Is Paris Hilton helping to create an abandoned pig epidemic? One animal rights group says it could happen.
"People who think they are buying a pig that stays small are being fooled," says Yvonne McIntosh of Best Friends Animal Society.
Celebs including Hilton and Harry Potter's Rupert Grint contributed to a media craze after recently adopting supposed "micro-pigs."
Check out Today's segment on teacup pigs
"Unscrupulous breeders are breeding pigs less than a year old, and by the time the litter is born, the parents still are only about eight months old and far below their full size," said McIntosh, a potbellied pig expert. "The breeders tell folks that the piglets will be no bigger than the parents, but the buyer doesn't realize the parent pigs are nowhere near full-grown themselves."
Due to the new pet trend, pig sanctuaries throughout the country have had to house approximately 300,000 potbellied pigs once they outgrow their purported size. Many others become strays and are euthanized without any chance at adoption or placement.
"A huge number of these little pigs also end up being stuck all alone in a small enclosure in a back corner of the yard, quite neglected once the novelty has worn off and the pig is fully grown," McIntosh said. "Because they are extremely social animals, this is a torturous life for them. There are thousands and thousands of 'miniature' pigs killed every year."
McIntosh isn't saying pigs aren't wonderful companion animals, but rather that they require specialized care and proper housing, which makes it "so important to fully educate yourself before getting one," McIntosh says.
A call made to Hilton's rep was not immediately returned to TVGuide.com.
What do you think of the teacup pig craze?