Archive for Friday, December 23, 2011

City urged to allow potbellied pigs

Ehren Penix wants the city of Lawrence to change the city’s animal code to allow for potbellied pigs as pets, including the 70-pound Starky, who he says has formed a deep bond with him.

Ehren Penix wants the city of Lawrence to change the city’s animal code to allow for potbellied pigs as pets, including the 70-pound Starky, who he says has formed a deep bond with him.

December 23, 2011


Owner Ehren Penix says his potbellied pig, Sparky, is clean, well-behaved and affectionate.

Owner Ehren Penix says his potbellied pig, Sparky, is clean, well-behaved and affectionate.

Pets allowed under Lawrence’s animal code

• Domesticated dogs

• Domesticated cats

• Domesticated rodents

• Domesticated European ferrets

• Rabbits, a limit of three in a residential area

• Birds, as long as they are not protected by state or federal law

• Nonvenomous snakes less than 8 feet long

• Nonvenomous lizards

• Turtles

• Amphibians

• Fish

• Invertebrates

• Domesticated hedgehogs

Having a pig as a best friend is great, Lawrence resident Ehren Penix can attest. Now, he just wants it to be legal.

Penix is lobbying Lawrence city commissioners to change the city’s animal code to allow for potbellied pigs as pets, including his nearly 1-year old 70-pound friend, Starky.

“They’re really gentle and really good companions,” Penix said of potbellied pigs in general. “They tend to bond with one certain person or animal in their lives. If you become that person to the pig, you will become his best friend forever. That is certainly what Starky has become to me.”

Whether Lawrence City Hall will bond with potbellied pigs, however, is an open question. City Hall staff members have been rooting around on the issue, but haven’t yet offered a recommendation on whether the city code should be changed to allow the animals.

Cynthia Wagner, assistant city manager, said if the city does decide to allow potbellied pigs, ownership should come with several regulations. Her suggestions include:

• Ownership only for purposes as a pet, not as a food source;

• Owner must be able to prove the animal is a purebred potbellied pig, rather than a traditional swine breed that can grow to several hundred pounds.

• Animals must weigh less than a certain weight, perhaps 80 pounds. Penix said some potbellied pigs can grow to 150 pounds, though many owners like to have them at 100 pounds or less. Starky, he said, is on a diet.

• Animals must have undergone a blood test to show the animal is free from pseudorabies, a form of pig herpes that can be dangerous to dogs and cats.

• Each animal must be registered and licensed with the city, perhaps including an implanted microchip that would make it easy to identify the owner, if a pig is found roaming free in the city.

Other issues, like odor, may be tougher to legislate, Wagner said.

“I’ve heard opinions on both sides of the odor issue,” Wagner said. “But in talking with the state veterinarian, I’m told that if it looks like a pig and walks like a pig, it is going to smell like a pig.”

Penix, a Kansas University law student, said he thinks the city can come up with a reasonable program that will allow potbellied pig ownership in the city limits.

He said the smell issue often is misunderstood because most people’s experience with pigs comes from a hog farm. Penix said he’s not asking for anything close to that scale to be allowed in the city, and he said as long as owners clean up after the pigs there shouldn’t be a problem.

“His poop smells, of course, but as long as you’re responsible about cleaning up, it’s fine,” Penix said. “He’s actually very clean. He’s even learned to wipe his hoofs before he comes in the house.”

City staff members found a mixed bag when it comes to whether potbellied pigs are allowed in other communities. Wagner said Lenexa, Olathe, Overland Park and Shawnee allow the keeping of one potbellied pig per household. Kansas City, Mo., also allows potbellied pigs but requires the animal be kept at least 200 feet away from any neighboring home. Manhattan, Salina and Topeka do not allow potbellied pigs.

City commissioners haven’t yet set a date to consider the issue, but Wagner said staff members hope to in January. Wagner said commissioners may need additional information about some issues such as what type of fencing is adequate to secure a pig in a yard, and also how the city would deal with pigs that are either turned loose or escape from their pens.

“There is some concern that this could be like the little chickens or ducks at Christmas time,” Wagner said. “They’re cute while they’re little, but if they get too big are we going to have a problem with a feral pig?”

Penix said he thinks most of the concerns city leaders may have are really more about irresponsible pet owners, which can occur with any type of animal. He said the city shouldn’t stop responsible pet owners from owning a potbellied pig because traditional pets aren’t always an option for everyone. Penix said he got Starky because he is allergic to dogs, but did so without realizing the pigs weren’t legal in the city. He’s been allowed to keep the animal while the city considers whether to change the law. And yes, you may see Starky and Penix out for a walk someday.

“I have a Jayhawk leash and harness for him,” Penix said. “You wouldn’t believe how many people stop us and say they used to own a pig or knew somebody who did. People love giving him treats, and trust me, he loves getting them.”


Evan Ridenour 6 years, 5 months ago

I feel the idea of owning a pet pig in a city is asinine but I don't see why he wouldn't be allowed to keep a 70-80 pound pig as a pet as long as he acted responsibly when there are thousands of dogs with irresponsible owners all over the city. Somehow I don't foresee pet pigs becoming anywhere as annoying as dogs already can be when coupled with bad owners.

Paul Dillman 6 years, 5 months ago

I had a potbellied pig growing up. Wilbur (not very original but I was 6) was litter box trained. He didn't smell bad unless his litter box wasn't clean. He is a pig after all and wanted to roll around in anything he could (poo included). Also needed to be included in the proposed city regulations is that they're spayed or neutered. Wilbur could be violent to people/dogs/cats before he was neutered. After that happened though he was calm and sweet with everyone.

Boston_Corbett 6 years, 5 months ago

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Boston_Corbett 6 years, 5 months ago

If they are not currently allowed, what is he doing possessing the same?

50YearResident 6 years, 5 months ago

I cant imagine renting a house or apartment to a pig owner. Makes me wonder where this guy lives and if the owner knows he has an inside the house pig! Why would a law student want to mess with cleaning up after this pig. I see all kinds of problems with approving pig pets. I bet the novelty of pig ownership wears off very quickly. I can't imagine what kind of body oder this young man has after wallowing inside the house with his pet pig.

ivalueamerica 6 years, 5 months ago

do you base your concepts on any known facts about potbellied pig pet owners, or simply on a myth created in your own mind based on nothing logically connected to the facts?

50YearResident 6 years, 5 months ago

Educate me, old wise one. You must have a couple of these yourself to get first hand information.

ivalueamerica 6 years, 5 months ago

in other words, you admit you based your opinion on nothing factual. Good luck with that.

Dovakiin 6 years, 5 months ago

Things you may have not considered:

  • It's possible that he owns this house and is not renting

  • It's possible that cartoons have lied to you and a potbellied pig that has been well-cared for and a human being with normal hygienic habits will not smell worse than your average dog owner

50YearResident 6 years, 5 months ago

Is this what they call, "living high on the hog"?

macmack 6 years, 5 months ago

As a potbellied pig owner of over 20 yrs, I can attest that smell is not an issue if the pig is provided a clean place to do their business. We showed our pig a place in the yard and that's where she went. Made clean up pretty easy. Because we had the space, that worked for us, but pigs are so easy to train that a litter box is an option, too. In our experience, they prefer to be clean. They love baths and they love to snuggle against their person. We actually had a hog farmer tell us that pigs would always smell "like pigs", and actually came to our home, got down on the floor with our pig and sniffed. The surprise on his face was priceless - but he did acknowledge that lacking the barnyard and smells associated with that, the pigs would not develop that pig aroma. In this regard and with our experience with a house pig, I must respectfully disagree with the state veterinarian. Simply not true, and our own vet could attest to this as he has been here and has seen her in our home. I would suggest adding to the code that the pot bellied pigs be spayed or neutered in order to be licensed in the city for the reasons stated above.
Our little pig was about the size of a fat basset hound, slept in a nest of blankets in the laundry room and loved the woodstove in the winter. Provided with the correct diet and moderate their intake of snacks and scraps, they will not get overweight. Pot bellied pigs are a good pet option for a lot of people and are considered hypo-allergenic for those sensitive to the dander of cats and dogs. We enjoyed our time with our little pig. She lived 20 years, so the commitment could be huge.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 5 months ago

Pigs are probably more careful about doing their business than OWS dudes.

Jimo 6 years, 5 months ago

Gee, I've heard of the self-hating Jew but the self-hating middle class takes the cake.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 5 months ago

What's self-hating about being squinked by public defecation?

Jimo 6 years, 5 months ago

A) Being a fake person, pretending your stink doesn't stink or that your excessive servility doesn't waft its own pungent odor.

B) Looking down on the many Americans who have lived in squalor to fight for your rights (including apparently the right to despise them for their patriotism).

C) The general contempt for human beings you casually display daily.

D) Not even having the self-respect to demand a decent wage from the 1% for defending the 1% against your own interests.

judgery8 6 years, 5 months ago

This is such a progressive move for the city. I would think that pigs would be treated like any other pet, dog or cat - so I don't understand the extra licensing and microchipping. Dog poop stinks too - that's why there's a nuisance section in the city code. All of these concerns are ridiculous. I love that Lawrence, and especially our city council, is so open-minded; it's such a great city for animals.

verity 6 years, 5 months ago

As long as they don't bark, jump on you, slobber on you, or sniff your crotch, they've got to be better than dogs which are not properly trained.

KEITHMILES05 6 years, 5 months ago

There are bigger issues in life to deal with than pigs. Good grief.

irvan moore 6 years, 5 months ago

i like the pig better than i like the city commission

Abdu Omar 6 years, 5 months ago

Don't worry all you people of Lawrence, the pig will clean up his own poop and yours too if you let him and then when he gets old an you don't want him anymore, you can slaughter him and have bacon and ham and all the good stuff that comes from a pig who eats his own poop. Yyyyyyuuuuuccccckkkkkkk!

Abdu Omar 6 years, 5 months ago

No, they are filthy animals and they take only a few hours to digest what they eat so it stays in their meat. Other edible animals like cattle, sheep, goats, deer, elk, etc, take more than 24 hours to digest and their meat is pure. I heard that from Joel Osteen.

kawrivercrow 6 years, 5 months ago

Snicker snicker at Joel Osteen the gastroenterologist.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

All urban pigs should be required to maintain six-pack abs.

SWJayhawk13 6 years, 5 months ago

Just curious, would they be subject to the same restrictions that other pets face? Would landlords be allowed to charge pet rent and security deposits on the pigs? And how would their weight factor into this? Most apartment complexes in town that are "pet friendly" require that the pets be under a certain weight limit (in my experience, it's been no more than 25lbs).

James Minor 6 years, 5 months ago

Allow the permit on the condition that when they are too old that the police use them to sniff drugs. They can wear uniforms, hats, badge, with an allowance of two dozen doughnuts a day. Upon retirement that are invited to a hog roast where they are the guest of honor, given an apple, and have the best/hottest seat in the house.

DrRustinMcGillicuddy 6 years, 5 months ago

It's not like the law is going to change anything; the three people in town with potbellied pigs will just... continue to have them.. But I can say (as someone who is involved with an over 120,000 population pig farm) that pig smell often lingers even after taking showers. It's one of the few smells that I know of that just "sticks" to surfaces, much like cigarette smoke. It's entirely possible (probable) that this man cannot smell the effects of his swine simply from sensory adaptation.

kawrivercrow 6 years, 5 months ago

It's entirely probable that your experience with 120,000 pigs in a factory farm has absolutely no bearing a single pig weighing less than a human who lives in a clean habitat.

It's also entirely probable that the chemical compound causing the smell you are referring to is skatole, which is highly influenced by the diet and hormonal milieu of the pig. Humans also produce skatole, and if you were to shove 120,000 of them together in a concentration camp, the pigs would hold their noses as they drove by.

impska 6 years, 5 months ago

If I had 120,000 cats, I'm pretty sure that smell would linger too.

honestone 6 years, 5 months ago

We allow chickens so why is a pig different. I have been thinking about getting a little pony or a cow.

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