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Elderly pig's future uncertain after complaint to SPCA

The 18-year-old animal is a popular attraction alongside the Lochside Trail, but the owners say she may have to be euthanized after complaint

Update: Greater Victoria residents are offering to cover the costs for a vet check and treatment for a pig that’s the subject of a B.C. SPCA order, and its owners are hoping to an extension to the SPCA euthanization notice. Read the full story.

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The owners of an elderly pig living next to the Lochside Trail have been ordered by the SPCA to either get her checked by a vet or have her euthanized, following a complaint from a member of the public.

But Frans and Marjolyn Winkel say their 18-year-old sow is not in pain, and they want her to live out her life as the last pig among many generations produced on their nine-acre Saanich Peninsula farm.

On July 5, an SPCA officer came to the farm with a notice giving them five days to have a vet look at the pig or have her euthanized.

The Winkels received a similar notice from the SPCA last year and paid for a veterinarian to check out their pigs. At the time, they had another older sow, which has since died. Domestic pigs typically live 15 to 20 years.

The matter was resolved after the vet sent a letter to the SPCA, the ­Winkels said.

The pig has a chronic but treatable skin condition brought on by old age, the Winkels said, but is not in pain, has a healthy appetite and comes when called.

“She is old and she has a skin condition but she is in perfect health,” Frans said. “She is happy.”

Her days are filled with eating and sleeping and wallowing in her muddy pond, which also helps to protect her skin, the Winkels said.

Every morning, Frans sprays the sow’s sore spots with a vet-recommended product to deter flies and reduce itching, he said.

Now that there’s been a second complaint, they fear they will continue to face complaints, resulting in more unaffordable vet fees.

As a result, Frans said, they may end up euthanizing the pig this week.

He said he is not angry with the SPCA and does not blame it for the situation. “They have to do their job.”

The pig, a cross between a Danish Landrace and Duroc, is popular with trail users, who frequently stop for a visit and photos.

Marjolyn said some people have told her they visited the farm’s pigs when they were children and are now bringing their own children to see the sow. She’s also a popular attraction for motorists, including a bus from a senior’s home that does drive-bys. One woman stops by with marshmallows as a treat, Frans said.

Frans, 86, and Marjolyn, 82, have kept pigs for more than half a century and are well-known in the local farming community.

They moved to Canada from the Netherlands in 1964. Frans worked as a gardener in Oak Bay and the couple ran the farm together.

As pig farmers, they mainly sold weaners — piglets recently weaned from their mothers — to local farmers.

Frans has judged pigs on Salt Spring Island for the 4-H in the past, said Marjolyn, who has written a book called Farm Tales, largely featuring stories about their pigs.

At times, they were the only ones who brought a sow and piglets to the Saanich Fair, she said.

Eileen Drever, senior officer in protection and stakeholders relations for the B.C. SPCA, said in an email that she is unable to discuss open investigations, but when the SPCA receives a call of concern about an animal, one of its animal protection officers attends and determines if the complaint is valid.

The officer may issue a notice to relieve distress, Drever said.

“Failure to do so could result in the officer taking legal action, which could include the application and execution of a warrant to search to remove the animal in distress.

“If the complaint is unfounded then the officer will close the file.”

Marjolyn suggests that if members of the public have questions about an animal, they should speak with the farmers, who can explain the situation.

In the meantime, the pig has inadvertently prompted an informal free food supply next to the trail.

The couple gets unwanted produce from stores, sorts it and sets out better quality produce for people to take for free. Whatever is left over goes into the pig pen.

An array of produce went Thursday to the pig, who enthusiastically dug into a large selection, including oranges, melons and broccoli, while making soft grunting sounds.

Marjolyn jokes that the pig is “our composting machine.”

If the pig dies, there won’t be much need for the daily produce collection or food sharing, although the couple has some horned Dorset sheep that are fond of apples.

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