Hempfield family fights to keep pet pigs
Pot-bellied pigs Lyla and Ivan sleep in an empty kiddie pool lined with blankets in the basement of a suburban Hempfield home. They snack on Cheerios and sunbathe in a fenced-in section of the backyard.
Residents Morgan and Carri Fait say the pigs are beloved family pets and should be treated as such — but the Hempfield Township Zoning Hearing Board isn’t so sure.
The Faits got a letter from the township in April, telling them to get rid of their pigs.
The Faits had just moved from one Hempfield home to another, on Fosterville Road.
The letter said the pigs violate a township ordinance prohibiting animal husbandry on residential properties.
Morgan Fait said Ivan and Lyla pets, not farm animals, so the rule shouldn’t apply to them.
“They live in our residence, they’re our family,” she said. “I’m not breeding them, I’m not raising them to eat them.”
The Faits spent $1,000 to appeal their case to the township zoning hearing board Tuesday.
They brought plenty of evidence in an attempt to demonstrate their point — 16 letters of support from current and former neighbors, a photo collage of the pigs, veterinary records and letters from a doctor designating the pigs emotional support animals.
Board members weren’t convinced.
“It’s not an average animal, you don’t drive around and see pigs on the side of the road,” said Chairman Ward Goughenour.
A pig is a pig, not a pet, regardless of how they’re treated, and the Faits should have checked the rules, said zoning officer Len Dellera.
“They’re a swine,” he said. “They’re a pig to us. And the township doesn’t have a list of pets.”
Lyla and Ivan are both about two years old. They’re both rescues, taken from families that didn’t know what they were getting into when they tried to raise a pet pig, Morgan Fait said.
They’re about 100 pounds each, and slightly larger than a bulldog.
“I just don’t understand what the problem is, it’s a pet,” said Gabby Skillings, a friend and former neighbor of the Faits.
The Faits live in a suburban neighborhood, with neighboring houses about 30 feet away on either side.
“What harm are they doing to anyone, why are they anyone’s business?” Carri Fait said.
Several people testified on the pigs’ behalf Tuesday— including veterinarian Craig Hill, who is Morgan Fait’s boss, and animal shelter owner Debbi Bowers, who gave Ivan to the Faits.
One person testified against the animals — Donna Ross, the Faits’ neighbor.
She said she loves animals, but pigs belong on a farm.
“Where does it stop?” she asked. “Truthfully. What if I get a goat? And I went to the doctor and said this is my therapy goat.”
Much of the hearing was spent arguing about the difference between a pet and a farm animal.
“You don’t eat dogs and cats,” Goughenour said.
“You don’t eat these animals either,” Morgan Fait replied.”
“Well I know some people who do,” Goughenour said.
Lyla and Ivan’s fate has not been decided. Testimony was closed Tuesday, but board members plan to visit the Faits’ home unannounced over the next few weeks to see the situation for themselves.
They will rule at next month’s meeting.
Morgan Fait said no matter what happens, there’s no way she’s parting from her pigs.
“Wherever they have to go I go, I’m going with them,” she said.