Council OKs clause allowing existing pet pigs to live in city limits

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Eureka Springs City Council spent much of its meeting Monday night debating an age-old question: Can this little piggy stay home?

Alderwoman Mickey Schneider recalled the council’s vote on Sept. 24 changing “no hogs” to “no swine” in the animal code, saying she’s heard from a citizen who owns pet pigs and would like to keep the animals in city limits. Schneider said she received letters from the citizen’s neighbors saying they don’t mind having pet pigs next door.

“Everybody loves these pigs,” Schneider said. “These pigs go outside when the pig lady takes them out to do their little potty steps. She uses baking soda when they urinate to avoid any massive buildup. As soon as they’re done with the other end, she cleans that up.”

Schneider said other cities have accommodated similar requests, like when North Little Rock changed the law to allow Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs in city limits.

“In our case, to make it the proper wording, it would be American mini-pigs,” Schneider said. “What they’re saying is to follow your basic dog laws.”

The laws for owning dogs, Schneider said, should apply to pet pig owners, too. She suggested some guidelines, including requiring the owners of pot-bellied pigs to obtain a licensed veterinarian’s certification of breed. Schneider continued, saying pigs shall spend a maximum of five hours a day outside of the residence, feces should be cleaned daily, urine should be sprinkled with baking soda, the exterior property should be assessed by the animal control officer, pigs must be neutered and there should be a limit of two pot-bellied pigs per residence.

“This is, after working with the police, animal control, city attorney, pig lady and everyone else, what we have come up with,” Schneider said. “We don’t want to have a city of pigs running around. We also don’t want to take anybody’s pets away.”

The council could include a clause in the animal code saying the swine ban doesn’t apply to American mini-pigs, Schneider said, or create a sunset clause for existing pet pigs ending in 2030. Any pot-bellied pigs living inside Eureka Springs city limits, Schneider said, should be registered at City Hall. Schneider said registration would include the owner’s name, address and phone number and the pigs’ names and ages.

Alderwoman Melissa Greene supported the idea of a sunset clause.

“I just can’t take someone’s pet away. I’m glad the neighbors around there are happy and they’re willing to work with it,” Greene said. “I have had a number of calls that people just don’t want any pigs in the city.”

Under the sunset clause, Schneider said, no new pet pigs would be allowed in town. Alderman Tom Buford said he’s concerned about the size of the pigs, remembering a court case in New York where a judge ruled against having pigs in city limits.

“A pig is still a pig, and they outlawed them,” Buford. “I just don’t think we need pigs in the city limits of Eureka Springs.”

Alderman Terry McClung said he’s torn on the subject.

“I don’t want to spoil things for somebody,” McClung said. “I’ve spoken to the neighbors and they’ve said, ‘You can’t really see them,’ but rules are rules.”

Mayor Butch Berry said the council needed to make a decision, and Schneider moved to include the sunset clause for existing pet pigs in the animal code. Schneider, Greene and Bob Thomas voted in favor of the sunset clause, and McClung and Buford voted against it. With no majority vote, Berry voted to approve the motion.

Schneider then moved to include the guidelines for owning swine in the code, and the council voted 4-1 to do so.

Also at the meeting, Greene brought up the idea of having citizens vote on the existence of conditional use permits (CUPs). Greene said she’s been hearing from concerned citizens about CUPs for more than two years now. The last CUP issued in the R-1 zone was on Washington Street, Greene said, and there have been four CUPs issued in the R-2 zone over the past two years. During that time, Greene said, six properties with a CUP have closed.

“For me, what I’m seeing is the town is filling up with residents,” Greene said. “I think the problem is correcting itself. I think our laws are good. I’m pretty ambivalent about it, but I’m really tired of this popping up. It’s such a hot topic. I’m looking for an answer.”

McClung said he’s happy with how the city issues CUPs. He has seen the issue as a planning commissioner, city council member and realtor, McClung said.

“It’s always worked,” McClung said. “If people do what they’re supposed to do, the process works. I think it’s fine as is.”

Also at the meeting, the council approved a resolution providing part of the Carroll County district judge’s salary.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22, at The Auditorium.

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