A quartet of lost pigs soon will find new homes following an uncommon legal procedure.
Located earlier this month in the area of Stony Point Road and Hammocks Gap Road in Albemarle County, the four young Vietnamese potbellied pigs were taken into custody by Albemarle police, according to Officer Mason Walsh of the animal protection unit.
In general, Walsh said, livestock being found at large is a pretty common occurrence in the county, but this situation was a bit different due to the lack of a clear owner.
“Fences fail, trees fall, etc., and ACPD officers and community members are usually great at working together to quickly locate owners and resolve issues,” Walsh said. “The only odd thing about this situation is that we have not been able to locate an owner.”
Because police have not been able to locate the owner, the county commonwealth’s attorney office has to follow a statutory legal procedure for the legal responsibility of the abandoned animals.
In this case, that means filing a petition to allow the animals to be given to a good Samaritan, said Jim Hingeley, commonwealth’s attorney for Albemarle.
“It's not a criminal charge, but the commonwealth's attorney is required to file a petition to accomplish that,” Hingeley said. “I understand someone is willing to step forward and take care of the pigs when the legal process is concluded.”
That petition was granted during a Albemarle County General District Court hearing this week, meaning the county police will now be able to give the pigs away.
“Albemarle County is fortunate to have a great network of livestock owners and farmers,” Walsh said. “In situations like this, the animal protection unit works closely with local community members who are willing and able to provide the time, care and space needed to temporarily confine stray livestock.”
According to Walsh, the state code provides for a number of options for how to proceed after a public hearing, several of which are currently being considered.
“We are currently working to rehome the animals and have reached out to several local animal rescue organizations and sanctuary farms in the area that may be able to assist,” Walsh said.
Authorities would not disclose where the pigs are being held.