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Hold your hogs! ‘Snout legal to put them on the leash

Pig as a pet? Forget taking Babe for a walk on a leash because swine are not allowed in any public place except for exhibitions

james
James Debono
13 September 2017, 10:00am
Get your bacon chipped; new rules for pet pigs
Get your bacon chipped; new rules for pet pigs
Keeping a pig as a pet is now legal and subject to a number of conditions, including castrating them if male, having them micro-chipped by a veterinarian and paying a one time fee of €35.

The new law also bans feeding swill and domestic waste to pigs irrespective of whether these are kept as pets or farm animals.

The new rules came into force on Tuesday and anyone already keeping a pig as a pet has six months to have the pet castrated and micro-chipped and a year to ensure that they do not have more than two pigs living on a particular site.

The pet shop regulations issued in 2013 under the Animal Welfare Act do not address the sale of pet swine and the sector is presently completely unregulated.

The legal notice regulates any pig kept as a pet “including all pigs of exotic derivation.”

The licences for pet keepers will be valid for the entire lifetime of the swine kept as a pet. People who already own pigs as pets have to register them.

All swine kept as pets have to be identifiable by a microchip inserted beneath the skin of the left ear by a warranted vet.  

You can have a licence to keep only one pig, but two pigs can live together on one site. Moreover all male pigs kept as pets have to be castrated. The breeding of pigs kept as pets is prohibited. The loss of any pig has to be reported to the authorities within 48 hours.

When your pet dies you cannot eat it and the carcass has to be incinerated. Only people over the age of 18 can be licensed as pig-keepers. Anyone convicted in the past for animal cruelty is forbidden from applying for a licence.

And forget taking your pig for a walk on a leash because swine are not allowed in any public place except for exhibitions, shows, fairs and similar activities, with the prior permission of the authorities. 

Most pigs kept as pets are miniature breeds. A micro-pig on sale on online shopping site maltapark.com is described as an animal that “eats anything” and fetches a  €40 price tag.  Other micro pigs were on sale for  €25. 

Miniature pigs weigh between 22.5 kilogrammes to 68 kilograms when fully grown.

In its web site, the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals has expressed concerns on the keeping of pigs as pets “ due to how difficult it can be to meet their needs”

How to rear a pet pig

The RSPCA warns, “Whilst piglets may look cute, even miniature breeds (e.g. the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig) soon grow up to weigh 35kg to 70 kg and over 150 kg if overfed. Other breeds will grow as large as a commercially farmed pig. And while some pigs have a very good temperament others should be handled with care. Pigs are also described as “social herd animals” and owners in the UK are advised to keep “at least two pigs, which get on well, to live together”. 

Moreover pigs should not be kept in the home, must be exercised regularly to avoid obesity, constipation and prevent their feet from becoming overgrown. Each pig needs a minimum area of 36 square metres with access to warm, dry, draught-free, straw-bedded accommodation, as they easily get cold. 

They must also be provided with somewhere dry to lie down. Human foods are not considered appropriate for a pet pig. Meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, cooked leftovers from the table, canned foods and alcoholic beverages are not recommended. Pigs can acquire salt poisoning from having too much salt in their diets. In some cases pigs are highly allergic to chocolate.

Since a pig will practically eat everything offered to it, obesity is a common problem among these pet pigs. But underfeeding your pet pig in the hope of keeping it small is not just cruel but can result in its death.  

james
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...
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