The batch of porkers that once called “Pig Island” home – has more than doubled – and is in the custody of an animal rights group, which has sued for permanent possession.
Farm Sanctuary is caring for six pigs “rescued” earlier this month from the San Joaquin Delta island formally known as Walter’s Island – as well as the 10 pigs born while the swine were in the custody of Calaveras County.
For four years, the litter of pigs roamed the nearly 15-acre, uninhabited island, with sporadic feedings from local boaters and Roger Stevenson, the man who says he owns them. But in a June 20 lawsuit filed against Stevenson, Farm Sanctuary alleges the pigs were “subjected to ongoing threats and abuse” and were “intermittently being fed.” The suit seeks possession of the pigs or appropriate damages.
On June 13, Farm Sanctuary announced, with the consent of the island’s owner, it was taking the six pigs remaining on the island to UC Davis Veterinary Medical Hospital. The rescue quickly got complicated though. Local boaters questioned the group’s motives and Stevenson, an Arnold resident, emerged claiming ownership of the pigs.
“Defendant falsely claimed that he owned the pigs, and UC Davis inexplicable turned the pigs over to the Defendant,” reads the nine-page complaint filed by San Francisco attorney Bruce Wagman, of Schiff Hardin LLP. The suit omits the fact that the San Joaquin County Sheriff, where the island is located, sided with Stevenson.
It appears the Stevenson has yet to be served with the lawsuit and was unaware the pigs had left the county’s care. Wagman said a court officer has been unable to reach Stevenson and serve the lawsuit.
University officials delivered the pigs to Stevenson’s residence bordering the long-closed Meadowmont Golf Course. However, within days of the pigs’ move from the Delta to the low Sierra town of Arnold, Calaveras County’s animal control department took the pigs , which were reportedly dangerously close to Highway 4 while wondering in tall grasses of the abandoned nine-hole golf course.
“Pig jail,” Stevenson called it previously.
“In the interests of public safety and animal welfare, Animal Services staff secured the animals and brought them back to Animal Services,” the department said in a release.
On Sunday, the adult female Stevenson named “Miss Piggy” give birth to 10 piglets. Stevenson said he visited them Monday in San Andreas, still unaware Farm Sanctuary was suing to take the pigs. He said the delivery went well and Miss Piggy was a good mom.
“I would rather have had them here,” Stevenson said. “As long as they are well and healthy, that is the most important thing.”
He said he was looking forward to getting them back after a July 17 court date over his citation from animal services.
“Animal Services lacks the financial and structural resources to provide long-term care for the pigs,” the department said Thursday in a release. It adds, “only one of the private parties asserting legal ownership in the Yolo County case is currently able and willing to provide the pigs with proper and adequate care and containment pending that court’s determination of ownership.
“Without making any determination as to ownership, Animal Services has transferred the pigs to that rescue organization, to be housed and cared for pending the Yolo County court’s ruling,” the release states.
Stevenson said he took the pigs to Walters Island to help clear vegetation, while fattening up the animals he considered food. He envisioned a hybrid pig, free-roaming but still responsive to people.
Wagman said Yolo County was the proper venue for the suit since that’s where the harm to the plaintiff – the university’s release of the pigs – took place. Farm Sanctuary has two California shelters in Glenn and Los Angeles counties.
Wagman declined to disclose the pigs’ location, but said they have all the room, shelter, food and care they need.