Chickens aren’t the only animals slowly shifting from being considered strictly farm animals to becoming pets.
Pigs are one of the latest trends in household companions.
“He loves to have his belly rubbed,” Providence Township resident and first-time pig owner Kyle Rothfus said of Vinny, his 4-year-old rescued pot-bellied pig. “And we call it ‘melt’ when you scratch behind his ears.”
Vinny the pig, Zelda the dog and Kyle Rothfus of Providence Township take a nap together. Mr. Rothfus says while Vinny can be affectionate, he can also be pushy, grumpy, and stubborn.
Mr. Rothfus adopted Vinny from the Toledo Area Humane Society in October. The organization takes in a handful of pigs each year, often from people who obtained them as tiny piglets but weren’t prepared for their growth.
Kelly Sears, director of animal welfare at the humane society, said the marketing of so-called teacup, mini, or micro pigs is deceiving.
“The micro-pig is all a myth,” she said. “People think they are going to stay these tiny pigs, but many of them do grow to much more than what is advertised.”
Vinny weighs in at the low end for pot-bellied pigs at about 120 pounds. Ms. Sears said he was surrendered by owners who weren’t prepared for his size and natural behaviors that led to destruction in the home.
“It’s sad,” she said. “They are so smart, and they actually grieve for their owners.”
One of the most well-known pet pigs, a social-media star known as Esther the Wonder Pig, was sold to her owners as a supposed micro-pig and now weighs an estimated 650 pounds.
Mr. Rothfus said learning to care for a household porker has been an “interesting transition.” Vinny sleeps in the laundry room, and is house trained like the family dog, Zelda. He generally gets along well with the family’s other animals, which include cats, horses, and chickens.
And while he’s affectionate, Vinny can also be very pushy, grumpy, and stubborn, Mr. Rothfus said. Training him in basic obedience has been a challenge, and his natural behaviors like rooting and scratching himself on various objects have taken a toll on the carpet and drywall.
“He’s not allowed, but he’ll get up on the sofa,” Mr. Rothfus said.
Ms. Sears said pigs can also become aggressive when not properly socialized, trained, stimulated, or given appropriate outlets for their natural behaviors. Males do grow tusks, and any pig can charge or bite.
“They can be dangerous, especially when they are 300-plus pounds and ornery,” she said.
Vinny, a pot-bellied pig owned by Kyle Rothfus of Providence Township, takes a snooze next to the family dog Zelda. Mr. Rothfus adopted Vinny from the Toledo Area Humane Society in October.
Because of their size, their needs, and zoning laws, placing a pet pig in a new home is a challenge for any rescue organization, Ms. Sears said.
Area municipalities often restrict swine within city limits. Toledo’s code restricts hogs inside city limits, unless a variance is granted by the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department. Though Adam Loukx, city law director, said it’s unclear whether the term “hog” would include pet pig breeds as opposed to traditional farm pigs.
“You can probably have a miniature pig without much trouble,” Mr. Loukx said. “If it creates a nuisance, then we’d deal with it.”
The health department has record of two recent variances granted recently for pot-bellied pigs, one in 2015 and one in 2016. Dennis Kennedy, manager of code enforcement, said the city has fielded just seven complaints the past three years about pigs in the city.
Perrysburg is creating new regulations after complaints about pet chickens, and the new rules will include pet pigs.
“We would lump them in the same category as specialized domestic animals, and they would not be included in what is defined as household pets,” said Mark Easterling, acting deputy administrator of planning and zoning for the city. “We don’t believe that a pig is a common household animal.”
The proposed ordinance would prohibit pigs from residing within the city, unless a property is zoned agricultural or single-family residential with special approval granted.
In Sylvania Township, pigs are prohibited on any property of one acre or less. Those of more than one acre but less than five may have no more than one farm animal per acre. Animals on properties five acres and more are limited only by what is permitted by the state and other authorities.
“We’ve run into a couple of these cases where people say their pig isn’t a farm animal,” said Daryl Graus, planning and zoning manager for the township. “It’s difficult. It’s a bit of gray area, and it puts us in a bad spot.”
Mr. Graus said he can see pet pigs becoming a point of contention between residents and their local zoning authority.
“The courts will probably end up deciding this,” he said. “At this point, it hasn’t been enough of a situation for us to really address it. But I can see that if this continues and they become more popular, it might become an issue.”
The humane society is currently working to place another piglet named Wilbur, who was surrendered after a young girl purchased the pig for her mother as a pet. Wilbur is presumed to be a farm pig breed, and will likely grow to several hundred pounds.
“We will not adopt out an animal to be eaten,” Ms. Sears said. “So they’re not easy to place at all.”
Mr. Rothfus said pigs can be great house pets for those who are prepared.
“Like any animal, they require the research up front and the commitment to give them what they need,” he said.