From a small Lady's Island backyard pen knee-deep with muck, Beaufort County Animal Control and volunteers removed the last of 28 abandoned pot-bellied pigs Friday morning.
The home's owner, now living and working in another state, started with only a few pet pigs, but they soon started "multiplying out of control," said Tallulah Trice, who runs the animal rescue charity the HAND Foundation.
Although someone was left in charge of the home, the pigs had no clean water and were living in a cramped 20- by 30-foot pen on Alston Road. The rescue effort began Thursday.
Animal Control asked the owner to release the pigs to the agency or face charges of animal abuse, and from there, Trice is finding the animals homes and medical care to avoid euthanization.
One is about to give birth, and several others may be pregnant. One weighs nearly 400 pounds, according to Dr. Allen Henry of the Animal Hospital of Beaufort, who is housing the adult pigs in a fenced area usually reserved for boarding dogs.
Running the HAND Foundation, which stands for Helping Animals Needing Doctors, Trice usually deals with dogs. Each week, she loads her van with dogs from overcrowded shelters and takes them to high-adoption areas.
Thanks to her contacts, kennels Camp Green Dog in Ridgeland and Brooke's Bed and Biscuit in Bluffton have agreed to take four piglets each, while Trice contacts pig-rescue networks in other states to find permanent homes.
Brooke's owner Brooke Fisher said two of the piglets were adopted Friday. Fisher already has a pet pig named Rosebud and said the conditions the Lady's Island pigs were found in were "just awful."
"People think they're just pigs, no big deal, they like mud," Fisher said. "But they're actually very clean animals."
Trice said she would prefer to find local homes for the pigs, but people who take them as pets "need to know what they're getting into, because they get big."
Before the pigs can be taken across state lines to new homes, each one is tested by Henry for brucellosis and is neutered.
Able to have two litters a year with as many as 10 piglets each time, the pigs were rescued in the nick of time, Henry said.
"You can do the math, but it doesn't take long for you to have a lot of hogs," he said.
Staff photographer Sarah Welliver contributed to this report
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlog.