Chicagoland Pig Rescue, Tattoo Avenue raise money for pig safe havens

By Kimberly Kapela, Copy Editor

To the buzz of tattoo machines at Tattoo Avenue, artists create pig-inspired flash art, including pigs with angel wings flying above rainbows, piglets with sparkles and iconic characters such as Piglet and Miss Piggy.

In collaboration with Chicagoland Pig Rescue, Tattoo Avenue held a flash event to fundraise for CPR’s medical bills, food and shelter on Sunday, April 30, at their shop on North Lincoln Avenue. The event featured work from tattoo artists Lindsey Johnson, Vernon Black, Vanessa Vargas and Stephen King.

Founder April Noga, executive director of CPR, started the organization in 2020 after realizing Chicago lacked a pig community to create safe havens for pigs. Though the rescue is based in Chicago, Noga has expanded her rescue efforts throughout the Midwest and also works cases from Maine, Florida and Iowa.

Noga said every pig rescue case is different — CPR assists pig parents who don’t know how to take care of pigs properly, working alongside sanctuaries and private adopters.

Ashlee is a potbelly pig rescued by the organization Chicagoland Pig Rescue, greets an event attendee holding a carrot on Sunday, April 30, 2023, at Tattoo Avenue located at 5122 N. Lincoln Ave.  Abra Richardson

“We do also save pigs a lot from being butchered – like backyard butcher missions – or we save a lot of truck jumpers, which are pigs that are actually jumping off transport trucks that will eventually be slaughtered for animal products,” Noga said.

To this date, CPR has saved 238 pigs.

CPR serves both large and small breed pigs through boots-on-the-ground rescues and extends help to those who are building their own sanctuaries to create “loving and knowledgeable homes” for the pigs.

“What generally happens is that we get the pigs in foster homes or straight to the vet because of all their health care, spays and neuters, surgeries, and any infectious disease,” Noga said.

Noga said CPR has a foster network of volunteers in the Chicagoland area and foster locations with board members; she herself emergency fosters and also has a “personal micro-sanctuary” for five pigs at her home.

Noga said she was excited for the collaboration fundraiser to come to fruition as artists are aware of current issues and make conceptual work to address them.

“I think that’s really powerful and artists have a lot of passion behind what they do and animal rescuers have a lot of passion, and so I feel like when those two things come together, there’s so much possibility,” Noga said.

Lindsey Johnson, a tattoo artist at Tattoo Avenue, said she is supportive of the cause because pigs are overlooked, but they are creatures with feelings and emotions and deserve to be rescued.

“It’s a great way to support both fields,” Johnson said. “It gets people engaged sometimes that didn’t even know of each separate cause. Sometimes the arts didn’t know about the charity and charity didn’t know about the arts, so it’s a cool way to blend them together.”

Amanda King, owner of Tattoo Avenue, fell in love with CPR’s mission — she said hearing stories about the pig rescues has inspired the collaboration.

“It’s pretty amazing just the lengths that they go to, to help save an animal and put a pig’s stamp on this earth and that they’re not just used for food; they’re actually used for companionship and they’re highly intelligent animals,” King said.

King said Tattoo Avenue isn’t “stuck in a box” of what foundation they are fundraising for, as they fundraise for a minimum of one foundation a year.

King hopes the fundraiser spreads love to the animals and makes sure pigs’ visibility is being held accountable and that people are seeing them for companionship and that they have big hearts.

“I thought it was important to use the resources that we had,” King said. “The artists that we have, they’re passionate about helping the community. They’re extremely talented and they’re using their talent to help the community which I think is so important.”