Fourteen years ago we bought a pig.

Laura had always loved pigs and our home was completely decorated in what could only be described as an “Early Pig Motif”.  In 1985, when potbellied pigs were first introduced into the U.S. as pets, she jumped on this event like a hungry duck on a June bug.  The nagging started and the war cry:  “I want a pig!!” became a constant theme at our house.  Finally, in a desperate bid for peace and quiet, I found an ad in the local paper where a breeder was selling pot bellied piglets for $80 each.  I agreed to take Laura to “look” at the pigs.  I should have known better.  As soon as we walked across the property and up to the pen area where the piglets were busy scooting around I came to the awful realization that I was leaving them $80 poorer and one pig richer.  There was eight or 10 little black pot bellied pigs bouncing around like so many hooved ping pong balls and a 100-pound sow lying in the straw watching the proceedings with detached interest.

I truly wish I could say that there was some sort of special “moment of bonding” that took place during this visit, but the truth of the matter is that the piglet we ended up with was the first female that the breeder could catch as 10 little black rockets zoomed by at warp speed.  We left with this little “bundle of energy snuggled into Laura’s arms, an  $80 dent in my checkbook, and me shaking my head in disbelief at what I had gotten myself into.


Of course, we knew absolutely nothing about pigs, but, hey, we had had dogs and cats for years.. what was the difference?  A pet is a pet.  Owning a potbellied pig couldn’t be any different from owning a funny-looking dog.  We decided to name this little bundle of energy Paddy Murphy-a good Irish name.  It didn’t take very long before we realized that this was a very different and very unique little animal.  We probably made every possible mistake that a new pet pig owner can make.  I am convinced that Paddy Murphy survived in spite of us, certainly not because of us.  It didn’t take her very long to eat and snuggle her way into our hearts.  We were totally and completely hooked.  Once you look deeply into a pig’s eyes and see the inner beauty and the depth of their souls, there is no turning back.

We began trying to find out more about these unique little creatures, which back in 1987 was not very much.  Some breeders were selling “registered” potbellies for thousands of dollars.  We felt pretty lucky that we had gotten off with $80.  Paddy was an indoor/outdoor pig.  She had free access to a huge back yard via a “pig door” cut in the laundry room door.  She slept in the bed, played outside, rooted up the garden and, generally, enjoyed life as an “only” pig.  She got along ok with the dogs, but there was certainly no love lost between them.  Paddy always seemed too aloof to be bothered playing with them other than to try to steal their food at feeding time.  Life settled into a comfortable routine.


After two years of relative peace and quiet, a friend asked us if we would consider taking in a piglet that had been bought from a breeder, abandoned on the highway and caught with a fishing net while running down the road.  We agreed to figure that two pigs would be no more trouble than one pig and now, at least, Paddy Murphy would have a companion of her own species to play and bond with.  Enter a little male we named Damien Gilhooley, but who soon got the nickname “Stinky-Pig” because he was such a terror.  This was a pivotal point in the history of Mini-Pigs, Inc.  To this day, we do not know how the word was instantly spread throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia that we would rescue miniature pigs, but the phone immediately started ringing off the hook with people and shelters wanting us to take in potbellied pigs.


At the time we owned 1.25 acres of property that was a combination of woods and large yard.  We had a really nice vegetable garden every year but soon realized those potbellied pigs and gardens are inherently incompatible.  I finally gave up and plowed it under (not that there was much left to plow) and sowed grass seed.  Within two more years, little portable sheds dotted the landscape and we numbered 12 rescued pigs of various sizes and dispositions.  The dogs were totally neurotic and a blade of grass didn’t stand a chance with 48 little hooves stomping around all day.  Our veterinarian had reached the point where she was afraid to answer the phone for fear it would be one of us on the other end with another rescued pig that needed neutering, spaying or to be put back together again after some traumatic injury.  It was obviously decision time.


We made several decisions at this juncture.  One was to begin to look for a suitable and larger piece of property for the animals.  The other was to find a way to dedicate our lives and our resources to helping needy miniature pigs.  Tragically, the unwanted pet potbellied pig has very few options.  Many animal shelters are geared primarily to the dog and cat population and will not or can not deal with miniature pigs.  Finding homes for unwanted potbellied is a difficult, if not impossible, the challenge for an animal shelter.  Many potbellied pigs left at or recovered by animal shelters are quickly killed.  Many unwanted potbellied pigs are finding their way to local livestock auctions where they are sold for a dollar or less to be slaughtered and their meat used for animal feed.  Still, others are simply shot, poisoned or savagely attacked by dogs and allowed to die.  We felt that while we could not save all the miniature pigs, that we could certainly do more than we were currently doing.


During this time we accidentally stumbled across an organization and two people who would forever change our lives.  We found Dale Riffle and Jim Brewer who operate PIGS, A Sanctuary in West Virginia.  PIGS was the first miniature pig sanctuary in the country and Jim and Dale won the hearts of the animal welfare and animal rights community with their operation and their intense dedication to the animal rights cause.  These two amazing and wonderful men took us under their tutelage and have mentored us for several years as we learned how (and how not) to run a sanctuary.  In the process, we have learned more about pigs than we ever thought possible.  Our association with Jim and Dale and our involvement with PIGS has also brought about a number of other significant changes in our lives.  We have become committed to working for the rights of all animals-not just miniature pigs and we have adopted a total vegetarian lifestyle.  We are very proud of our association with PIGS, A Sanctuary and sincerely hope to forge even stronger bonds with them as we grow and mature as a sanctuary.  There are not words enough to thank Jim and Dale for their assistance, guidance, mentoring and support over the past years.


In May 1998 we incorporated our “hobby run wild” as Mini-Pigs, Inc.  Shortly thereafter we found a relatively remote piece of property in Culpeper County, Virginia which was zoned properly and had the essential ingredients for a fledgling sanctuary.  We relocated to the current property in October 1998 and soon, thereafter, we were granted 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status as a sanctuary by the Internal Revenue Service.

We barely had time to build pastures, install barns, clean up the property and move the animals 50 miles before winter set in.  Since October, our population of rescued animals has grown to in excess of 40 pigs and two pygmy goats.  Additional pastures have been added, along with more barns to house the new rescues.  We have also been directly responsible for placing or assisting with the placement of over a hundred pet pigs who could no longer remain in their original homes.  We are slowly beginning the transition from a dream to a thriving and growing sanctuary.  We are limited in our growth only by a lack of funds as we also transition from a self-supported operation to sanctuary operated and funded by caring people and organizations.  As funding continues to increase through contributions, the possibilities and capabilities of the sanctuary are limitless.


We never, in our wildest dreams, believed that buying a pet pig from a backyard breeder 14 years ago would have culminated in the formation of the first and only miniature pig sanctuary in Virginia.  There have been many joys and sorrows along the way.  We have made many mistakes and many good friends.  Our lives have been changed forever by these unique and wonderful little animals.  We would not go back and undo any of it, even if we could.  You can not rescue animals without being deeply changed.  The changes have been good ones and they have made us absolutely certain that this sanctuary was meant to be.  To be able to save the life of a desperate and abused animal and then be privileged enough to be able to share your life with that animal is a joy beyond words.



To bring this story full circle, Paddy Murphy is still alive and, at 16 years, is the Queen of the Sanctuary.  She has full run of the property and greets each and every visitor with a sniff, a snort, and a grunt.  She has taken all of this in good stride and with an air of dignified indifference of which only a pig is capable.  We think that she somehow senses what is happening in a way that only animals are capable of.  We like to think that, in spite of her indifference and aloof attitude, she approves of the sanctuary and graciously shares her home and us with the rescued pigs that have found their way here to spend the rest of their days in peace, security, and contentment…..free and safe to just be pigs.

This is the beginning, not the end, of the story.  The end has yet to be written.  We will write it with the help of many others who care enough to help us help the animals.  The pages of this site will continue to educate people about the plight of miniature pigs and many other animals who are abused and exploited.  It will also chronicle the growth of the sanctuary, share some rescue stories with visitors, and, hopefully, motivate many of you to get involved in whatever way you can to help.  We are here for the pigs.  It is really just that simple.  Won’t you join us?




Mini-Pigs, Inc. is a non-profit, no-kill sanctuary specializing in the rescue and care of all breeds of miniature pigs.  We are the only sanctuary of this type in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  The sanctuary is located on 17 mostly wooded acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Culpeper, Virginia…. about 1 ½ hours southwest of Washington, D.C.

Mini-Pigs, Inc. is the final home for over 70 rescued miniature pigs, 2 pygmy goats and several rescued dogs and cats.  Here the animals receive thorough and comprehensive medical treatment and live in small grassy and wooded pastures with other rescued animals.  Once their medical needs are provided for, each pig is slowly introduced into an established herd of other pigs based on size, temperament and social skills.  Those pigs that need rehabilitation or resocialization are given special care before and during their introduction into their new herd.


MINI-PIGS, Inc., is a non-profit, no-kill sanctuary dedicatedprimarily to the rescue of abused, abandoned and neglected miniture pigs.  Operating on 17 acres in Cupeper, Virginia, all rescued animals are provided with a full range of medical care, fed, housed, cared for and given a safe and loving home for the remainder of their lives.  MINI-PIGS, Inc., also operates an adoption program, a placement service, an educational outreach program and serves as a rescource and point of assistance for miniature pig owners, shelters and animal rescue groups in the region.  Working with other sanctuaries, animal rescue agencies, animal rights and animal welfare organizations, vegitarian groups, various legislative bodies and the public, MINI-PIGS, Inc., exists to rescue miniature pigs, educate the public about animal rights and to protect the rights and enhance the welfare of all animals.


As a “no-kill” sanctuary, Mini-Pigs, Inc. does not euthanize any rescued animal unless the animal is suffering from an obviously mortal wound or terminal disease…. and then only after all possible veterinary care is afforded the animal.  Each and every animal rescued is allowed to live out its life here at the sanctuary free from hunger, never to fear neglect, abuse or abandonment again.  The animals spend their days doing what pigs do best: eating, grazing, rooting in the woods, playing with the other pigs, napping, laying in their mud holes and, generally, being little pigs.

All the animals and humans that live at the sanctuary are vegetarians.  We try, through example and education, to support the rights of all animals to live safe and secure lives, free from exploitation, fear and pain  .  We strongly support the animal rights agenda as well as a number of human rights issues.  The humans at the sanctuary do not “own” the animals living here.  We all live side-by-side as equals in an atmosphere of coexistence and mutual respect.  There are no “pets” at the sanctuary….only creatures needing a refuge and safe haven from lives of abuse, abandonment or desperation.


Mini-Pigs, Inc. adheres to a strict spay/neuter policy.  We do not breed pigs.  Intact boars are not allowed on the sanctuary and we are proud of the fact that we have never had an accidental pregnancy at the sanctuary.  Many females can not be spayed because of their size and age, so a “no-boar” policy is absolutely necessary to preclude any accidental pregnancies.  Rescued boars are taken directly to the sanctuary veterinarian where they are neutered and quarantined before being brought to the sanctuary.  We do not abort rescued sows who are in late-term pregnancy. Pregnant sows are provided a separate “birthing area” and allowed to deliver their piglets naturally and raise them as a sow would raise her piglets in the wild.  Piglets are vaccinated and spayed/neutered as soon as is medically possible.

Mini-Pigs, Inc., does not sell pigs.  We occasionally adopt pigs to good homes, but only after a careful and very thorough screening process during which we ascertain that the pig is being adopted into a good and loving home that can provide a proper environment for a miniature pig.  We insist on meeting and interviewing all prospective owners and require that all prospective owners visit the sanctuary for education on miniature pigs and their unique needs and care requirements.  We also conduct a home inspection to ensure that the pig is being placed in a suitable environment.  New owners are required to execute a stringent adoption contract which includes an agreement to abide by a “standards of care” checklist provided by the sanctuary.  Mini-Pigs, Inc. agrees to take back any pig adopted from the sanctuary should the adoption not work out.


Since our funding is extremely limited, Mini-Pigs, Inc. is currently only able to take in those pigs in abusive situations, or those that have been abandoned or neglected.  As a general rule, we do not take in pet pigs whose owners simply do not want them any more….unless their rescue is a matter of survival.  We do, however, operate an aggressive placement program and work diligently with the pigs’ owners to try to find suitable homes for pet pigs who can no longer stay in their current homes.

In addition, Mini-pigs, Inc., provides an education and outreach program designed to reduce the number of pigs needing rescue by educating the public, shelter operators, and even lawmakers on the unique needs of miniature pigs.  Tours of the sanctuary are available by appointment and the directors are available to speak to any group interested in learning more about these unique and wonderful little animals.  Visitors are provided with a guided tour of the facilities and are allowed to interact with the animals.  We are in the process of initiating an internship program for individuals as well as small groups who desire to learn more about pigs or simply assist with the day-to-day chores associated with operating a sanctuary.


Mini-Pigs, Inc. networks constantly with pig owners, other sanctuaries, shelters, animal rights advocates, legislative bodies and the public in an ongoing effort to help miniature pigs, as well as all other animals.  We are members of numerous animal welfare and animal rights organizations, including: the ASPCA, Humane Society, PeTA and several other animal rights groups.  While we specialize in the rescue and care of miniature pigs, we fervently believe in the rights of all animals to exist in a healthy and appropriate environment free from hunger, fear, abuse and exploitation.


We are a young, but growing sanctuary.  We will continue to grow, build, expand and do our small part to help all animals as funding and public support allows. We firmly believe that small, grassroots, high-quality sanctuaries can do a great deal through education and example to stop the abuse and exploitation of all animals in their communities.  While large, highly visible sanctuaries and rescue organizations do a marvelous and worthwhile job and are able to capitalize on name recognition,  tap large funding sources and capture national media attention, it is our belief that the growing number of smaller, more community-oriented sanctuaries will be instrumental in educating, changing attitudes, promoting local animal welfare and animal rights issues at the local level.  It is our hope that small inroads made at the local level will soon swell to regional, state and national levels.