California Potbellied Pig Association, Inc
Legal Pets Are Potbellied Pigs Legal Pets in My Area?
By Chris Christensen
If you do not yet own a potbellied pig, start by asking at city hall or your county zoning offices. Determine if you are indeed in the city or the county (the laws often vary). In our county they consider potbellied pigs to be illegal to own (more on that later), but every incorporated city in our county allows them. Seems a little backward.
If you are told they are illegal, ask for a copy of the ordinance. Often there is none. The person behind the desk just assumes that potbellied pigs would be illegal.
If you are told they are legal, ask for a copy of that ordinance, also. There may be restrictions that you will need to know about, and having your own copy of the ordinance may prove useful if you get a pig.
If you already own a pig but don’t know if they are legal, ask for a copy of any ordinances, but don’t give them your name or address, and don’t tell them you already own a potbellied pig.
1) If there are no ordinances at all (including swine ordinances), you are probably safe. I would, however, keep your pig ownership quiet, and keep your neighbors friendly. Keep your fences in repair and your gates locked. Don’t get too many animals of any type. Keep your animal areas clean and picked up daily. Be sensitive to odors in your yard (your pigs will be unfairly blamed for any smells). If someone complains, you could be hit with a public nuisance ordinance, and if it is possible to show that the animals in your home don’t have the proper care, you could be forced to get rid of them. It is easier to defend dogs, miniature goats, miniature horses, etc. than it is to defend having potbellied pigs as pets. It may be completely unfair, but history has spent a lot of time vilifying these wonderful, intelligent animals.
2) If there are ordinances allowing potbellied pig ownership, beware of any restrictions placed on this ownership: property size, permit or license requirements, zoning, number of pigs, size of pigs, etc. Sometimes an ordinance permitting potbellied pigs can be worse than no ordinance at all.
Many well meaning ordinances restrict the size of adult potbellied pigs to under 100 pounds. Many of these ordinances are based on a poorly written specification of the North American Potbellied Pig Association (NAPPA) that stated a proper potbellied pig should weigh less than 100 pounds. What their specification failed to mention is that they were referring to pigs under one year of age. It took them many years and a number of potbellied pigs losing their homes before they corrected their error. Considering that they are a breeding organization, the specification served their breeders well by enforcing the idea that potbellied pigs were supposed to be tiny. In truth any potbellied pig can reach a weight of 200 pounds and not be overweight. Some potbellies top out at under 100 pounds, but most will be 100 to 150 pounds. If your pig is not at least five years old, it may not be full grown.
Often these ordinances restrict the number of pigs (or livestock) to one animal. These are often based on equine keeping ordinances. The truth is that pigs are herd animals and do much better as pets with at least one partner.
Also if an ordinance exists allowing pigs, you must be certain that your property meets any zoning or size criteria.
3) If ordinances exist that expressly prohibit the keeping of potbellied pigs or even swine, you should probably not get a potbellied pig. Sometimes the swine laws are very old and obviously apply to livestock, but legally potbellied pigs are swine.
You could also try to change the law before getting a potbellied pig. You can do this through your local city/county offices and council meetings. This could be very involved but well worth the effort if you want to share your life with a pet potbellied pig.
If the ordinance only forbids livestock, an argument can be made that potbellied pigs are not livestock as per the USDA. They consider potbellied pigs to be pets, not livestock.
In our county there is a brief sentence at the end of an ordinance on tree crop farming that says, “only ordinary household pets are allowed”. That sentence has been used by the present zoning department to ban potbellied pigs in county zoned areas. I think under the right conditions the opinion that potbellied pigs are not ordinary household pets could be challenged, but so far there has not been a situation that we know of where a lot of other problems didn’t also exist on the property, and/or where the owners had the time, ability and desire to fight the zoning department’s opinion.
We have seen situations where police, animal control officers, zoning officials, etc. have come to homes demanding the removal of pet potbellied pigs only to find out that they had no legal standing in doing so. A check of the ordinances found that having a potbellied pig was not illegal in those particular areas. Always demand to see an ordinance, but even better know if one exists in advance before ever putting you or your pet potbellied pig in this situation.
If you find yourself in a situation where you already have a potbellied pig in an area where it is illegal, your best solution is to keep a low profile unless you are prepared to hire a lawyer and try to change the law. Most zoning and animal controls will not go looking for this type of violation. Enforcement situations usually arise from neighbor complaints. Once a complaint is lodged in a situation where the law clearly states that your potbellied pig is illegal, the authorities are obligated to enforce the law. They have no choice. Even if the complaint is withdrawn, it won’t matter. At that point you either must get the law changed (difficult), move to a legal area, or give up your pet.
”We can only love what we know,
and we can never know completely what we do not love"