A New Jersey court ordered a Somers Point woman to get rid of her pet pig Sheldon for violating a city ordinance against keeping “livestock” on residential property.
Morgan Slaughter rallied Sheldon’s Facebook fans asking them to support her keeping the animal because she acquired the 32-pound African pygmy pig before the city code added pigs to the list of banned pets.
A Somers Point ordinance states that "no person shall own, keep or harbor a potbelly pig, poultry, or other livestock within the City,” banning chickens, geese, ducks, and pigeons, as well as sheep, goats, horses, and other livestock creatures.
When Slaughter received a notice of a code violation in the mail last fall she ignored it. Slaughter says before September 2013, there was no specific rule against owning pigs as pets. She bought Sheldon in April 2013. He is domesticated, plays with Slaughter’s 5-year-old son, walks on a leash, is housebroken and uses a litter box.
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"I think it is personal. I think it’s a power thing, to prove a point. And it’s unfortunate to see them playing small town politics like this," she told NBC Philadelphia.
A judge ruled she could keep Sheldon and would be grandfathered in because she acquired him before the ordinance was amended to include pigs, but she would have to apply for a $750 variance for misuse of property.
Slaughter didn’t pay.
“There was really no violation in the first place," she argued. "They accused me of generalized misuse of property, but nowhere is the municipal code at that time did it say having a pet pig wasn’t allowed."
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When Slaughter finally applied for the variance she was told she needed a $400 property survey and a list of names and addresses of everyone who lives within 200 feet of her property. In total she says she spent $750 for a variance application, $500 on city engineer escrow, $400 on property survey and $100 on tax.
Nevertheless a judge ruled Tuesday that Sheldon would have to be removed from her home or face a $1,000 fine each day he remains in her home.
“I’m so overwhelmed right now I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said on Wednesday. “I have 20 days to appeal, but I don’t even know what I’d be appealing. We’ve had people who live on farms offer to take him, but he’s not used to that sort of life. He’s used to cuddling on the couch.”
She posted her tearful goodbye to Sheldon, who will now be living with a foster family in a temporary home, on his Facebook page, according to PressofAtlanticCity.com.
“I have my very first broken heart,” she wrote on Facebook. “Tonight will be the first night Sheldon is forced out of his home. I am severely ashamed to be a resident of the town of SOMERS POINT."
“I am thinking a 150 (pound) vicious dog that will be taught to bark and attack on command will be our next family pet as that will be legal in your eyes, while our harmless, sweet, loving pig is the apparent terror of the town!” she added.