but a local farm is using one pig to help educate people about the proper way to have the animals as man's best friend.

Templeton the potbelly big is getting used to his new home at EPIC Outreach animal sanctuary. In October, Clay County Sheriff's deputies and Animal Services rescued Templeton and close to 100 other animals, including 27 other pigs, from a home in Middleburg. EPIC took in Templeton, and EPIC's founder, Jessie Miller, said Animal Services asked if they'd help find the other pigs homes.

EPIC has taken in 10 animals in 2021 alone from hoarding situations, she said.

"It was actually pretty crazy," Miller said. "We posted on social media and it went viral, so it got over 1,000 shares and we were getting people that were willing to come from North Carolina, Alabama to drive to adopt these pigs,” she said.

In the end, local homes and farms adopted the pigs, Miller said.

Now, she said, Templeton has not only a new home but a new role.

"He came here to be an ambassador. We do a lot of education outreach and we like to share stories about animals that need rescue, their rescue situations, where they came from and then educate people about how pigs can be pets and that they need help too, not just dogs and cats and other animals," Miller said.

"Pigs make great pets if you know what you're doing. Just like a dog or a cat, they need food, water, shelter. Pigs are very intelligent and they need stimulation, so providing them with things to do. They get bored very easily, but pigs will learn their name. They’ll be housebroken. They can learn tricks like sitting and spinning and other things that you would teach a dog," she said.

Miller said make sure your city, county and HOA allow pigs as pets. Specifically, she said, a potbelly pig is the type of pig that can be a pet.

As for Templeton, he’s getting acclimated.

“They respond pretty well a lot of times. In those hoarding cases, they’re not getting the proper food and proper water and the shelter and the things that they need to be healthy. A lot of times they’re shy. So, you’ll see Templeton is learning to trust again and learning to be petted, take treats from us, and he has already learned his name and will come when called,” Miller said.

He’s also learning new tricks, like bobbing for apples.

Miller said they plan to have Templeton help educate people about having potbelly pigs as pets.

“We’ve developed a piggy placement program here at EPIC Outreach because the need is so high, and we’ve taken in pigs from other hoarding situations and adopted them out already and will continue to do that,” she said.

Miller said hoarding animals is pretty prevalent.

“People get pigs when they are babies. Just like puppies and kittens, they’re super cute when they’re babies and then they grow up and again, they need stimulation and they need things to do and people don’t provide that for them, so they start digging in the yard. They start digging around your house just like a dog or a cat would start scratching or chewing on things and if you don’t provide for them, they become kind of a problem and so people just automatically want to get rid of them,” Miller said.

She said people often call them and want EPIC to take their pigs. Miller said if you’re considering adopting or adding a pig to your home, reach out to them. She said they’re available to answer questions and help you adopt a potbelly pig.

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