Pot-bellied pet spurs bylaw battle
City says this little piggy may have to go, but couple hope rule is changed
A NEIGHBOUR COMPLAINT is forcing Diane Hines to fight for the right to keep her by law banned pot bellied pig, Sheldon.
But whether she succeeds or not, the central Mountain resident hopes her porky pink pet becomes a rallying point for pig-lovers to challenge Hamilton’s contentious animal bylaw.
“This isn’t a farm pig. I know some people assume mini-pigs are dirty and disgusting, but that’s not true. They’re wonderful,” said Hines, who took in a seriously ill Sheldon in late 2011 from a relative. “I think the mini-pig is misunderstood.” Hines has started a Change.org petition — it has 515 supporters so far — asking the city to allow her to keep the 30-kilogram Vietnamese pot-bellied pig after a city bylaw officer told her an unnamed resident had complained.
The city updated its animal control bylaw — after months of often bitter debate — to ban pot-bellied pigs in urban areas in 2012. Pig owners with a valid licence in that year were grandfathered, but the city estimates only seven legal pigs live in urban Hamilton now.
Sheldon is not one of those licensed pigs, said animal services supervisor Brad Potts, who also confirmed the city received a complaint about him.
But Potts also said he’s offered Hines the opportunity to prove her ownership of Sheldon predates the new bylaw. That potentially — no guarantees — opens the door to getting the licence that would have been available in early 2012.
Hines said she appreciates the chance and is gathering vet bills and an affidavit from a former owner. “But I would still like to make the case that the bylaw should be changed, regardless,” she said. “Maybe I get to keep Sheldon, which would be great. But that doesn’t help anyone else.”
There are other unlicensed porkers living in the city. Animal services have two “impounded” pigs right now — one turned over by an owner, the other found running hog wild on an unspecified Mountain street.
Hamilton’s bylaw banned several unique pets — including pigs, chickens and certain types of snakes — based on concerns about the spread of sickness, odour or even public safety.
Memorably, a licensed pig got loose from an enclosure on the beach strip in 2012, and chased a woman down the sidewalk before being cornered by police. Hines dismisses health and odour concerns as “false assumptions.” Her bristly porker is “100 per cent housebroken” and quieter than the household’s three small dogs. “He likes to root around in the yard and grunt, but you would have to stand against your fence and listen to hear it from next door,” she said.
The term “mini-pig” is probably up for debate. Sheldon could grow as porky as 55 kilograms — but that’s a lot smaller than a bred-for-bacon hog weighing 365 kilograms. Sheldon is an inside pig, but likes to cool off in an outdoor kiddie pool or lounge on a pillow on a special deck.
He’s mischievous — occasionally tearing up the yard and nipping at his canine friends before joyfully waddling away. “But for the most part, the problems are no different than for a dog.”
Hines recalls hearing about the proposed bylaw changes in 2012 — but at the time, she wasn’t sure Sheldon would even survive the year. Her family started an informal animal hospice in their Mountain home more than a decade ago that has gradually adopted a name, Lazy Dazy Animal Haven. Many of the pets she takes in are terminally ill and die within a few months.
Hines said Sheldon recovered from “serious plumbing problems” that cost her about $6,000 in surgery and veterinarian bills. Her full-time work is selling medical supplies and her partner Jay House is a graphic designer.
“He is still a special-needs pig as far as his bladder is concerned,” she said.
Until a few weeks ago, Hines thought her entire neighbourhood loved Sheldon.
She would walk the gregarious pig, take him out to dinner — even the drive-in. “He was an instant celebrity,” Hines said, recalling she missed half the movie “Trainwreck” because everyone wanted to meet her pig.
Hines doesn’t know who complained about the pig, but calls the move “vindictive.”
If she can’t licence Sheldon, Hines said her family is considering solving the problem by moving outside the urban area.
That would also allow them to take in more sick animals, since Hamilton’s bylaw allows only four pets per household.
“But I hope our situation, if nothing else, gets people thinking twice about this bylaw,” she said.
Diane Hines and Jay House often share their couch with their pet pig Sheldon while they watch TV. The pig’s favourite TV shows are "Judge Judy" and "Ellen," Diane says. The Hamilton Mountain couple would love to keep their pet, but there has been a complaint.
Diane Hines and Jay House say their pet Sheldon is well behaved and housebroken.