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Not A B-a-a-d Law For Little Potbellies

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
January 17, 2002

The next squeal you hear may not be from the potbellied pig. It may be from the potbellied pig owner.

And that squeal is likely to be one of delight.

A proposed ordinance would allow a pet owner in unincorporated Henry County to have a Vietnamese potbellied pig or a miniature goat on 3 acres or less.

Currently, those animals are not allowed as pets unless the acreage exceeds 3 acres.

But with that protection would come stipulations that might elicit squeals of pain, including a $50 annual license fee.

To many, such an ordinance is a joke. But to the few who really like those animals as pets, the issue is a serious one, Commissioner Gary Freedman said.

"The owners contend 'I can have three Rottweilers or pit bulls but I can't have a pig or a goat that's harmless,' " Freedman said.

The draft regulation says that just one pig or goat can be kept on 3 acres or less. It also sets weight limits: No more than 100 pounds for the pig or 40 pounds for the goat. The animal would have to be spayed or neutered.

The pig would have to be a purebred registered through a "North American Vietnamese Potbellied Pig Registry," the ordinance says.

It says that the premises would be have to be inspected by an animal control officer, and the animal would have to be examined by a veterinarian.

Citations from animal control for harboring a goat or pig on less than 3 acres are infrequent, Freedman said. But when it happens, the owner usually has to give up what had been a perfectly good pet. "They're quiet, they don't bark," he said.

The proposal is scheduled to be discussed at the Board of Commissioner's meeting at 4 p.m. Feb. 4 in the county administration building, 140 Henry Parkway, McDonough.

"It's wonderful that our county's doing that, that they're talking about helping people have pigs," said self-described "pig person" Luella Connor.

Connor, who lives outside Stockbridge, said she's trained about 200 pigs over the years. "I can have a pig completely potty trained in three days. I even trained a pig to answer the telephone," she said.

McDonough resident Denise Joyner, a member of the national Pigs as Pets Association, rescues potbellied pigs in the metro area after their owners can no longer keep them.

Rescue alerts go out to an e-mail list called "belly rubs." "If there's a pig around me, I go rescue it and bring it home until I can adopt it out," Joyner said.

She said she rescued 10 to 15 potbellies last year and every one has been adopted. Pigs available for adoption are listed by state on the Pigs as Pets Web site.

Noah's Ark Rehabilitation Center near Locust Grove, founded by Connor's daughter Jama Hedgecoth, has reached its limit for pigs and won't accept any more, said spokeswoman Angie Martin. She knows of no miniature goats at the center.

Pigs as Pets President Lana Hollenback said she's concerned about the weight limit the county is proposing. "One hundred pounds or less is unrealistic for a potbellied pig" because they average 90-150 pounds, Hollenback said.

Owners often are misled by pet stores and breeders about how big their pig will get, Hollenback said. "Oh, my gosh, my pig is huge, it weighs 100 pounds," she said the refrain goes.

Pigs are No. 4 on the intelligence list right behind whales and dolphins, according to the Web site Pigs a Sanctuary. "Pigs are so sensitive that you can hurt their feelings," the site says.

They also "can become bored easily and are often destructive when finding ways to entertain themselves," the site warns.

And when a potbellied is vying to be "top pig" in the household, watch out.

"They will charge their opponent," Pigs a Sanctuary says. "When the opponent is a family member or a guest that has come to visit, this can be quite dangerous."

ON THE WEB: For more information about this topic: Pigs as Pets Association: www.pigsaspets.org/index.html
Also: Pigs a Sanctuary: www.pigs.org

By Kevin Duffy - Staff Writer

 

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