Sanctuary helps abandoned pigs When people think of abandoned pets, usually cats and dogs come to mind. However, a Mission woman takes in a different kind of stray in the only sanctuary of its kind in BC. By: Brittany DeAngelis Mission, BC:The only sanctuary of its kind in the British Columbia, Hearts on Noses in Mission only takes in unwanted pigs. Janice Gillett has been running the sanctuary with help from a few volunteers for ten years. She has 37 pot-bellied pigs, most were pets that were abused or abandoned, and two farm pigs, the biggest who weighs 800 pounds. Gillett says it’s difficult to find support becausepigs are not cared about the way that cats and dogs are. “Pot-bellied pigs are really low on society’s give-a-poop meter,” she says. Gillett realized her passion for helping these animals when eleven years ago she found and abandoned pot-bellied pig on her property. She named the pig Willie. “Willie taught me everything I know about pot-bellied pigs. How smart they are, how kind they are,” says Gillett. She built a pen for Willie and started looking at pig-themed web-pages and chat rooms on-line. Janice’s interest in pig rescue deepened when she found out there are no animal sanctuaries in BCequipped to take pigs. She says people buy pot-bellied pigs when they are cute piglets. However, when they grow to be full size, the owners sometimes can’t take care of them or just no longer want them.
It wasn’t long before someone contacted her looking to get rid of an unwanted pet pig. Gillett opened her doors to Winnie the pig, figuring she would make a good companion for Willie. Gillett soon gained a reputation for taking in pigs, and soon everyone from owners to the S.P.C.A.to the R.C.M.P.where contacting when they had a pig with nowhere to go.
She quickly ran out of room on her small property and decided to move to a two and a half acre lot in Mission. While she was in the processof moving she got a call. “The SPCAhad contacted me, they did a big animal cruelty seizer in Chilliwack and there was 2 pot bellied pigs in the mix and I guessI didn’t have my cup of coffee that day causeI said I’d take them. “They came off the truck, one was male, not neutered, and they never spay females in Canada. “ So with her belly low to the ground I knew she was probably pregnant,” Gillett recalls. Gillett left the pigs with her friend Jean becauseshe was moving and Jean had room to take them. She says she didn’t worry however becauseat the most pot-bellied pigs have four to five babies. She figured becauseshe would be cute piglets, she could adopt some out and be left with 2 or 3. Gillett got the call from Jean when the mother went into labour. She said she was pacing back and forth across her kitchen ‘like a nervous husband.’ Gillett was shocked when the mother had ten piglets. She was unable to find homes for any of them and says they are a family group now and she won’t separate them from each other. She has three such family groups at Hearts on Noses. Karenna Harvey lives on a farm and has adopted 2 pot-bellied pigs from Hearts on Noses. She knows firsthand the struggles Janice faces. “I know that just having the 2 pigs, they’re fairly expensive financially. With the vet bills that she faces and just feeding that many animals day in and day out it just must be a huge amount of money she spends,” says Harvey.
Finding the thousands of dollars it takes to neuter and feed the animals is daily a struggle for Gillett. She does as much fundraising as she can while working a full time job and taking care of 40 pigs. However, she is committed to her cause, and says she will keep helping pigs for as long as she can.
Not many people are aware of the work that Janice Gillett does, but for the sake of the pigs, hopefully she is able to continue.