ANIMAL welfare officers are urging would-be pet owners to think twice before forking out up to €750 to raise miniature pigs as pets as the latest Hollywood celebrity pet craze catches on here.
The Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) last night raised concerns the selectively-bred pigs may not make suitable pets.
And it said the fact that celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Victoria and David Beckham reportedly have them is a further worry.
"We're obviously concerned when animals are promoted as the latest fad. Our concern is people can make a very impulsive decision to get one," DSPCA operations manager Orla Aungier told the Irish Independent.
Ms Aungier was speaking after it emerged at least two micro pig breeders have come on the Irish market in recent months.
The new breed of micro pigs are a scaled-down version of their porcine cousins who grow no bigger than a mid-size dog, and have the same lifespan of between 12 to 20 years.
Mother-of-two Denise Woods, (45), who breeds micro pigs from her farm near Dundalk, Co Louth, said she has been inundated with queries from people looking to adopt micro pigs since she started breeding them last October.
While she estimates there are currently less than a dozen micro pigs kept as pets in Ireland, she believes they will be a popular alternative to traditional pets.
"I think they will become the 'new dog'," she said.
"They are intelligent and are more clever than dogs, they are sociable, loving and will have just one owner. They make great companions and can be house-trained,"she said.
But unlike adopting dogs or cats, micro pig owners must first get approval from the Department of Agriculture.
"To protect the Irish pig sector and Irish agriculture from the spread of potentially damaging diseases, anyone intending to own pigs, however few, must register with this Department and receive a pig herd number in advance," a department spokesman said.
There are currently 3,001 registered pig herds in Ireland. While it is impossible to determine how many of those are pets, the 2010 census revealed there are 376 herds with two pigs or less.