200 Pet Porkers Seek Loving Home
North Fort Myers - On a 5 acre bit of pig paradise, 400 potbellied porkers have spent their days dipping in a kiddy pool, burrowing in straw and snoozing in the barns.
But some of the pigs who have called the George L. Davis Potbellied Pig Sanctuary home will have to find a new place to live since one of their caretakers has become ill with multiple sclerosis.
John and Cindy Harris have been able to find homes for about 50 of the pigs and can keep caring for about 150, but that leaves 200 that need to move in the coming months.
"We could run an ad in the paper and place every one of them if I didn't care who they went to, but I do," said Cindy Harris.
The Harrises have run the pig sanctuary since 1997, and Cindy Harris also runs a medical records copying service.
But the multiple sclerosis causes her to lose her vision periodically and the cost of her medications can be up to $1,000 a month. There isn't enough money to pay for the medical expenses and the $500 a week feed bill for the pigs.
Her husband said he can take over his wife's business if she can no longer work, but the won't be able to keep caring for so many pigs, some of which are too old or too fat to be adopted.
Since October, the Harrises have been trying to thin their herd.
"I'd like to see them all live out their lives somewhere, on a farm or a sanctuary or with a family," John Harris said.
Animal-welfare agencies haven't been able to help.
"Dogs and cats get money," Cindy Harris said. "Farm animals get money. But not potbellies."
The struggle to keep the sanctuary going hasn't been easy. The Harrises have been the subject of complaints, but local animal-services investigators, the Humane Society and the U.S. Department of Agriculture declined to cite the couple after inspecting the farm.
John Harris said the pigs are not good pets for everyone. They root and chew on things and can get into mischief when they are bored.
"A pig is straightforward," John Harris said. "If it wants something, it goes and gets it. They're smart animals. They're just cool.