A potbellied pig named Peco must find a new home, after the Brooklyn Park City Council this week rejected a measure broadening the definition of pets in the city beyond cats and dogs.
The council also took the first step toward eliminating pet licenses due to a decline in the number granted each year, a process it describes as cumbersome with a low return on investment. Other metro suburbs have walked away from licenses for similar reasons.
The council indicated that it prefers instead to encourage residents to get pets microchipped in lieu of licenses to reduce the high cost of impounding stray pets.
Peco’s owner, Rebecca Buckley, recently moved to Brooklyn Park, which doesn’t allow pigs, chickens or goats on lots smaller than 5 acres.
An attempt by residents to change that in September was shot down, but the council revisited the issue Monday with regard to pigs at the request of Buckley, who garnered more than 1,000 signatures in an online petition.
In her plea to the council, Buckley said that her 140-pound pig was quiet, clean and vaccinated, “just like a dog.”
But the council turned her down in a 5-2 vote. Mayor Jeff Lunde was one of the two council members who voted in favor of Peco.
“I don’t think that this is going to cause any unreasonable harm,” he said. “Sometimes I worry that we always worry about every little thing, when for the most part … people by and large make do with each other.”
Lunde said that unfortunately Buckley now will have to comply with city code. It’s not yet been determined when that must happen. Buckley could not be reached for comment.
Michelle Peterson, Brooklyn Park’s neighborhood health supervisor, said the city first became aware of Buckley’s noncompliance when a complaint was registered more than a year ago.
“The complaint was that he was a pig. Not that he was noisy or causing any disturbance or destroying anything,” she said. “We have to investigate it and follow through with our procedures. And even though we don’t feel Peco is a nuisance animal at all — I think he’s a very good pig — the code just doesn’t simply allow him as is to be where he’s at.”
Peco is a registered therapy animal, Peterson said, so Buckley inquired about exceptions to the ordinance. A therapy animal, however, is not the same as a service animal, which are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Fair Housing Act protects emotional-support animals for renters, but Buckley is a homeowner, she said.
Brooklyn Park’s pet ordinance mirrors those of many cities around the metro area in allowing farm animals so long as the parcel is 5 acres or larger.
Crystal, New Hope and St. Paul allow pigs, no matter how big the lot. Brooklyn Center, Coon Rapids, Edina and Minneapolis don’t allow pigs or goats, but chickens are OK under varying rules. Some cities have license requirements based on zoning or parcel size.
Pet licensing is a practice being abandoned by a number of cities, including Burnsville, Crystal, Mound and Orono.
Brooklyn Park accrued nearly $53,000 in impound expenses last year, with reclaimed animals bringing in about $20,000 in revenue and pet licenses netting about $3,000 after expenses. Microchips implanted below the pet’s skin would enable police to find owners expeditiously.
In an interview Tuesday, Lunde said the council had been rethinking what defines a pet but decided “we’re going to stick with traditional dogs and cats.”