54 potbellied pigs rescued

Make that 54 pigs, of the domesticated potbellied breed.

These pigs were kept in conditions worse than their bred-for-the-market counterparts, according to officials with the Humane Society of Lackawanna County.

Inside an old dairy barn off Briar Ridge Road, society officers and volunteers rescued the pint-sized pigs Monday afternoon in Wyoming County, shortly after authorities secured a warrant to seize them.

“Potbellied pigs are not farm pigs. They’ve been raised like farm pigs,” said head humane Officer Tina Walter. “They were in a barn with pretty dirty conditions, with no water or food.”

While the animals’ owner, Marla Burnham, of Meshoppen, has not been charged, she may face multiple counts of cruelty to animals, Officer Walter said.

“We’ve been dealing with her since 2004,” Officer Walter said. “She had been known to move pigs from barn to barn, county to county. She’s been known to have in excess of 100 pigs. She really doesn’t have the means of caring of them.”

She said that the barn was located on property owned by Mary Beth Harshbarger.

Efforts to reach Ms. Burnham were unsuccessful Monday.

At the scene, authorities spent about two hours loading the pigs into three horse trailers before relocating them to a makeshift pen – built over the weekend – at the society’s South Abington Township shelter.

There, the pigs barreled down the trailer’s ramp and into the chain-link fenced area, breaking through the divider meant to separate the male and female varieties. They munched on food pellets and hay provided by some of the volunteers.

“There are quite a few that need veterinarian care. A lot of tusks will have to be trimmed, and a lot of other problems that I really can’t get into detail, until we have our vet examine them,” Officer Walter said. “But they definitely are in need of veterinarian care.”

Volunteering for the afternoon was Indra Lahiri, founder of the nonprofit Indraloka Animal Sanctuary in Mehoopany.

She said assisted after receiving an e-mail from Officer Walter.

“These pigs are wonderful, sensitive animals,” she said. “These are potbellied pigs. They’re pets. And any animal, pet or not, deserves food and water and gentle care and love and clean environment. Not to be in their own fecal matter.”