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Please save Porkus Maximus. September 20, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, pets.
Tags: , , , ,

Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood weren’t quite prepared for the lead story in yesterday’s edition of our local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call. It was about Porkus Maximus. What was this, an expose of pork-barrel politics? A commentary on the porcine greed of obscenely bloated multinational corporations? The percentage of Americans contributing to the national obesity epidemic?

Well, no. The article, “Supporters go whole hog for Porkus,” was about a pet potbellied pig who’s being threatened with eviction from his home in nearby Whitehall Township. Usually, when a pet is threatened with eviction, it’s because it’s damaging a landlord’s property or because a neighbor complains about nonstop barking or because it’s threatening to attack people. In poor Porkus’s case, none of this is true.

According to the article, the entire neighborhood, including all the neighborhood dogs, loves Porkus. Porkus’s family owns their own home, so landlords don’t enter the picture. Porkus is quiet, clean, and friendly to everyone. So what’s the problem?

Turns out, a Whitehall zoning officer caught sight of Porkus sunning happily in his own fenced yard, declared that he was livestock, that owning livestock was illegal in Whitehall Township, and that the pig had to go. Porkus’s owner, backed by various potbellied pig associations across the country, contends that potbellied pigs are pets, not livestock, since neither they nor their byproducts (like milk) are used for consumption or commerce. 

The neighborhood has rallied to Porkus’s defense. Hundreds of people have signed the “Save Our Porkus Maximus” petition. Even a daycare center has gotten into the act, hosting a pro-Porkus rally featuring plastic pig noses and a big “Precious People hearts Porkus” sign.

But time is running out for Porkus. His township hearing is at 7 p.m. tonight, September 20th. If the zoning board rules against him, he’ll have to go, leaving a family that loves him and a neighborhood where he’s a celebrity. (Read the article in its entirety at www.themorningcall.com.)  

Now, our friend Ben and Silence are not exactly what you’d call pig people. (Though OFB admits to a fondness for barbecued ribs, bacon, sausage, pork roast, and barbecue sandwiches.) We’ve never understood the appeal of potbellied pigs as pets, since to us, they look like, well, pigs.

But we were immediately drawn to Porkus because of his Latin name. We ourselves are the proud owners of Plutarch the Pirate Parrot. And when our black German shepherd, Shiloh, condescends to actually eat her food, she lies down to dine as if she were at a Roman banquet, at which point we refer to her as The Emperor Caliguleash or The Empress Hungricula. We decided to visit Wikipedia and other sources to find out more about potbellied pigs.

Our research turned up some data: Potbellied pigs are intelligent, inquisitive, trainable, quiet, and docile. They can reach weights of 60 to 300 pounds as adults, with the average about 120-150 pounds (though some very miniature pigs only reach 20 to 30 pounds, but this is the rare exception). They grow about as big as a midsize to large-breed dog, though they’re considerably, uh, stouter in body type. And like domestic dogs and cats, it’s recommended that they be neutered or spayed when they’re 6 months old. They can live to be 12 to at least 15 years old; the oldest known here in the U.S. lived to be 19.

It’s true that the Vietnamese potbellied pig is simply a breed variation of the barnyard pig, which itself is a domesticated descendant of the wild boar. And it’s also true that in Vietnam, potbellied pigs are raised for food, not friendship.

But we don’t think this makes the livestock argument valid. In Korea, dogs are eaten as a delicacy. In Peru, guinea pigs are raised for meat. Rabbits are raised for meat worldwide. Parrots are eaten where they’re indigenous (they taste just like chicken, no doubt). We Americans keep all these as pets, along with those other delicacies, fish, reptiles, and amphibians (frog legs, anyone?). Yet nobody slaps a zoning notice sign in our yards telling us we can’t have dogs, bunnies, parrots, guinea pigs, iguanas, and the like as pets and must give them up because they’re livestock.

We still don’t want a pet pig, thank you. We’ll stick with dogs, cats and birds. But we think Porkus should be allowed to remain in his home, undisturbed by officious types who create problems where none previously existed, all at taxpayer expense. Porkus Maximus, we’re, er, rooting for you!

Update: Good news, pro-Porkus people! The zoning board voted to allow Porkus to remain in his happy home. Sixty people from the neighborhood turned out to support Porkus, with none opposing. Whew!



1. pixilated2 - September 22, 2011

Missed this… What happened? (I looked on the site and it was gone)

Thanks to neighborhood support and publicity, Porkus was granted a variance and allowed to stay in his home. I’m glad the zoning board did the right thing!

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