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Miami Attorney May Defend Beleaguered PCB Pig Owner

June 28, 2001
The News Herald

A Miami attorney who helped the prosecution in a federal obscenity case against the rap group 2 Live Crew has pledged to help Elaine Sherman fight Panama City Beach's attempt to evict five of her six potbellied pigs.

Jack Thompson of the Miami firm of Keppler and Associates became interested in the case upon hearing about Sherman's plight. He agreed to represent Sherman for free if the city cites her for violating a pet-limit ordinance. Thompson's expertise is in entertainment law, but he loves animals.

"I have an 8-year-old," he said. "If he found out that daddy didn't help the lady with the pigs, he probably wouldn't speak to me."

The city was forced to take up the issue after complaints from Sherman's neighbors. In October, the sides arrived at a shaky truce.

The city gave Sherman a written agreement allowing her to keep all six pigs. But it said that if commissioners revised the pet-limit ordinance to outlaw more than one pig per dwelling, she would have to get rid of the others.

Traditional pigs can reach lengths of 6 feet or more and weigh upwards of 800 pounds. Potbellied pigs are smaller, but at 2 to 3 feet long and weighing between 60 and 150 pounds, they are still sizable animals.

In March, the city changed the ordinance, and told Sherman to get rid of five of the six pigs she has had for eight years.

City inspectors came to her home June 13. After checking her yard, they asked to be let into her house. Sherman said no.

"They said they'd be back with a search warrant," she said.

Sherman said the city sent her a letter Wednesday saying that it would cite her for violating the ordinance. It said it would base the citation on videotape of a television interview in which Sherman said she still had all of the pigs.

The purpose of Ordinance 694 is to limit the number of pets in Panama City Beach, which City Manager Richard Jackson said creates health hazards.

It establishes a ceiling of six pets per household. Within that maximum are limits on species - four for cats, four for dogs and one for potbellied pigs.

"This is a witch hunt," Sherman said.

Thompson, who helped Miami with the 2 Live Crew case in 1992, agreed that the city seems to have targeted Sherman with the ordinance.

"We have equal protection issues; we have due process issues," he said.

Thompson added that if the city made a contract with Sherman, it can't back out of it by revising the ordinance.

"We learned that in Contract Law 101," he said.

In addition to the pigs, Sherman has a Pomeranian, a Chinese crested dog (a small, almost hairless breed) and three Persian cats. She also is taking care of a mother mutt and her eight puppies until they are moved to their new home in New York.

"They were going to be put to sleep last week," Sherman said.

While neighbors have complained about smells from Sherman's residence, there was nothing foul in the air Wednesday.

Sherman's home appears neat. A white picket fence surrounds her immaculate lawn, which is planted with flowers. An aviary for three species of birds is attached to the front of her house.

Sherman has built a 6-foot-tall privacy fence to shield her neighbors from the sight of the pigs.

"They say that the pigs devalue their property," Sherman said.

She thinks that's hogwash.

She said she has become so fed up with the situation, however, that she has put her house up for sale.

By Windy Booher
The writer can be contacted at wbooher@pcnh.com

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