VIRGINIA BEACH — Council members Jessica Abbot and Aaron Rouse have been working toward an ordinance to amend city code to allow mini pigs to be kept in residential areas.
Currently, Virginia Beach is the only city in Hampton Roads that does not allow mini pigs in residential areas, Abbot said.
Last Wednesday the two council members hosted a town hall to gauge the public’s perception of the ‘mini pig debate’ and to find out what they may not know about mini pigs.
Abbot said there were about 40 people at the meeting, representing all sides of the debate in addition to representatives from law enforcement, specifically animal control.
Abbot said they learned a lot at the meeting, specifically about the limitations both Chesapeake and Norfolk’s city codes have concerning mini pigs and what animal control’s concerns were about the issue.
“The community is bigger than we expected,” she said.
Back in December 2018 she was first reached out to by residents interested in owning pigs as pets and since then has been in the process of figuring out what would need to happen to get mini pigs covered under city code.
Abbot added the mini pig debate also goes in conjunction with the backyard hen debate which she is still very much working on.
There were people who went to the meeting who were opposed to the idea of having pet pigs in residential areas, Abott said.
A few local experts have weighed in on the matter.
Roy Flanagan, Virginia Cooperative Agricultural and Natural Resources extension agent, has a few concerns about introducing pet pigs to the residential areas of the city.
The top concerns he and his colleagues have are to do with bio-security, he said.
“Everything that goes into the drain goes into the water and if animal waste from pigs and backyard hens isn’t properly disposed of, it’ll pollute the water,” he said.
Additionally, he said people should be concerned about avian flu, salmonella and E. Coli from having barnyard animals in residential areas.
David Trimmer, director of agriculture for the city, echoes Flanagan’s concerns, adding the issue of people realizing how much work a pig can be and then not knowing what to do.
“Education is the issue,” he said.
He said he worries people will realize they are unable to care for the animals and then not know how to “re-home” them.
“Zoning is huge, there’s a reason we have agricultural zoning,” he noted.
People who live in residential areas may not like having to all of a sudden live next to pigs and hens, Trimmer said.
The goal Abbot and Rouse have is to find a resolution that allows people to have mini pigs, or more specifically ‘Vietnamese pot bellied pigs.’
That particular breed will still get to be about 100 pounds but they will only grow to a certain height and have different physical characteristics than their barnyard counterparts, the hog, said Abbot.
“Our goal is to figure out how do we make sure people don’t get in over their heads,” she said.
Animal control cleared things up a bit for Abbot, saying they could easily measure a pig’s height and identify it by physical markers to determine if its within city regulation.
In addition to height and physical markers, Abbot said the goal would be to have them considered indoor pets only, much like dogs, and they would be litter box-trained.
Abbot expects the pigs will be regulated much like dogs are in the city, requiring a pet license and neutering for the male pigs.
Spaying female pigs is a very complicated process and pig owners have shied away from the practice and been in favor of neutering the male pigs instead for population control, said Abbot.
“There’s no solid consensus yet, this is the first step,” she added.
Abbot encourages those who are for the addition of mini pigs to residential areas to come to City Council’s Aug. 6 meeting to speak.
Abbot also plans to bring this up for discussion at that meeting.
To view the drafted ordinance, click here.