This article ran in The Winchester Star on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Story by Anna Merod with photographs by Jeff Taylor. View a full PDF of the newspaper article.
Couple’s pig sanctuary is hog heaven for abused, neglected swine
CROSS JUNCTION — Nestled off Reynolds Road is a shaded field that’s home to about 50 pigs, two horses, some ferrets, chickens and other types of animals.
All of these creatures were at risk of being killed or were mistreated before finding refuge at PIGGINS & BANKS Pig and Animal Sanctuary.
The nonprofit was founded by Christie and Aaron Riddle about a year ago on their 17-acre property in northern Frederick County. The Riddles wanted to start a pig sanctuary, and once Aaron Riddle adopted Mr. Piggy Banks, one of the nonprofit’s namesakes, they knew they had to make the idea a reality.
Mr. Piggy Banks was on a Maryland farm when Aaron Riddle went to pick him up. He said he found the piglet in a small cat crate. A large chunk was missing from his right ear and his tail was gone.
“I think they did that to mark him as a meat pig,” Aaron Riddle said. “He would have been slaughtered. He kind of inspired us to start the whole [animal sanctuary].”
The Riddles know how special and smart pigs are, because they’ve had them as pets before.
Christie Riddle noted that 95% of pet pigs are rehomed within the first year. This usually happens because people get pigs when they’re young and small. They don’t realize they will get bigger, particularly when breeders label them as “teacup micro pigs” or “mini pigs.” The catch is, “teacup micro pigs” don’t exist, and a “mini pig” is any pig that is not a farm hog and weighs less than 400 pounds.
So when people have a pet pig that gets too big for their house or apartment, they often have to give them up, Aaron Riddle said.
The Riddles’ animal sanctuary is now at full-capacity. Some of the pigs are owner surrenders while others are from animal rescue organizations.
Some of the pigs have more difficult pasts, including Bertha, who is at least 10 years old. She was found abandoned in a ditch on the side of the road by a rescue organization in Virginia. She was used for breeding, and Aaron Riddle suspects she was abandoned right after having her last litter.
Bertha also seems to have a previous injury from a heat lamp, where the wound left untreated, said Christie Riddle. At the sanctuary, Bertha was paired with a piglet named Fern, because it’s likely Bertha’s own babies were ripped away from her.
The nonprofit accepts donations, and people can sponsor a pig, where they make a monthly payment and receive a framed photo of the sponsored pig. Donations help cover costs directly related to the pigs’ care
The Riddles also host walking tours of the sanctuary at 2 p.m. Sundays. Tours are capped at eight attendees. The cost is $25 per adult and $10 per child. Guests cannot touch the pigs, but they can meet and feed them.
The Riddles are working to neuter and spay all of their pigs. Male pigs can get aggressive otherwise, and female pigs can develop cancer if they aren’t fixed, they said.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s the fulfilling part,” Aaron Riddle said about the sanctuary. “[Bertha] would have been dead, but he or she gets to have a nice life and that’s kind of the reason that we do it.”
To learn more about the PIGGINS & BANKS Pig and Animal Sanctuary, visit https://pigginsandbanks.org.