Pot-bel­lied pet spurs by­law battle

City says this lit­tle piggy may have to go, but couple hope rule is changed

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN

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.

CATHIE COW­ARD, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Diane Hines and Jay House say their pet Shel­don is well be­haved and house­bro­ken.

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