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These Pigs Belong In The Home, Not The Pen

The Orlando Sentinel
Early 1990's

Kissimmee - Some little piggies go to market. These days, Beauregard, Priscilla, Joshua, Jordan, Derrick and Spenser are simply staying home.

The potbellied porkers live at the 35-acre Green Meadows Farm in Kissimmee. The petting farm and tourist attraction, which charges a $9 admission, is the site of the nation's first study center for domestic minipigs. It will open to the public Saturday.

"These animals are going to be the pet of the 21st century," said project director Mike Shulman. "It's unusual and it's a bit strange, but they are terribly affectionate animals."

Shulman and a loosely knit group of pig lovers formed the nonprofit Florida Institute of Video Education two years ago so they could promote minipigs as house pets.

Their idea is to study the behavior of the 35-pound porcine pets in homelike pigpens. They will produce videos of their work and then show the tapes to school children.

So far, the pigs are adjusting well to their new pens, which are complete with indoor-outdoor carpeting, a swimming pool, television or radio and wall paintings.

"They are the couch potato of animals because they cuddle up with anyone who is watching a basketball game or knitting or reading a book," said Shulman, a former cockatoo owner who said he wouldn't trade in his two Oriental potbellied pigs for anything. "They're happiest sitting next to your feet."

The pigs do need some pampering, including powerful sunblock - Sun Protection Factor 50 to be exact - and buckets of baby lotion to keep their tender skin moist, Shulman said.

To create the study center, the institute raised about $60,000 worth of in-kind contributions from a slew of building suppliers and pet food makers. The contributors are hoping the pigpens will persuade enough people to adopt a few piggies. The pig owners may then buy pig food and the roofing, lights and other materials used in the model pen.

Similar study centers are planned for other Green Meadows farms in six other states.

Last year, a national breeding registry showed there were more than 65,000 pig owners nationwide. The pigs were literally down-sized from their farm animal cousins through selective breeding.

Even so, not everyone is going hold wild over pet pigs.

Shulman's neighbors in Altamonte Springs complained to the City Commission earlier this year about smelly garbage cans and rank pig waste.

"I think it's wonderful what he's doing at Green Meadows," said Shelley Fisher, president of the Spring Lake Homeowners Association. "But pigs don't belong in a residential neighborhood. They belong on a farm."

City commissioners agreed. They are planning to pass a law by summer's end that bars livestock from residential neighborhoods.

Shulman says the ordinance won't apply to him because his minipigs are house pets, not livestock. However, City Administrator Phil Penland said the ban would include minipigs.

Despite the Altamonte dispute, the popularity of the so-called "yuppie puppies" is continuing.

Several years ago, a single minipig cost about $3,000. Today, it costs about $150 to $600 to buy one.

Ocoee veterinarian Mark Hall, who has cared for Shulman's pigs, said the most common problem is the pigs have a tendency to pork out, but Shulman insists their weight can be controlled.

Many people allergic to cats and dogs can live with minipigs without problems, Shulman said. Another advantage is that minipigs can be trained to use a litter box.

"It's a perfect pet," Shulman said.

By Annie Tin
Orlando Sentinel Staff

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