Festus city officials have told Deborah Buff of Festus that she will be fined if she keeps Princess Pickles, her pet pig, at her home on North Ninth Street.
Buff, 44, had urged the city to change its policies regarding animals so she could keep her 1-year-old mini potbellied pig, but city officials decided against changing the municipal ordinance that prohibits exotic animals, wildlife or livestock, City Administrator Greg Camp said.
Buff, who said Princess Pickles is a pet and not livestock, said city officials told her over the spring to get rid of her pig.
She said she was not aware that pet pigs were not allowed in Festus until she received the notice from the city.
On July 22, Buff pleaded her case to the Festus City Council, asking them to change their rules so she could keep Princess Pickles, describing her as a companion animal that has helped her through a traumatic year and provides emotional support to her 13-year-old son, Aiden Perry, who has special needs.
City officials said they would look into the matter, but ultimately decided against changing the city ordinance and have informed Buff that she must find a new home for Princess Pickles by Oct. 17 or face a fine of $250 per day for violating the ordinance.
“No, I’m not happy about this,” Buff said. “I feel it’s unfair. My pig is not hurting anything.”
Camp said when all was considered, Festus leaders decided it was in the city’s best interest to leave the ordinance on acceptable animals alone.
“Much of the discussion revolving around Ms. Buff and her pet pig has centered on words like fairness and compassion,” he said. “While we certainly feel for Ms. Buff and what her family has been through in the preceding months, we, as city leaders, cannot stop there – we are entrusted with the care of our entire community and are expected to do that in a fair and compassionate way.”
He said city leaders believe altering the ordinance to allow pet pigs would be the wrong move.
“After consideration of her request, feedback from Festus residents and consultation with cities that have considered potbellied pig ordinances, the city is not amending the ordinance to accommodate Ms. Buff,” Camp said.
He said the city was made aware of the pig when a citizen filed a complaint about it in March. Buff was given until May to comply with city code, at which time she was issued a citation for a violation, Camp said.
“By city code, specifically Section 205.050, no animal defined as exotic, wildlife, poultry or livestock shall be permitted to be owned or harbored by an individual in city limits. By definition, a potbellied pig is considered livestock,” he said.
Buff said Princess Pickles causes fewer problems than dogs and other more common pets and said neighbors she had spoken with said they had no qualms with her keeping the animal. “It’s like havinga dog, only quieter,” she said.
Buff said her psychiatrist has registered Princess Pickles as an emotional support pig.
“I am not just going to give up my pig,” she said. “I need her for emotional support. I am not going to abandon her.
“I’ve always been one of these optimistic people who feel everything will be all right. I hope everything fits into place by the 17th.”