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Shelton Woman Loses Another Court Battle Over Pet Pigs

The Associated Press
October 12, 2000

SHELTON, Conn. (AP) The state Appellate Court ruled Thursday against a pig owner who challenged the city zoning rules that prohibit livestock on a plot of land less than two acres.

It's the latest in a series of courtroom losses for Dawn Kusznir, 53, whose crusade to keep pet porkers Frankie and Nancy began nearly six years ago when the planning and zoning board of appeals denied her permission to keep the potbellied pigs.

Now, Kusznir owes $30,000 in fines and is fighting to keep just one pig. Nancy died last year at the age of 11 from respiratory problems. Frankie, a 13-year-old female who rarely ventures outside these days, is getting on in pig years and is despondent since Nancy died, said Kusznir. She's had both since they were 8-weeks-old. The pigs shared everything, including a bean bag bed and a litterbox.

''Frankie's not the same pig since Nancy died. She didn't eat for over a week. She still only sleeps on her side of the bed,'' said Kusznir.

Despite the board's 1994 cease and desist order, Frankie and Nancy stayed and Kusznir was hit with a contempt of court charge, which she appealed. Kusznir said she was denied due process because the court did not allow Mayor Mark Lauretti to testify on her behalf. Kusznir said Lauretti's testimony was needed to show he had misgivings about the zoning board's ruling.

But the appeals court ruled Thursday that Lauretti did not supervise the board and any trepidation's he had were his personal viewpoint and were not relevant. As a result, the court upheld Kusznir's contempt of court violation that the Milford Superior Court levied in 1998, ordering her to pay $350 for court costs plus $40 for every day the pigs were on the property. Kusznir's home is on less than a half-acre of land.

Kusznir also unsuccessfully argued her case in the federal courts. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against her two years ago.

She has argued the pigs are pets, not livestock.

Kusznir said she and the pigs lived in relative peace for their first five years until there was a falling out with a neighbor who squealed on her. She also has a Labrador retriever and a retired racing greyhound. Despite the appellate ruling, Kusznir said she's not giving up.

''My attorney has vowed to fight this. He said he'll never let them take the girls,'' she said.

City attorney Thomas Welch said the ''appellate decision speaks for itself.'' Welch said the judges found Kusznir stubbornly refused to comply with the contempt order and instead pursued a wide-ranging course of action in the federal courts.

Kusznir, a program director for an assisted living complex in Stratford, said she and her menagerie could be leaving Shelton by next spring. She said she has plans to move to a neighborhood in Georgia where her pig is welcome.

''It's an absolutely beautiful golf course community that allows me to have Frankie,'' she said. ''I'm absolutely thrilled.

''The only hitch, she fears, is the $30,000 in accumulated fines that could make it difficult to sell her Shelton home.

''If they put a lien on my house, I have nothing,'' she said.

AP-ES-10-12-00 1911

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