A GROWING fad for exotic porkers has resulted in a spate of runaways trotting around the region - prompting calls for people to think twice about keeping the animals as pets.

The appeal comes after a pair of Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs made their bid for freedom in Seaham, County Durham, recently. One was caught but the other remains at large.

And before Christmas two Kunekune went on the run in the Trimdon. They were caught and rehomed.

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Seaham neighbourhood police Sergeant Jim Peel said: "There have been no further reported sightings of the missing pig.

"We have managed to trace the owner, but he has disclaimed all rights to the pig.

"I am told owning these exotic pigs are a growing fad.

"But what happens is that once they get big the owners don't want them anymore and they kick the poor things out and they are left to fend for themselves."

An RSPCA spokesman said: "Micro and mini-pigs appear to be becoming increasingly popular and are often advertised as cute pets that are easy to look after.

"However the RSPCA is very concerned about their suitability as pets.

"They have very specific needs that must be met to keep them happy and healthy.

"Anyone considering purchasing a micro or mini-pig must first consider carefully whether they can provide for their needs."

Michael Yeadon, health protection manager at Durham County Council, said: "Some people who choose to keep so-called micro-pigs as pets may not realise that although they are slow growing they will eventually reach a reasonable size.

"In addition they may also be unaware of the legal obligations that apply to all pig keepers, not just those who keep pigs which are commercially-reared.

"Even when kept as pets, pigs are still classed as livestock and there are certain requirements, including registration, movement records and restrictions on feedstuffs, that owners need to comply with."

A 2005 report by Natural England on feral wild boar in North Yorkshire, noted around 28 in the Catterick area over an eight year period, the last recorded sighting being 2001.

In Thirsk, three wild boar were sighted for less than a year from February 1993, and around York there were around 10 still present in 2005.