Midwest Animal Rescue Operation Ends in Success, 69 Pigs Brought to Safety

Thursday, 10 July, 2008
Watkins Glen, NY
After nearly three weeks on the ground undertaking an unprecedented disaster response effort, animal protection groups are bringing the last of the 69 pigs rescued from the floods in the Midwest to their new home. This evening, these remaining 53 pigs pulled from areas in and around the “Big Ditch” levee in Oakville, Iowa will find safe haven at Farm Sanctuary’s Watkins Glen, New York shelter. This rescue was facilitated by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org), American Humane Association (www.americanhumane.org), Farm Sanctuary (www.farmsanctuary.org) and Animal Rescue League of Boston (www.arlboston.org).
"This rescue operation could not have been completed without the help of each individual on the ground representing these four organizations, as well as local law enforcement, the state department of agriculture and emergency responders who worked in tandem to make this rescue a success,” said Dick Green, Disaster Relief Manager for IFAW.
The rescue team was comprised of approximately 25 people working 16-18 hour days during a course of nearly three weeks. The team conducted extensive land and water operations to round up and remove pigs from the nearly 20 mile long “Big Ditch” levee, as well as areas in and around the town of Oakville. All pigs were found severely dehydrated, hungry, exhausted, and sunburned so badly that their skin was literally charred black. A few of the pigs are battling pneumonia and others sustained injuries during their ordeal and will require extensive veterinary care. Most are expected to fully recover.
Susie Coston, Farm Sanctuary’s National Shelter Director, who is overseeing the ongoing healthcare of the pigs, stated, “To see how much the health of these pigs has improved since they were rescued from the floods is a testament to their will for survival. They swam for their lives and they foraged for whatever they could find to sustain themselves. They protected their young and they looked out for each other. We are so happy to be able to offer full lives to these animals. They certainly deserve it.”
An Iowa state veterinarian, Dr. Bryce Kibbel of Des Moines County, was on the levee with responders to assess the health of the pigs during the rescues. Hundreds of pigs were found dead and four were found in such bad shape that they had to be humanely euthanized on the levee. One rescue team came upon three pigs with fresh gunshot wounds. Two were dead and one died shortly after rescuers arrived on the scene. Local law enforcement officials were contacted regarding this incident.
Three of the pigs pulled off the levee were later found to have deteriorating health and were unable to be saved. Three of the 12 pigs who arrived at Farm Sanctuary’s New York Shelter last week were sent to Cornell University Hospital for Animals for further treatment, and the new arrivals will all undergo extensive health evaluations at Farm Sanctuary to determine any further treatments.
Veterinarians have confirmed that many of the sows rescued are pregnant. One sow gave birth to seven piglets after the floods hit and was able to keep her piglets protected – all were brought to safety. Other sows weren’t as lucky. One was found by a rescue team guarding the door of an abandoned barn with her deceased piglets inside.
The Iowa State Department of Agriculture confirmed that 37,000 pigs were taken out of the region before the floodwaters rose to levee-breaking heights. All of the pigs rescued, as well as those found dead, were either breeding sows, piglets, or youngsters estimated to be between the ages of two and five months, well under slaughter weight. Local farmers relinquished custody of any surviving pigs rescued from this region to Farm Sanctuary via the Iowa State Department of Agriculture.
Farm Sanctuary is looking for adoptive homes for many of these pigs. Potential adopters interested in joining the organization’s Farm Animal Adoption Network can contact shelter@farmsanctuary.org or call 607-583-2225 ext. 223.
Donations can be sent to www.ifaw.org, www.farmsanctuary.org, www.americanhumane.org, and www.arlboston.org.

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