An Arkansas man has asked a judge to decide the fate of his arthritic pet potbellied pig, Joker.
Less than a week after Wilferd Kallhoff, 78, moved to a subdivision in Mountain Home, Ark., police told him the pig had to go because the city prohibits hogs and other farm animals, the Baxter Bulletin reports.
A trial is set for June 29.
Joker, a Swedish potbellied pig who weighs about 200 pounds, is a well-mannered pet, Kallhoff tells Paw Nation. He spends his days inside a four-foot-high chain-link pen in the backyard, sleeps on blankets in the garage, and never barks, bites or leaves the property. The animal likes children, especially when they feed him popcorn, and never wallows in mud, Kallhoff said. He never eats table scraps (being limited to popcorn, bananas and pig feed).
"I'm not saying he smells perfect, but he doesn't smell any worse than a dog does," Kallhoff said.
Kallhoff spoke with an official at City Hall to make sure his pet was allowed before moving to Mountain Home a few weeks ago from the city of Salem. "She said you can't have hogs," he said. "It doesn't say anything about potbellied pigs. She said 'As long as nobody complains, I guess it will be OK.'"
But Kallhoff had barely moved in when a neighbor reported the pig in the yard to City Hall. The police gave him five days to find Joker a new home.
Mountain Home Police Chief Carry Manuel said the law doesn't differentiate potbellied pigs from hogs or make an exception for pets.
"In this part of the country, hog and pig are basically the same thing," he told Paw Nation. "We have to act accordingly through points of law, and it's prohibited by city ordinance."
Joker, the runt of his litter, has been with Kallhoff since birth in California, when Kallhoff and his late wife, Myrtle, had a business raising and selling pet pigs.
"He was just so cute, he became one of the family," Kalhoff said.
The pig used to sleep in the dining room -- each night, Kalhoff would cover him with blankets like a child -- but these days, Joker sleeps in the garage because Kalhoff's lady friend would prefer not to have the pig in the house.
As pot-bellied pigs have grown popular as pets, owners in several states have succeeded in getting zoning laws changed to allow them, according to Pigs4Ever.com, a site for potbellied-pig owners. In 2008, city leaders in Kissimmee, Fla. struck a compromise between owners of Vietnamese potbellied pigs, and their neighbors, by enacting a limit of two potbellied pigs per household, with the requirement that the pigs must be kept indoors.
Mountain Home Mayor David L. Osmon was sympathetic to Kallhoff's plight but said there was nothing he could do unless the City Council decides to change the law, which has been on the books for decades.
"If the City Council wants to change that law, I'll sign the ordinance," Osmon said.
In the meantime, Kallhoff says he won't second-guess the judge, but he worries what will happen to Joker. While losing the pig would be "like losing a child," Kallhoff said, he can't pick up and move again.
"If he tells me I have to get rid of him, I guess, as bad as it will hurt, I'll have to do it," Kallhoff said. "I would probably have to have him euthanized because I don't think anybody would take care of him the way I do."