America is a country that loves to argue. Chocolate vs. vanilla. Democrat vs. Republican. Imported vs. domestic. When it comes to the choice of a pet, though, things can get especially heated. Though the debate between dog versus cat will probably rage until Judgment Day, most people who come to love an animal, no matter what the species, would be ready to fight if their pet was threatened. Little Rock resident Jyll Latham says she plans to do just that for her small Vietnamese pot-bellied pig named W.P. Sooie.
With an exemption for ownership of pot-bellied pigs in a section of the Little Rock municipal code that prohibits keeping hogs in the city, it would seem Latham's petite porker would have the law on his side. Animal Control and the Little Rock city attorney, however, say that no matter how big the pig, it falls under the category of "livestock" and has to go. It will be up to a judge to decide on May 8.
Latham has owned W.P. Sooie for 10 months. At 58 pounds and about the size of a medium-sized dog, he fits right in with the other pets Latham owns. He wears a collar and a leash, loves miniature marshmallows and sits on command. Latham has pictures of Sooie perched on Santa's lap at Christmas, and said he was housebroken much quicker than any pet she's ever owned.
"He's smart," Latham said. "He likes people. ... He went tailgating with us last September. People just love him. They usually do a double take and say: 'Oh, God! It's a pig!' He'll grunt at them, and he's just as happy as he can be."
Latham was a renter when she purchased Sooie. She said that prior to buying her pet she researched the Little Rock municipal code, and found that the prohibition on keeping hogs in the city has an exemption for pot-bellied pigs. Confident that she could legally have the pig in the city limits, she bought the tiny swine. When she decided to move earlier this year, Latham said, she knew she probably couldn't find another apartment that would allow her unusual pet, so she bought a home in a neighborhood north of I-630 near Barrow Road, and moved in at the end of March.
Right away, Sooie picked a spot in the backyard to do his unmentionable pig business — beside a chain link fence that's less than fifteen feet from the back door of Latham's neighbor, Donald Rawls. Rawls told Arkansas Times that the smell was an issue almost immediately.
"I don't have anything against the pig," Rawls said. "I want her to clean up after the pig. First month she lived here, she didn't do too good of a job of that."
After trying several methods to keep the pig away from the fence, Rawls said he asked a friend who was going to the Little Rock City Board meeting to inquire whether there was an ordinance that could be enforced. Rawls said that's the only inquiry he has made with the city regarding the pig. He said it was never his intention to have Latham's pet removed from her home.
"I didn't know there was any kind of regulation that said she couldn't have a pig," Rawls said. "I'm not up on pig law."
Latham said that the first Little Rock Animal Services worker who came to the house looked over the yard and Sooie, then gave her an all-clear to keep him. Believing the issue was settled, Latham said she didn't get that worker's name. Then, on April 5, Latham got an enforcement notice from animal services, stating that she was in violation of the city ordinance regarding "Keeping of Prohibited Animals," with a notation reading: "You have 7 days to remove your Pig out of city limits or we will." On April 24, an animal services officer returned, issuing Latham a citation for violation of city ordinance 6-43, which deals with "Keeping of Livestock." The citation compels her to appear in the Little Rock District Court's Environmental Court on May 8.