Local family wants to classify pigs as pets

A small “For Sale” sign is staked into the yard of the Dostals home on South Fourth Street. The couple said if the city doesn’t change the city code to allow two of their family members to live in their home, they are moving to the country.

They don’t understand why Romi and Mari have to live with friends in Liscomb.

“They are a part of our family,” Stacey Dostal said. “We aren’t giving them up.”

Romi and Mari are micro pigs, but the Dostals consider them pets. The city doesn’t agree. City code classifies pigs, even micro pigs like Romi and Mari, as livestock.

Monday night at the city council meeting, Stacey and Tony Dostal implored the city council to consider changing the city code to accommodate animals such as Romi and Mari.

“They are basically like dogs,” Stacey said.

Randy Wetmore, city administrator, said the council will consider the change to the ordinance at its Committee of the Whole meeting Monday.

If the council is receptive to the idea of changing the code to allow animals like the Dostals’ pigs, it would have to hold three readings before the change can occur. Wetmore said the council would then have the discretion to decide when to put any changes into effect. Seldom does an ordinance change go into effect immediately after the third reading passes.

“It would be just like any other ordinance,” he said.

The Dostals are getting anxious. Their pigs have been in Liscomb for more than three weeks. They have had the pigs for 2.5 years, and as far as they knew nothing precluded them from owning Romi and Mari in the first place.

But while they were away on vacation, one of the pigs got loose. That’s when the police department told the Dostals they had to get rid of the Romi and Mari.

Tony said the pigs lay on him at night, oink at the door when they need to go to the bathroom, and eat apples and ice cream. They play. There is no reason they shouldn’t be classified as pets.

Micro pig food is not tax exempt the way livestock food is.

The couple say their neighbors love their pets and several of their friends have expressed interest in getting micro pigs. Newton changed its ordinance in April to allow miniature pigs as pets.

City code allows the residents to have pigs provided their lot is larger than two acres and the pigs remain at least 200 feet from the home, according to the City Clerk’s office. Horses receive special consideration in the code, which allows for them to be grandfathered in.

The Dostals argue that it’s not as though they are keeping the pigs for slaughter. Micro pigs are bred similar to dogs and are often used as therapy animals, and, in one case, even as a drug-sniffing animal. The pigs are spayed or neutered and cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars depending on the breed.

When the family heads to Liscomb to visit the pigs, it’s obvious they are sad, Stacey said.

“They cry,” she said. “Livestock pigs probably don’t cry. These micro pigs have emotions.”