NEW YORK (AP) — Winston escaped death to find a piglet's paradise.
The little pig found wandering this year along a bustling New York City boulevard is among hundreds of animals — including cows, sheep, goats and chickens — who apparently managed to flee in recent years from the city's growing number of urban slaughter markets.
Escaping to the streets amid honking cars and busy pedestrians comes with a beautiful reward for those lucky enough to survive: a trip to an animal sanctuary north of the city without fear of becoming someone's dinner.
"None of them come to us friendly," says Susie Coston, director of the Farm Sanctuary, which has taken in more than 500 farm animals from the city in the last decade. "They know what blood smells like, and they're very scared and high-strung, running to get away."
New York City is currently home to nearly 90 storefront slaughter markets, a number that has nearly doubled in the last two decades due to an influx of immigrants accustomed to cooking with freshly butchered meats.
Reading signs and prices often written in Arabic, Hebrew or Spanish, customers typically choose their dinner from birds fluttering in cages or goats and sheep staring from pens. In separate spaces, animals are slaughtered and eviscerated at lightning-fast speed following the "halal" Islamic practice or kosher Jewish tradition.
The case of Winston, so named by newspaper readers who followed his fate, is hardly unusual. The pig had apparently been on the loose for days in an area with many storefront slaughterhouses before he was caught by city animal-control officers. They turned him over to the sanctuary, where he is free to frolic.
"Winston is doing magnificently well," Coston says, adding that he "spends his nights rooting in the dirt and mud and spinning and playing with his best friend Ruby, a piglet who recently fell off a transport truck."
Other residents there include Maxine, a cow caught in the city six years ago after a police chase. A tag on her back indicated she was headed for slaughter. Same for a lamb found in the South Bronx, and a goat rescued from a busy Brooklyn intersection.
More than 100 chickens were on the loose at various times in the last year alone, along with 27 ducks, three goats and a pig, according to the city's animal control agency.
Officials say escaped animals are sometimes claimed by the slaughterhouses or urban farms from which they fled, but that is rare.
New Yorkers who catch sight of an animal on the run call police or city officials, who drive them to a temporary shelter where it's cared for until it goes to one of about a half-dozen privately funded sanctuaries in the state.