As the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals launched its Barn Animal Fund on Monday, there was a tie for the most-popular attraction: Jen Utley and a 200-pound, one-year-old hog, aptly named Miss Piggy.
Utley, an animal advocate and wife of Phillies legend Chase Utley, did most of the talking, but Miss Piggy got the most attention — especially from Utley herself.
The North Philly-based shelter has about 100 adoptable dogs, and 200 cats. But it also cares for barn animals, such as Miss Piggy, who are rescued from unpleasant and inhumane situations.
The organization, founded to save horses, has rescued 1,650 barn animals in the last two years alone, prompting a need for more resources to help these larger, more complex animals.
“The volume of it has really increased over the last few years,” CEO Julie Klim said. Last fall, for instance, the shelter rescued about 1,250 chickens that were abandoned in a lot in North Philly, and found homes for them.
“People flew them to farms across the country to help because they’d suffered enough,” Klim said.
Animals such as chickens, pigs, and horses, Utley said, "take a different amount of care, and that care takes a different amount of money, and a different type of space.”
Enter: The Barn Animal Fund.
The Barn Animal Fund will be fully supported by donations from the public, PSPCA spokesperson Gillian Kocher said. Officials didn’t give a target goal for the fund. After taking the animals in, the group tries to find homes for them through relationships with sanctuaries and farms across the country.
“It has become incredibly important to set up a different fund for that specifically,” Utley said.
Miss Piggy has been at the PSPCA’s headquarters for a year, but will soon be moved to a farm in Bucks County for adoption purposes.
After Miss Piggy leaves, the Philly site will not be housing any other barn animals, though some are being sheltered at the organization’s central Pennsylvania location in Danville, which has five acres.
Utley has been a volunteer and PSPCA supporter for 15 years. The Utleys adopted their dog, Jack, in 2008 from one of the largest dog-fighting cases the SPCA had ever broken up.
Although the Utleys now live in California, they consider Philly their second home. They were in town for the Phillies’ alumni weekend for the 2009 World Series team.
“We partnered with SPCA a very long time ago, and the work that they’ve done and the progress they’ve made in the shelter have stayed on such an amazing track that we have continued that relationship, even though we are now in California,” Utley said.