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Prohibiting pet porker would be a pig-headed move

The argument that Winnipeg residents can’t have livestock is a lot of bull, writes Shannon VanRaes

Will the City of Winnipeg start saying, "here piggy, piggy" to pot-bellied pets?

Will the City of Winnipeg start saying, "here piggy, piggy" to pot-bellied pets?

There are some phrases you just don’t hear – pig-mauling is one of them.

While swine can grow to an enormous size and must be handled with care, pot-bellied pigs have not been known to maul children to death or dismember lap-dogs out for an evening stroll. Given the choice between living next door to a pot-bellied pig or a dangerous dog, I’d choose the little porker every time. 

But for reasons beyond me this logic eludes some individuals on Winnipeg’s standing policy committee on protection, community services and parks.

While a dangerous labrador — that has already killed another dog, went after a child and injured a by-stander — will be allowed to stay in the city, Emily Sydor’s pet pig could be banished from her West End home. 

In August, Sydor was issued an Animal Services Order telling her to move the animal beyond city-limits, an order she appealed last Friday. But despite support from her neighbours and the fact that no one opposed her, the issue has been put over until November so a legal opinion can be obtained. 

Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt was prepared to allow an exception to the Responsible Pet Ownership bylaw, but others raised the lazy argument that if you allow one pet pig, everyone will want a pet pig.

Unlikely.

The other argument put forward? That Winnipeg residents can’t have livestock and that, frankly, is a lot of bull.

Nearly 30 per cent of land within Winnipeg’s city limits is zoned for agricultural use and contrary to common belief, the city is not defined by the Perimeter Highway. At last count there were 82 commercial farms located inside Winnipeg and many of them have livestock on them, some of them even have pigs. Yes, the number of urban farms is shrinking as housing developments sprawl and land values climb — in 2006 there were 155 farms within the city — but whether Winnipeggers realize it or not, they have been living side-by-side with livestock for generations.

If the committee was interested in really delving into the issue they might have checked to see if Sydor’s porcine pet was registered with PigTrace Canada, a mandatory biosecurity and traceability program all pigs must be registered with. Even racing pigs, and yes there is such a thing, are included in the nation-wide effort to trace disease outbreaks should they occur. But that didn’t seem to be an issue the committee was concerned with.

Granted, it’s unlikely Sydor’s West End residence is zoned for agricultural use, but the idea of a pig living inside the city is hardly unprecedented and this particular pot-belly pig hardly represents a commercial farm. 

Given the city’s recent recognition of urban beekeeping and growing interest in local food, one person with a pet pig or even many people with pet pigs, doesn’t seem like a problem, it seems like a natural progression.

Because at the end of the day this isn’t a situation that calls for a legal opinion, it’s a situation that calls for common sense. Some little piggies go to market, but this little piggy? This little piggy should stay at home.

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