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Board ruling lets family keep beloved pet pig

Madison and her pet pig, Cherub.

Madison and her pet pig, Cherub.

Cherub is no ordinary pig.

Instead, the Vietnamese potbellied porker and his brethren are pets, the Pima County Board of Supervisors ruled Tuesday.

The decision came as a relief to Cherub’s owner, West Side resident Joel Cleary, who was fined $750 by the county Board of Adjustments in October for keeping livestock. The decision erases the fine and clears the way for Cleary and others to own the half-sized hogs.

“We’ve had him for 12 years. He’s like family,” Cleary told the supervisors.

The Clearys bought Cherub 12 years ago after checking with the county Health Department, which considers the hogs domestic animals. When they adopted their daughter, Madison, three years ago, the girl immediately latched onto Cherub, Cleary said.

“She has issues with people abandoning her, and Cherub is always right there with her. The way they have bonded is really the coolest thing,” he said.

In October, Cleary was fined $750 with $700 suspended provided they purged the pig within 45 days. Cleary appealed the ruling to the supervisors.

After getting a letter from Cleary’s daughter’s psychiatrist stating that removing the pig would cause “significant emotional distress,” the board declared potbellied pigs pets.

The ruling applies only to unincorporated Pima County. Laws in cities and towns vary.

Though they might legally be pets, Ben Watkins, co-founder of Ironwood Pig Sanctuary in Pinal County, does not recommend pig ownership. The animals can be difficult to care for and are often abandoned by unprepared owners, he said.

“If all potbellied pigs disappeared, we wouldn’t be upset,” Watkins said.

The sanctuary is home to about 480 pigs, including one from an East Side resident whose neighbors complained and one from Apache Junction that was cast out by a homeowners’ association, he said.

Tucson allows up to three pot-bellied pigs per household, though they must be no taller than 23 inches at the shoulder.



Ironwood Pig Sanctuary: www.ironwoodpigsanctuary.org

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