A Winnebago man says his two pets aren’t noisy or out loose and running wild.
So when Mike Mahlstedt got a letter from Police Chief Eric Olson on Aug. 14 telling him he had to get rid of them, he decided to take his case to the City Council Tuesday night.
After all, Bella and Penelope — Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs — have been part of the family for nearly seven years.
“The previous city administrator said I could have them,” says Mahlstedt. “I’m upset that I’ve been told I have to get rid of them.”
According to the letter signed by Olson, owning the pigs violates a city ordinance that lists them as a farm animal.
Mahlstedt contends that pot-bellied pigs were not classified as a farm animal when he bought them at a county fair when they were a few weeks old. But, now they are illegal to own.
Councilman Rick Johnson disagrees with Mahlstedt, saying the ordinance, “hasn’t been changed in the 12 years I’ve been on the council.”
Councilman Paul Eisenmenger glanced over the ordinance and could not find that pot-bellied pigs are allowed in city limits.
“Every animal in here as listed I see as being a farm animal, including a pot-bellied pig,” he says.
Mahlstedt says the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not considered a pot-bellied pig to be a farm animal.
Ingrid Chrisman told the council when she lived in Phoenix, residents could own a pot-bellied pig because they were not a farm animal.
The pigs — that weigh between 100 and 120 pounds – are in an enclosed pen in the backyard. Mahlstedt says there are a couple of residents who know he has two pet pigs and bring them tomatoes, apples and pears from time to time.
The council was in agreement to study the issue before deciding if Mahlstedt can keep the two swine.
“I was relieved that they didn’t make me get rid of them. It would be like losing a kid,” he says. “I’m going to fight them up to the end. I’d take this to court if I have to.”
For now, Belle and Penelope have gotten a reprieve. At least until the next council meeting.