Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Miniature Swine A Therapy Animal, Says Homeowner After City Nixes Waiver Request To Keep Cuddly 3-Pound Pig; Situation May Be Federal Case In The Making If City Not Careful

In Coral Springs, Florida, the WTVJ-TV Channel 6 reports:

  • Kason Ray smiled big Friday as he played with Twinkie, his pet pig. The 8-year-old boy’s family in Coral Springs considers Twinkie a domesticated lifesaver. “She's very calming to him,” said Heather Ray, whose son has Down syndrome. “He'll scoop her up and love on her and pet on her. He really interacts with her so well.”

    But keeping the pig is against a city ban on livestock. Heather Ray said she was denied a waiver to keep Twinkie, but said she hasn’t been kicked out. "It's important for us to have something for Kason that he feels accepted," Ray said. "This animal loves him no matter what."

    Twinkie helps Kason get through his days. It's something psychotherapist Alina Gastesi-de Armas recommends. "The unconditional love a pet gives them allows them to grow and to have empathy," Gastesi-de Armas said. "People are sometimes not as open to their needs as a pet might be."

    In keeping the pig, the Ray family invokes the American Disability Act, a law that gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities that are like those provided to individuals on the basis of race, sex, national origin and religion.

    Even though the city told the Ray family they could not keep their pig, the ordinance hasn’t been enforced, the family said. It is something the family said it is happy about.

    "If we do get fined or get notices to get rid of her, then we will go to the Department of Justice and take it one step further," Ray said.(1)

    Why not get a cat or dog? Kason's father is allergic to them, and Twinkie doesn't make anyone cough or sneeze, the family said.

    In Volusia County, a 2-year-old autistic boy and his family are facing a similar problem – using animals to help cope with everyday life, while breaking a city code.

    "It doesn't take into consideration the uniqueness of each person's situation," Gastesi-de Armas said. "This child obviously has a great deal of fondness for this pet and hopefully people will take that into consideration when they make their decision."
Source: Pig Is Part of Coral Springs Family Despite City Livestock Ban (A Coral Springs family plans to keep their pet pig, even though there is a city livestock ban).

See also, South Florida Sun Sentinel: Twinkie the pig may have to move out of Coral Springs:
  • Convinced the pig was in the best interest of her child, Ray decided she'd deal with City Hall later. She bought the pig from a farm in Texas for $1,300. The pig costs the family about $25 a month for food and vet bills.

    Twinkie is one of nearly 300 miniature pigs sold every year, said Lona Morris, owner of Texas Tiny Pigs in Waco, Texas. She said families with allergies are among her top customers, as well as people looking for therapy animals.

    The city shouldn't consider Twinkie livestock because she wasn't bred for food or clothing fiber, argues Susan Magidson, president of the Society for the Advancement of Pet Pigs in Pennsylvania.

    "That's very sad," she said of the Rays' situation. "Pigs are the finest companion animal ... They cause no illnesses to people, with rare exceptions, they don't bark at night. They are very, very quiet."

    Jerry Brown, spokesman for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C., said if a medical professional prescribes the pig as a therapy animal, then the Ray family might be protected under the Fair Housing Act.(2) Ray said she has a note from her pediatrician.

    Ray argues that pigs are increasingly being used as animal-assisted therapy. Shriners Hospitals for Children in Northern California, for example, has used pigs as therapy.
(1) The inability to make the distinction between a service animal, an emotional support/assistance animal and a household pet can give rise to a very costly legal problem for landlords, homeowner associations, municipalities purporting to enforce code restrictions, etc. Both the Housing Feds, the Civil Rights Feds, and others have shown a high degree of interest when these situations arise. See, for example:
In other cases in which the four-legged animals have prevailed over their two-legged antagonist-counterparts in actions attempting to mischaracterize them as livestock, see:
  • Gebauer v. Lake Forest Property Owners Ass'n, 723 So. 2d 1288 (Ala. Civ. App 1988) (in ruling against a homeowners' association and in favor of a family and its Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, the civil appeals court of Alabama pointedly observed "This is not a case in which a family is treating a farm animal like a pet, such as Arnold the pig of television's "Green Acres" fame. Gebauer bought a breed of pig that is bred specifically as a pet. The breed is much smaller than a farm pig and differs from a farm pig in several respects...");
  • James v. Smith, 537 So. 2d 1074 (Fla. 5th DCA 1989) (under the specific facts of the case, a Florida appellate court concluded that two ponies kept by a landowner were "domestic pets" within an exception to an anti-livestock covenant in a housing subdivision's deed restrictions, and accordingly, were permitted to stay on the premises. 537 So.2d at 1076-77);
  • 'The Swine Stays!' Says Judge To HOA; Well-Behaved Wilbur The Pot-Bellied Porker Dodges Boot As Effort To Evict Beloved Family Pet Deemed 'Not Kosher' (homeowners association was successfully sued for threatening foreclosure on a family if they didn't give their family pet, a pot-bellied pig, the boot. Go here for the persuasive arguments, including case law authorities, made by the homeowner in this case; and go here for a deposition transcript from the family veterinarian, who was able to persuasively articulate to the court the difference between a breed of pig that is considered to be a 'household pet' and a regular farm pig that is generally considered 'livestock' - a consumption pig).
(2) Ibid.

No comments: