PAYETTE — Since October, the newspaper has been covering efforts by Jessica Deck and her fiancé Michael Bullard to get their pet potbellied pig, Bella, legalized in the city of Payette. The matter first came to light after a September incident where Bella escaped the family’s yard, which led to a visit by code enforcement during which the family learned about the prohibition on swine within city limits.
Presently, Payette City Code 6.15.005 strictly prohibits swine from being kept as livestock within city limits, while Section 6.04.115 makes ownership of swine as pets a misdemeanor.
When the Payette Planning and Zoning Commission shot down their request to amend codes to create an exemption for their pet on Dec. 17, Deck said she would bring lawyers into the matter.
“This has definitely put a huge effect on our family and put a huge damper on our new home, and the focus of welcoming our baby girl, and just all the way around has made this supposed to be such the happiest time of our lives a very hard regretful time that has taken a toll on everything,” wrote Deck in a Dec. 30 email.
But now, the Payette City Council is stepping up to help the couple in their efforts. At the council’s regular meeting on Jan. 4, Councilor Daniel Lopez raised an issue he saw with the way the commission viewed the matter.
“When I think livestock, I think animals that are outside the home absolutely,” said Lopez. “I feel like, without seeing the minutes or being at the planning and zoning meeting, this is what the planning and zoning [commission] is looking at, that we can’t have swine within the city limits, which is true … But I believe where planning and zoning is not being led to is the fact that the potbellied pig is recognized by many cities in Idaho as a pet.”
He clarified that he felt potbellied pigs should be regarded separate from other types of swine and allowed under the city’s dog ordinance.
“We have a maximum of four dogs allowed in the city,” Lopez noted.
Lopez cited examples of city codes from Nampa and Caldwell, where ordinances have been passed allowing potbellied pigs in their city limits.
Councilor Lori Steiniker agreed, saying that they should be kept indoors like dogs.
Councilors initially directed Deck and Bullard to file their request with planning and zoning without giving their own input. However, with this request to revisit the request, city attorney Dan Chadwick clarified that the council could help guide the commission in their decision-making.
“You can either send it back to planning and zoning with directions from the council to consider the issue,” explained Chadwick. “It doesn’t mean necessarily that they will agree to send something out, with regard to an ordinance change. But you can ask them to take a formal look at it, or you can do it yourself as a City Council if that’s what you want to do.”
Chadwick said asking the commission to draft an ordinance to potentially allow potbellied pigs would like be the most appropriate action.
Mayor Jeff Williams noted, however, that caution needs to be exercised to ensure city officials don’t make knee-jerk reactions to similar requests.
“What’s the percentage of people in our city that would want to have this type of animal?” Williams asked. “If you open the law to have them in the city, are we doing this for a select few and there’s ninety percent of people within the city that don’t want ’em?”
When Williams asked what size potbellied pigs can grow to, Lopez said such size is comparable to large dogs.
“They’re not the gigantic sows that you see on farms … These pigs are a variant of a pig, just like dogs that have been bred for years” to be kept as pets, said Lopez.
He added that without Bella making her escape, this matter might not have come to light.
“We enforce ordinances, but it doesn’t mean we have to outlaw a pet pig.”
Lopez motioned to approve the request for Planning and Zoning to revisit the request, with direction to review city code and define potbellied pigs separately in a proposed ordinance, with Councilor Kahlia Morin seconding. A voice vote to approve was unanimous, 6-0. A possibility of a public hearing on the issue was mentioned by Lopez but not included in his motion.
In an email on Monday, Deck praised Lopez’ efforts to revisit this issue.
“I am very impressed with his efforts, I myself [have] looked into Nampa and Caldwell,” wrote Deck. “I feel we lost our voice at the last Planning andZoning meeting, so for him to take it this far on our behalf gives us high hopes. He has went above and beyond for Bella since day one!”