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Safety Harbor debates pig ban

Whether Vietnamese potbelly pigs belong in backyards or barnyards is the question city commissioners plan to ponder today.

The issue drew a crowd to city hall last fall when the fate of Tina, a potbelly pig who was living at 16 Ridgecroft Lane, hung in the balance.

Now the city bans pigs _ as well as cows, horses, sheep, goats, and chickens _ from parcels of land that are smaller than 1\ acres. So when Tina moved into the Bayshore Terrace home of Janet and Darrell Thompson last year, the city's code enforcement officer wasn't far behind.

But the Thompsons argued that Vietnamese potbelly pigs, trendy, upscale pets that are smaller than regular swine, make as good a pet as dogs or cats.

After listening to the pros and cons of pigs as pets, the commission decided that Tina could stay with the Thompsons for a while and asked city staff to find out what other cities are doing about potbelly pigs.

Assistant City Manager Wayne Logan researched the question and discovered that a few cities do allow the animals in residential areas and have written special laws to cover them. Veterinarians told him that they consider the animals to be pets.

City staff members have drafted an ordinance for the commission to consider that would allow the pigs under certain conditions:

Only one pig is allowed per household.

Pigs can't be bred for commercial purposes.

Male pigs more than a month old shall be neutered.

No pig weighing more than 100 pounds is allowed.

The Thompsons could not be reached for comment last week. Neighbors say that Tina the pig has not been living there since last fall.

Richard Sarafian, president of the Bayshore Terrace homeowners association, said that if the city decides to allow the pig as a pet, the homeowners association might have to look more closely at the neighborhood's deed restrictions to see if it allows animals such as Tina. The association may even have to ask the subdivision's residents to decide on her future.

"We have some pretty strong opinions in the neighborhood, both for and against," Sarafian said. He said nobody thought they would have to deal with such an issue when the deed restrictions were drafted.

"It was a surprise," he said. "We never expected anybody to come home with a pet like that."