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Pets vs Livestock

April 14 , 2003

Owners fight Kewaskum officials to keep their beloved potbellied pig

Kewaskum - Scott Konzal plans to pack a public hearing tonight with a few dozen friends and family members who agree that his 100-pound pig is every bit as lovable and loyal as a dog and deserves to live in his home as a pet.

Konzal and Greg Bernau share a house at 1434 Parkview Drive with Pi-G, pronounced pie-gee, a 2 1/2-year-old Vietnamese potbellied pig that Konzal describes as "a part of my family."

His year-old coonhound, Tiger, sleeps with Pi-G in a spare bedroom in the house, and they even share toys.

"She's just like a dog," Konzal said. "We'll be sitting on the couch, and she will come up and snort if she wants to be petted."

Where Konzal and Bernau see a plump pet nuzzling them for attention, however, village officials see a livestock animal.

And Zoning Administrator Gordon Hoffmann has ordered the two men to remove the pig from the house.

Livestock are allowed to stay only on land in the village zoned for agricultural uses, Hoffmann ruled in mid-January. He responded to another village resident's query of whether it was legal to keep a pig in a home in a residential neighborhood. His answer: no.

Konzal and Bernau have appealed Hoffmann's interpretation of the zoning code and gained a delay in complying with the village order. They will have an opportunity to defend their pet selection at 7 tonight during a public hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals in the Council Room of the Municipal Building, 204 1st St.

State law requires a supermajority vote of four of the board's five members to override Hoffmann's order, Village Administrator Dan Schmidt said.

"The only thing the board can do is decide whether the Zoning Administrator made an error," Schmidt said.

The independent board, for example, cannot simply rule that potbellied pigs are pets in the village because the zoning code does not include the word pet or its definition, according to Schmidt. Dogs and cats are licensed as pets in the village under a separate ordinance.

Would go to court

If the board agrees with Hoffmann, Konzal and Bernau said, they will file a lawsuit against the village to block the pig's eviction.

"We'll go to court," Bernau said. "We're willing to go all the way. It's worth every penny that we spend to keep this pig in the family."

"How much is a principle worth?" he asked. "The village should not tell us who and what we should have in our home unless they specifically prohibit it.

"With this decision, a lot of people would lose their pets. A rabbit would be livestock."

Konzal and Bernau have hired Ted Johnson, a Cedarburg lawyer, to represent them before the appeals board.

In an April 9 letter, Johnson asked the board to dismiss Hoffmann's order against his clients.

Hoffmann's decision was "arbitrary and subjective" and was not based on any definitions or guidelines contained in the village zoning code, the letter says.

Should the board override the zoning administrator's decision, then the village would be in the position of deciding whether to go to court to enforce its order.

In February, Konzal and Bernau lost their bid to convince the Plan Commission that the zoning code should be amended to allow pigs in residential neighborhoods.

The Plan Commission could have recommended the Village Board make such a change. But the panel listened to the two men praise Pi-G as a quiet and disease-free member of the family, then took no action. After that meeting, Hoffmann issued another notice of non-compliance and ordered the pig's removal.

Konzal and Bernau then asked for a hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The two men believe they can convince the board that potbellied pigs are not livestock.

"These pigs are bred to be pets," Konzal said in an interview. "They're quieter than dogs, and they don't smell."

"They're very clean animals," Konzal said. "They're not like a farm pig."

The City of Waukesha is one community in Wisconsin that already has accommodated its residents' desire to keep pigs as pets. Konzal hopes that city's example will help him persuade the Kewaskum appeals board to do the same.

He cannot imagine losing this battle. "I've had her since she was born," Konzal said. "Potbellied pigs are so cute. And every pig has its own personality."

"Pi-G will open the refrigerator and take apples and bread if we don't lock it," he said.

Bernau acknowledged that Pi-G does "eat like a pig. She chews with her mouth open," he said.

Konzal and Bernau moved to Kewaskum from the Town of Addison about one year ago and brought the black and white pig with them.


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