A Castlegar family will be forced to part with their pet pot-bellied pigs – and eat a several-thousand-dollar investment in said pigs - after city council decided, at its regular meeting Monday night, to deny their request for an exemption from the city’s animal bylaw.
City director of Development Services Phil Markin compiled a nine-page report recommending the residents be allowed to keep their pets, contending that, because a bylaw officer indicated to the family (in error) in 2013 the pets would be allowed, the city should stand by that.
“I normally wouldn’t support (an exemption), but in this particular case, I feel the city should take some responsibility because (the bylaw officer) was a city employee,” he said, adding the family not only sent in a letter requesting the exemption, but also included a petition signed by all by one neighbor in close proximity, requesting the pigs be allowed to stay.
In a rare decision, city went against staff recommendations and voted four to one against making a provision for the pigs.
“Although I feel sorry for the family that owns the pigs, I can’t support having them stay when we’ve been inundated with requests (for urban livestock),” said councillor Deb McIntosh. “I feel awful that they’ll have to give up their pets, but otherwise, it opens the flood gates. We have to be fair.”
The sole voice on council supporting the recommendation was councillor Bruno Tassone, who told The Source after the meeting that he felt it would be cruel to oppose it.
“These pigs have been there for a long time – I looked at all the pictures, and the property is clean and well-cared for. I feel they are just pets, and it’s a disaster for the family to have them destroyed or given up.”
Resident and neighbor Garth Johnson said the cause of the original complaint in 2013 was stink, and wasn’t specific about the cause of his current complaint, but expressed concern that the pigs were living in the same house as a one-year-old child.
“I think you did the right thing in upholding your bylaw, even though your bylaw officer made a mistake. Mistakes need to be corrected,” he told council. “I’d like to thank you for your decision.”
The pig’s owners, Andrea and Josh Lamont, say they are bereft over the decision.
“I don’t even like looking in my backyard anymore, because I know that soon they won’t be there,” Andrea said, referring to Chumlee, 4, and Rosalie, 3. “It’s just really heartbreaking.”
But more than the emotive issue is the financial penalty the family is paying for the city employee’s mistake.
“We’ve become more attached to them – and we’ve also spent thousands of dollars on the pigs (since the bylaw officer indicated we could keep them in 2013),” she said. “The complaint was about smell from pig (feces) in our composter – my husband dug up our compost area, and we now have a bucket on the other side of the yard, which we take to my grandmother’s composter once a week. We built a fence, dividing our yard in two, so the pigs are always at least half a yard away (from the complainant’s yard).
“We built them a room downstairs and put in linoleum. We’ve spent thousands of dollars.”
She likened the situation to having a policeman tell you a certain behaviour is acceptable, then turning around and handing you a hefty fine for that same behaviour.
“It doesn’t seem fair that a city representative told us it was okay, and now we’re out all this money,” she said, adding the communication was also less-than-ideal.
“I dropped off the letter and petition May 30, and haven’t heard a thing since,” she said. “I’m really surprised they didn’t at least let us know the meeting was happening – I don’t know if having myself, my husband and a bunch of neighbours there would have helped, but I would have liked to try.”
Moreover, she says, she found out about the decision, not from council or city staff, but rather from Josh Hoffman of The GOAT news and this reporter at The Source. (The Source was able to confirm that the city, in the person of Phil Markin, penned a letter the morning immediately after council’s evening meeting, but it hasn’t yet reached the Lamonts).
As for the fate of the pigs, Andrea said she’s hoping the city gives them adequate time to find a suitable adoptive home.
“With pigs, there’s always the worry that someone will adopt them just to eat them,” she said. “And they can’t just be left in a barnyard in the wintertime, these are indoor pigs, not farm animals.”
Anyone who is interested in adopting the pigs as indoor pets, please contact The Source at 250-365-5972, and we’ll forward the Lamont’s contact information.