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DO'S AND DONT'S OF ZONING
There are many that have fought the battle on this issue. Some we have won some we have lost. There appears to be no one way to do it and most of these battles depend on how well you communicate with the bureaucracy along with the mind set of that bureaucracy.
PROBLEMS YOU FACE:
The Dept. of Agriculture classifies these animals as swine. No matter how many proclamations we have, no matter the number of letters we have, it will still be the same. As long as we are required to blood test as the swine do we will be classified as swine. While we may have letters from individuals in the Dept. of Agriculture stating that these are pets it does not change the bottom line.
It would not be cost effective for the Dept. of Agriculture to change the rules to suit the few thousand pet pigs in the Country. Also consider how could they draw the line between the pets and the herds that are not considered pets, but who are still not considered meat producing animals.
LOBBY POWER BY THE PORK PRODUCERS:
They are not going to allow us to travel with impunity place to place as long as our animals are capable of carrying or transmitting swine disease to the pork that they depend on for a living. We have to understand that we are dealing with the farm mentality not people who keep pets.
The fact that our pets are for the most part spayed or neutered and that they are not breeding animals is not of interest to them. The fact that most of the disease problems that we are blood tested for are diseases affecting breeding of the animal which makes it mostly a non pet problem is also of no concern to them.
At this point in time there is no way to separate the two. Even if they were willing, where do they draw the line between pets and those kept in herds that are not really pets, but certainly not meat producing animals.
A dubious outcry from some quarters who even though they claim to love the pigs seem to come out of the woodwork every time a zoning issue is brought forward. These people are ahead of you on almost every front and have had more time to get organized against allowing zoning. They have not been totally up front with any of us and for sure are not fair in the scare tactics that they use with the city fathers.
POPULARITY OF THE PET PIG:
While this is a good thing for the unwanted pigs out here it makes the battle for zoning even harder. There are fewer and fewer people who are willing to ask to keep their pig and as we all know, numbers count with the bureaucracy.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE??
Can we change the stand of the Dept. of Agriculture? That is very doubtful. At least not in my lifetime do I expect a change in the laws regarding the potbellied pig.
Can we hope to gain the lobby power of the pork producing states? No we can't. We do not have the numbers nor the commitment nor the money.
Can we refute the group fighting against zoning and make our voices heard. Yes, we can, but only if we do it carefully by keeping the WELFARE OF THE PIGS as our first and foremost concern.
The first thing that we can all do is, NEVER, NEVER place a pig, give a pig, sell a pig to a permanent home without checking for OURSELVES if this is a zoned area!! Once that pig is in that home IT IS the pig that will suffer when its found to be illegal. DO NOT PUT THE PIG AT RISK. To do this and fight the battle later is not fair to the pig that is possibly going to end up in a sanctuary or worse.
PICK YOUR BATTLES VERY CAREFULLY!
Do not just jump in and decide to fight for all the pigs that you come across with zoning problems. Do your homework first. How did this pig come to be living there? How long has the pig lived there? How did they get the pig?
Some of these people who have had their pig for a while never thought to ask if it was legal. However, there are those who knew and did it anyway or they were not told by whoever gave them the pig that it could be a problem. By asking a few questions you should be able to pin point where the problem is in your area.
If that pig has been in the home for a period of years than it probably is a person who just never thought to ask if the pig was welcome. If however, the pig is a young pig or they have only had it for a few months then the warning light should go on. ASK WHO PLACED THAT PIG WITH THEM. If one name keeps coming up or one business or one pet shop etc. .then you know where to start your campaign to keep these pigs from being placed in a dangerous position in the first place.
PICK YOUR BATTLE ACCORDING TO RESPONSIBLE PET OWNERSHIP ONLY!
Last year I remember a case that came on the pig lists on the computer. A lady was being forced to give up her pig and there were numerous calls of help put out. Upon further investigation it was found that this lady had been cited for her dog and twice for her pig. One citation was for unsanitary conditions.
This is NOT a battle that should be taken on! Responsible pet owners do not get cited for unsanitary conditions nor do they get cited for animals who are repeatedly getting out. One time maybe, repeatedly, No. In these kinds of cases your reputation loses all credibility and substance should you decide to step in.
WHEN YOU DO HAVE A LEGITIMATE BATTLE!
The most important thing to do is have your "ducks" in a row beforehand. Keep your letters short and to the point without emotion. The bureaucracy does NOT like to read. Keep your letters centered around what will affect THEM as a city or town. They really are not interested in how we feel about our pets, but they will listen if it is going to affect them and their jobs in any way.
Be ready and able to dispute any erroneous information that may have been given to them about the pigs as pets. Give them the facts and state them to their benefit.
To counter some of the negative information put out there give them numbers and facts to work with. In some cases they have been told that it will cost the city in funds to allow the pigs as pets, saying that it means more shelter room, more personnel, etc.
Counter this with information that you can get by writing to animal shelters across the country and asking for statistics and numbers of pigs brought in and if it has increased the cost to the shelters to take on these animals. Have they had to add extra personnel to take care of the problem and has it added to their expense, if so how much?
DISEASE FACTOR AND RABIES:
One of the misconceptions that is being given to the cities and towns is the disease factor. There have been studies done that will give you in black and white the number and types of disease that is transmissible to humans by pigs, dogs and cats. The pigs come out the very best!
One argument used to the cities by certain negative groups is the rabies question. The way this comes across to the city is nothing more than a scare tactic, but one that must be countered from the very beginning. It is worded in such a way as to be borderline truthful, but not complete.
In every letter that I have read that was sent to cities contemplating the allowing of pigs, one issue stands out as they say that "pigs are warm blooded animals and therefore able to catch and transmit rabies and that there is no approved vaccine for use in pigs" Trying to get to the bottom of this one was a real bear.
Most vets concede that yes they are warm blooded animals therefore it is possible for them to contract rabies, but they also state that it would be highly unusual for this to happen. There is no recognized vaccine for pigs..this is true. Because there HAS NEVER BEEN A NEED FOR IT!
Whatever protection that the pig has, it is not in his genetic makeup to be susceptible to rabies. Just think of all of the thousands of farm pigs across this Country that live in wooded areas with a multitude of wildlife with no rabies vaccinations! The JAVMA last month released a very long article from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta that says it better than we ever could if you want to read the whole thing.
Also a letter from my vet who apparently is a very brave soul. Ask your own vet for a record of how many pigs he has come in contact with rabies. Your chance of contracting rabies from a pig is about the same as being hit by a meteor while sitting in your living room watching TV! Get it in writing!
To refute this erroneous and biased argument, give figures on animal bites from animal control officials. Numbers of people bitten by pigs in the last year for example. These cities and towns are being given the idea that they are going to have herds of rabid, aggressive pigs running amuck through their streets. This is an easy one to counter.
MORE AND MORE UNWANTED PIGS.
Let them know that responsible pet ownership is not nearly the problem in pet pigs that it is in other species of pet animals. Just because they are legal does not mean everyone will want one. Cite the JAVMA article that gives the percentage of 34% of homeless pigs is due to them being zoned out of their homes by cities and towns.
Give them the facts that these animals are by nature, sedate creatures that sleep a lot, do not bark, and basically are cleaner about their habits than dogs. These are the kinds of facts that you need to get across when writing to the cities and towns during zoning. Things that THEY may be worried about in their capacity as city Fathers.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK ON EACH CASE
Read the city or town ordinance carefully and check the wording. Some are simple and say no swine period. Some say no farm animals. Some say exotic animals are not allowed and some say that exotic animals are allowed. Use their wording to your best advantage.
For example: if exotic animals are not allowed .its easy to prove that these pigs by this time are no longer exotic animals! They have been bred in the United States for a period of years, so for all intents and purposes, they are no longer exotic.
USE THE ULTIMATE WEAPON
Close your argument with what may be our best weapon yet. Let them know that you are more than open to a license fee for the pigs! If they are afraid of increased costs on shelters and manpower, this can be a great thing for us. It is the one thing that has been proven to work with the dogs and it will work with the pigs.
The responsible pet owners will not object to paying a license fee to keep their pet, the city will get extra money, and it will discourage those who cannot afford to care for a pig or who do not want to be bothered about applying for a license. This in turn helps those who are committed to being good pig parents.
While we would all like to think that we should be allowed to have the pet of our choice this is not the case. We all know and accept the fact that these pigs are not the pet for everyone, but for those of us that know them and love them there is no other pet. It is a shame that there are some really great pig parents out there who may never have the chance to enjoy one of these unique animals.
As a person who believes in responsible pet ownership being the first criteria for happy animals and happy people it is a difficult situation for me. I do know that it has been my experience for 30 years of working in humane circles and animal welfare that YOU CAN NOT LEGISLATE RESPONSIBLE PET OWNERSHIP!! It is there or its not there. If it could be legislated away we would not be killing over a million dogs a year due to irresponsible owners.
It is my thought that placing one of our pigs in a non zoned area just because we think it should be our right to have one is as irresponsible as the owners of those animals that died for no reason other than they were brought into the world by people who did not think about their future.
by Phyllis Battoe - All Rights Reserved
2000 - 2010