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Local

Ordinance change allows for additional miniature pig, fostering option

Changes in the city’s animal ordinance will allow Dawn Bleeker, owner of Capitol II Theatre and its mascot Joy the miniature pig, the ability to own a second miniature pig and, if necessary, foster a miniature pig.
Changes in the city’s animal ordinance will allow Dawn Bleeker, owner of Capitol II Theatre and its mascot Joy the miniature pig, the ability to own a second miniature pig and, if necessary, foster a miniature pig.

Dawn Bleeker, owner of Capitol II Theatre and its mascot Joy the miniature pig, couldn’t be more excited following the approval changes to the city’s animal ordinance regarding miniature pigs. Bleeker will now be able to get Joy a friend and, if necessary, foster a miniature pig.

City council adopted an amendment to the ordinance redefining breed standards and examination requirements for miniature pigs and the maximum number of both miniature pigs and dogs at a residence. The changes come after Bleeker made a presentation to the council in November regarding updating the city’s regulation on miniature pigs.

“I’m thrilled the miniature pig ordinance has been updated. The current ordinance has been weighing heavily on my mind for a few years now based on first-hand experience and the educating taking place within miniature pig groups I’ve been networking with over the last five years,” Bleeker said.

Miniature breeds of pigs have been allowed in Newton since 2012. Originally, the code only allowed owners to have one miniature pig that weighs no more than 80 pounds and be no taller than 24 inches at the shoulder. The ordinance also required annual blood tests to screen for brucellosis and pseudorabies.

Following Bleeker’s presentation, Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess researched the matter and found many of her suggestions viable options for the city. Burdess found most breeds of miniature pigs will range in weight from 75 to 200 pounds with some reaching 350 pounds. Most miniature pigs reach mature size at 2 years of age, though continued growth will occur in future years with the pig’s weight being greatly influenced by diet. Typically, the average height is less than 24 inches, but some may exceed this measurement by a few inches.

“We removed the height and weight requirement and broadened it to allow a veterinarian to say, ‘yes, this is a mini pig,’” Burdess said. “With that verification, knowing that it could get up to 200 pounds, it would be allowable in the city.”

By not defining a height and weight standard, the city is allowing a licensed veterinarian to identify and recognize the breed standards of a miniature pig and distinguish the pig from other types of pigs. It is also lessening the likelihood of an owner underfeeding its animal to keep it within the regulations and potentially causing issues to the animal growing to its mature size.

“We reached out to a number of veterinarians in both Newton and Grinnell and the Iowa Pork Council,” Burdess said. “Even though the pork council is involved in more of the meat productions, they have expert veterinarians that work in the industry and had a lot of good feedback on the pseudorabies and brucellosis.”

After talking with the experts, Burdess recommended the city remove the requirements of an annual blood test for pseudorabies and brucellosis. He said they recommended an initial test be completed but any follow up would not be necessary since the pig will not be subjected to hog lots.

The final part of the ordinance pertaining to mini-pigs is the allowable number on a property. The city has raised that number to two, with the option of foster an additional pig for a period not to exceed 90 days.

“Pigs are social animals and some pig owners have found it advantageous to have more than one in their home,” city administrator Matt Muckler said. “There are also instances where a pig may need to be fostered due to unhealthy or unfit home or other reason. In these circumstances, it is better for the miniature pig to temporarily go to a home where caretakers have knowledge and experience with miniature pigs and is more advantageous than sending the pig to a pet shelter or rescue center.”

While researching the code involving pigs, city staff found the ordinance on the number of dogs allowed on a property resided in the city’s zoning ordinance relating to kennels. In order to keep the kennel language intact and bring clarification to the number of dogs allowed on a property, a maximum number of dogs allowed of three was added to the animal ordinance code.

While Bleeker is very happy with the code changes, she said she isn’t in a hurry to get another miniature pig.

“I’m waiting for a miniature pig to come along that has the perfect personality to become a certified therapy pig. Plus, I need it to be warmer out, so I can slowly introduce the pigs to each other outside in a neutral territory,” Bleeker said. “I’m sure Joy will need time (and space) before she’ll allow another pig to share the spotlight.”

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or jpierson@newtondailynews.com

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