By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
Some might call it a Tale of Two Pigs.
But there’s no wolf huffing and puffing them out of their home.
Actually, some claim the villain in this story is a city ordinance banning pigs as pets in Effingham. And city officials are taking a lot of heat on social media for enforcing that ordinance.
Tara and Brian Payne consider their female pigs, Betsy and Minnie, as pets. There are photos on Facebook showing the pigs sleeping in the Payne residence and loved like most domesticated pets in households.
“People don’t realize these are very common pets. They are very loving and entertaining,” said Brian Payne during an interview Tuesday morning at his Effingham residence. “They go outside in warmer weather. We have a kiddie pool for them and they flop around in it. And they eat grass in our yard.”
This hog heaven could end soon with the city ordering the Paynes to find housing outside Effingham city limits for their mini pot-bellied pigs that have grown in weight and length considerably over the past two years. Betsy and Minnie have 30 days before they must hoof it out of town.
“We never knew there was an ordinance against having them as pets in town,” Brian Payne explained. “There’s no reason to worry about baby pigs because they have both been spayed. And they’ve had their shots, too. I don’t see why we can’t keep them as pets here.”
Facebook and other social media have many posts regarding this issue with many supporting the Paynes on keeping their pets in Effingham. But Effingham government officials are supporting its stance on the issue through an ordinance prohibiting non-traditional domesticated animals.
“We’ve been working on this issue for the last two months,” said Effingham City Administrator Jim Arndt. “They keep the pigs in their residence and sometimes have them in the backyard. There was a complaint from a neighbor about the odor. So this was a nuisance complaint, which is handled by the police department. Our ordinance prohibits pigs from being kept in city limits.”
The Paynes approached different city officials to modify the ordinance regarding their pigs. Arndt said he has consulted the National Humane Society and local animal doctors on the issue. The consensus among city council members and city department heads showed support for maintaining the ordinance because it could lead to future exceptions on different animals. That led to the Paynes to receiving word from a law officer they should take the pigs out of the city.
“We recognize it’s a sensitive issue, but this is the best decision for the city as a whole,” Arndt said. “If we allow this, then people will ask for other animals to come into the city. That wouldn’t be fair to some residents.”
Payne believes city officials are ignoring the bond between them and their pets.
“There our pets so we just can’t hand them over. I wonder how council members would feel if they were given 30 days to give up their pets,” Payne said. “And separating these animals would be bad for them. They are very close and sleep side by side. I don’t think they will survive if they are taken out of this environment.”
A petition drive is underway supporting the Payne’s effort to keep Betsy and Minnie in their home. It could lead to a presentation of their effort at the January 16 Effingham City Council meeting. The Paynes plan to be present with the petition and their supporters.
“We will be at the city council meeting and we have lots of supporters,” Brian said.
If the council declines to compromise on the issue, the Paynes might be leaving town with their pigs and other pets.
“We will move if that’s what it boils down to,” he said.