Harry Houdini Parker is not your average 2-year-old pet.
He’s potty trained, will dig in just about anything and loves to snuggle, even at 75 pounds. He’s also protective of his owner, doesn’t shed and can easily adapt (like the one time he learned to open the fridge).
Though it may sound like it, Harry is not a dog — he’s a miniature pig.
“Everyone at work always talks about their kids and has pictures of their kids,” she said. “I have him.
“Harry is my little guy, he is my man.”
Katie Parker, 23, bought her pet when he was just 3 weeks old. About three months ago, she was notified by Animal Control and Rescue that he was considered “livestock,” and it was illegal to keep him indoors.
She was asked to move Harry at least 100 feet from her home and pay a fine. But because Harry is bred as an indoor house pet, he would not have survived the winter outside.
“That was the biggest, most traumatic thing to happen in my whole life,” Ms. Parker said. “I knew I had to get something changed and get him recognized.”
So the pharmacy tech began to make calls to city leaders and provide literature to Animal Control and Rescue on miniature pigs. She worked with city staff to draft an ordinance, which was passed unanimously by the City Council on Monday.
Holly Bowie, manager of Animal Control and Rescue, said her staff researched ordinances in other communities, and found they had no outstanding problems with pigs as pets — nor did they have an overwhelming population of the animal.
“It was really reassuring for us to continue with this ordinance,” Ms. Bowie said, adding there’s only two or three pigs that she knows of in St. Joseph. “I’m sure we’ll see a small increase in the population of pot belly pigs, but I don’t expect it to be overwhelming.”
Locally, the city decided to allow one Vietnamese pot belly pig or other similar miniature pig per household. The animal cannot reach more than 120 pounds and must be spayed or neutered.
They also must be tested annually for pseudorabies, a disease that can be passed to other animals, and brucellosis, a disease that can be passed to humans.
When Harry was first brought home, he could fit in the palm of his owner’s hand. He is now full-grown at 75 pounds, though Ms. Parker admits he’s a bit more loved. The typical pig of his breed (Juliana) grows to about 60 pounds.
“He’s a chunker and he might be a little fat, but that’s because I spoil him,” she said. “He’s really easy to take care of and really sweet.”
Ms. Parker said while she recommends the animal to those who may ask — she maintains they’re easier to take care of than dogs — she also advises people to research their behavior and needs. There’s now multiple miniature pig rescue organizations across the United States because most owners don’t realize how big they grow.