City Council amends ordinance to include pigs as allowable pet

Blake Mitchell, left, and Beth Courtney cuddle with their miniature pig, Maynard. The couple is planning a move to Chatfield, but wanted to be sure their pet was allowed within the city. SUBMITTED PHOTO
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Small-town living is “Good stuff, Maynard!”

Chatfield will soon be home to a miniature creature and his caretakers thanks to the Chatfield City Council amending an ordinance to allow miniature pigs as pets within the city limits.

Current Rochester resident and future Chatfield homeowner Beth Courtney said she and her boyfriend are excited to soon declare Maynard a legal Chatfield citizen.

“I got Maynard in July 2014, when he was 13 and a half weeks old,” she said. “He is currently four and a half years old and a little over 40 pounds and still growing. When I first got him, he was tiny — less than 10 pounds. I wanted a pig when I was younger, after realizing that I was allergic to cats and dogs. Pigs are hypoallergenic because they don’t have fur.”

Chatfield’s zoning administrator, Kristi Clarke, outlined how his impending arrival came to be. “This summer, a potential resident asked me about our animal policy, as they were looking to purchase a home and move to Chatfield. After our discussion, she submitted a formal request to consider amending the animal ordinance to include miniature pigs as an allowed pet within Chatfield.”

As pigs are considered “livestock” by definition, they were allowed in the rural residential zone. However, Chatfield’s animal ordinance, Chapter 6 of the city code, explains that chickens are considered both pets and barnyard animals.

Clarke highlighted, “They’re considered both. Though as a planner, I think of ‘pets’ or ‘barnyard’ animals in terms of their property use. When raised for eggs or meat in large quantities, chickens and pigs are still considered an agricultural business. Though, when hens are raised in small quantities — less than six or 1,800 square feet of lot per hen — or miniature pigs less than 22 inches in height in Chatfield, they are an allowed use in a residential zone. West Chatfield is still part of Chatfield’s city limits and are part of the same animal ordinance, though livestock is allowed in rural residential zones, largely West Chatfield, and not allowed in any other zone in the city.”

City council conversations to allow Maynard to live on the pastoral greens of a residential yard began on June 25, 2018, with a formal request that Courtney drew up.

Clarke recalled, “The planning and zoning commission discussed it during their July and August meetings in depth. A public hearing was scheduled for planning and zoning’s August meeting on August 6, and Chatfield residents were notified of the hearing in the paper on July 25. It was approved by city council on August 27. The first and second reads followed the approval in September and October for the city council. As all properties are required to allow service animals, many towns have already updated their ordinances to allow them, and as service animals expand to other species, it is important to recognize people’s needs and expand our city code where practical and possible.”

There are some rules by which Maynard and his mom must abide in order for him to call Chatfield “home, sweet home,” as while miniature pigs might be the best of both the canine and feline worlds, they are still piggies.

Clarke outlined, “Dogs and cats can be unsupervised, but pigs can instinctively root around in the dirt and could cause some minor damage if left unattended. Miniature pigs must also stay indoors and only be outdoors when supervised or leashed. Most miniature pig owners that I contacted would not allow their pets to be unattended and were happy with that code stipulation.”

Regarding neighbors’ concerns, she said, “I doubt anyone even notices there is a miniature pig on your street unless the owners happen to be taking one for a walk. These pets are primarily an indoor animal that is less likely to create a nuisance than a barking dog. They have similar needs and training patterns as a cat. They are quite small and typically are trained with litter boxes.”

Courtney will be required to register Maynard once they’ve unpacked all his toys, sweaters and ice cream.

Clarke related, “Residents need to visit our website and print out a zoning certificate application for miniature pigs. These pet owners must file a permit and know that if any issues arise, they will be contacted to fix the issue. This provides neighbors with much more assurance than a family with a new dog or cat. Also, we require a copy of all vet care documentation and the full-grown size of the miniature pig. If someone has a proposal for another species, they should contact the city of Chatfield to discuss it.”

Maynard, Courtney and her boyfriend, Blake Mitchell, chose Chatfield as their new home because they’re seeking a place to settle that’s between work and family.

“My boyfriend and I still have the majority of our family and friends back in northeast Iowa. We both work in Rochester and enjoy our jobs, but Rochester is a little larger than the small-town vibes we were raised in ourselves,” she said. “Our commutes back and forth from Iowa bring us through Chatfield, and we just felt like it would be a great smaller town to start a family in that would allow our future kiddos to grow up similarly to how we did while being close to our families and a short commute to our jobs.”

Courtney didn’t venture into pig ownership lightly. In fact, she fattened up her knowledge of what to expect when getting a piglet.

“I had done a TON of research. I have always loved animals and get very attached, so I wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into before completely committing. Lack of knowledge would have been unfair for Maynard or myself,” she said.

Frequently, Courtney explained, people will buy a pet pig because they see the pictures of them as piglets and labeled as “teacup” or “micro” pigs, but said there is no such thing. “That is false information given by breeders to make their money, which causes people to get rid of their pigs once they start growing,” she added.

Courtney did extensive research into the farm where Maynard was born, along with all of the personality traits and requirements that come along with having a pig, like any new pet owner would do. She added that she has served as a resource for others who have met Maynard or perused pig ownership.

“I do know a couple other pig owners,” she said. “I actually referred them to get their pet pigs from the same farm that Maynard was born at because the breeders were knowledgeable, helpful and very compassionate.”

Courtney feels it’s very important to clear up misconceptions about pet pig ownership and she reiterated, “Absolutely the number-one misconception is that they stay the size of their piglet pictures. Anyone can Google ‘pet pig’ and a million pictures will pop up of baby pigs, and breeders will take those pictures and label them as ‘teacup’ or ‘micro’ pigs, and they are really adorable. Then, people buy them when they are tiny and are shocked when they actually grow. Miniature pigs definitely can vary greatly in size and build depending on their genetics, but it shocks people when the pig they thought would stay ten pounds grows to 40 to 200 pounds. Unfortunately, many people end up giving their pigs to animal rescues because of this.”

Courtney and Mitchell agree that being pig parents is an awesome endeavor. “‘Maynard is a really cool dude,’ says my boyfriend, Blake Mitchell. Maynard loves belly scratches and Cheerios. He’s always willing to help with yard work and trimming any pesky weeds. He will never be outside unattended, although sometimes he may wander into other yards because he doesn’t pay attention to where he is walking once he gets munching, but we will always be with him. He has interacted with cats and dogs, including Labs and German shorthairs, but he does especially great with my parents’ Yorkie.”

Maynard’s “pigsonality” is, well, huge, according to his mom.

“Where do I start? Maynard has a very big personality! He is the best of both worlds between a cat and dog. He is very laid back like a cat, sleeps all day on the couch and loves to cuddle,” Courtney said. “He prefers to be the little spoon and always needs to be under a pile of blankets, which he loves to root through. Similar to a dog, he will greet you at the door whenever you get home and loves to do his favorite trick, spinning, for a treat. Maynard will definitely let you know when he is hungry or ready for bed by trotting around, grunting and oinking.”

She elaborated, “My favorite habit of his is that he always is by my side — when I’m getting ready for work, when I would study for school, and especially when I am in the kitchen, because there is no way he is missing out on taste-testing what I’m cooking for supper. Another helpful habit is that he is litterbox-trained. We have a litterbox which we fill with pine pellets that he goes potty in, and then it just breaks down to sawdust…super simple.”

Courtney also said Maynard loves bath time. “Fill up the tub with some warm water, add some baby shampoo and he could sit there for an hour…scrub-a-dub-dub, pig-in-a-tub.”

The most frustrating thing, yet admittedly humorous, Courntey said, is that sometimes Maynard gets SO excited about eating that he flips his completely-full water bowl upside down, soaking the entire rug and himself in the process.

Courtney related that she hadn’t imagined herself living in an apartment with a pig, but that’s where she’s at.

“Originally, when I had gotten Maynard, I didn’t think that I would go back to apartment living. I didn’t think I was going to even leave Iowa. But I got the chance to pursue my passion and obtained my dream job, so here we are. Maynard doesn’t mind the apartment. There’s plenty of space for him to trot around, with a big sliding door onto a balcony for him to lay in the sun, and we take him outside for walks and rooting in the grass.”

However, Courtney knows Maynard would absolutely LOVE a big green yard.

“We take him to our parents’ houses whenever we can to allow him to trot around, rooting and munching, she said. “He never wanders far, always staying close to us, but he loves to be outdoors. When he does get really excited, he can take off in a sprint so fast that I can’t keep up with him, but then when he realizes we aren’t next to him, he does a big U-turn and comes right back.”

Maynard is a combination of homebody and explorer. “We have a bike trailer that doubles as a stroller, which he really enjoys. We just put his harness on and have rigged it so we can strap him in. He will stick his snout straight up and sniff while looking all around. He has a leash, even though he never walks far from us. However, we don’t usually get very far with our walks because he enjoys munching on the grass, especially the white flowers on clover. Maynard is also quite the homebody — he loves taking frequent naps and will oink if he hasn’t gotten enough cuddles.”

There’s no doubt Maynard’s a snout above the rest, but his relatives are mighty fine, too. “Pigs make amazing pets! They are actually considered to be one of the most intelligent animals, smarter than cats and dogs,” Courtney said.

And mind you, don’t call him a “pork chop.”

“No one eats miniature pigs,” she stressed. “They are pets to love. Like I said before, Maynard is the best of both worlds of cats and dogs.”

The average lifespan for a miniature pig can range from 12 to 20 years. They go through three sets of teeth, and he has to get pedicures to keep his hooves trimmed.

Courtney said his tail actually does curl, but only when he goes potty, otherwise he wags it like a dog and has extremely long hair on the end — the hair alone is probably close to 10 inches long.

“His snout gets cold easily, so he loves to have it buried in blankets,” she said. “Pigs enjoy rooting, which is using their snout to dig. Rooting is a pig instinct to look for food, but Maynard just does it to get under the blankets or to dig little mud holes.”

Courtney explained that farm hogs typically roll in mud to keep them cool because they don’t have sweat glands and it prevents them from sunburns. On the other hand, she said, Maynard is supervised while outside to make sure he doesn’t get too hot and they apply children’s sunscreen to prevent sunburns.

“His favorite toys are ones that can be stuffed with Cheerios and he can roll around to get the treats out. He also loves grapes and cherry tomatoes, but he isn’t picky when it comes to food, except celery. He will spit that out and leave it for me to clean up,” she said.

Courtney’s pleased to have had such a welcoming experience with the city’s council and administration to make way for her little celery-opposed pig.

“The people of city hall that I spoke to about the zoning ordinances were extremely helpful. Kristi Clarke made everything very easy for me and was really great about staying in contact with me,” she said. “She suggested writing a proposal for the guidelines I would suggest so I did my research through the American Miniature Pig Association and averaged out the suggestions, then presented them to the city council. Fast forward three months and Kristi let me know that everything was approved.”

In Chatfield, Courtney said she and her boyfriend are most looking forward to being able to call a place their own, where they can feel comfortable letting Maynard trot around a big green yard and go for a walk down the sidewalk, greeting friendly neighbors.

Courtney concluded, “I think the fact that the city is open to new things says a lot about the community. Change can be difficult, so I am extremely happy that Chatfield was willing to look into this and discuss the possibility of adding a new pet for the residents to enjoy in their homes. We are looking forward to finding a starter home and moving to Chatfield!”