Some pigs: City allows potbellied swines as pets

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.

Lawrence city commissioners — even the one who owns a barbecue restaurant — couldn’t resist granting mercy on this pig.

Commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting unanimously agreed to add potbellied pigs as an allowable pet under the city’s animal code.

The change came about after Lawrence resident Ehren Penix learned that his potbellied pig, Starky, wasn’t legal in the city.

“It was some of the worst news I could ever receive,” Penix said. “The thought of losing him was like losing a best friend. Please don’t send me home to tell Starky that the people of Lawrence don’t want him because nothing could be further from the truth.”

More than a dozen supporters of Starky, including a father and daughter who live next to the approximately 80-pound pig, showed up at City Hall to support the change in the animal code.

City commissioners said they largely couldn’t find a reason to disallow the animals, as long as a few regulations are followed. They include:

• Making it clear that even though the animals are allowable, an owner of a potbellied pig can still be cited under the city’s nuisance ordinance if issues of odor emerge.

• An owner would not be allowed to have more than one potbellied pig at a time.

• An owner must submit paperwork to the city from a veterinarian verifying that the pig is a potbellied variety rather than a more traditional livestock variety raised for food production. The city made it clear the potbellied pigs — while making jokes at City Commissioner Bob Schumm, who owns a downtown barbecue restaurant — should not be raised as a food source.

“I don’t know who the pig inspector is going to be, but making sure these are truly potbellied pigs will be pretty important,” City Commissioner Mike Dever said.

Potbellied pigs are generally smaller than traditional pigs, but some — like those owned by rural Franklin County resident Rhoda Paddock — can grow to 250 pounds or more. Commissioners had considered putting a weight limit on potbellied pigs that could be kept in the city limits but opted not to include such a regulation. Paddock said she did not believe neighboring residents would find the pets, which owners said prefer to be inside most of the time, objectionable.

“My pigs are potty-trained,” said Paddock, who lives in rural Franklin County. “They don’t bite. They don’t chase you. They just want love.”

City commissioners will finalize the new regulations in the coming weeks when a formal ordinance is presented for a vote.