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Organization cares for pigs

By Staff | Dec 10, 2010

(Chronicle photo by Steve Wabnitz) Melissa Susko, the executive director of PIGS?Animal Sanctuary poses with one of the 400 pets at the haven. The organization is looking for donations this holiday season to help feed and shelter the animals.

Tucked away on a sleepy country road, the PIGS Animal Sanctuary is another component of the Shepherdstown community.

But these pigs are different than the ones seen at the county fairs – with about 120 miniature potbellied pigs that were once household pets, imported primarily from Vietnam and New Zealand. The craze that swept the nation some years ago brought about a reversal for some pet owners when the “miniatures” grew to a mature weight around 150 pounds.

PIGS is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization and, according Melissa Susko, executive director, the program’s funding comes solely from donations without any monies from local, state or Federal government.

But, she said, “during the last two years our donations have dropped by about 25 percent” adding that she “was hoping that an idea I had might be a way to bring the holiday spirit to those giving and to benefit the animals in the sanctuary.”

“I thought that if everyone that reads this could send a Christmas card to us with even a dollar it would be a wonderful gift,” Susko said.

Still others may wish to do more.

“Last year a visitor from New York had heard about us at our website and fell in love with a baby pig named Walter,” Susko said.

She said that led to a sponsorship for baby Walter, with a gift of $1,000 for his extended care. With those “virtual adoptions,” Susko provides regular updates with pictures via email and note cards.

“It isn’t always easy to keep a pig at home,” she said, “but it is easy to fall in love with one.”

Initially founded in 1992 to care for potbellied and other domestic pigs, the sanctuary “currently provides a safe haven for approximately 400 animals including horses, donkeys, cats, dogs and goats,” Susko said.

With so many to care for and such a small staff, the sanctuary could use the donations.

“We have two people on staff – me and Ed Eckman, our farm manager. We also have part-time caregivers as set forth through our board of directors,” she said.

Susko invites the public to come see all the animals during tours given from May through October.

“Or you may be interested in becoming a volunteer helper,” she said.

Call 304-262-0080 or visit the website at www.pigs.org for more information. Those interested in donating can send a card to PIGS Animal Sanctuary, 1112 Persimmon Lane, Shepherdstown, WV 25443. All donations are tax deductible.

“These are all a part of our Shepherdstown family,” Susko said, “and they need your support.”