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New Yorker’s fight to keep his emotional support pig could end up in court

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A man in New York state is fighting to keep a pig he says is his emotional support animal.

Wyverne Flatt has a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig called Ellie and he says the animal is family to him.

However, officials in the village of Canajoharie in New York state say the pig is a farm animal being kept illegally.

Wyverne Flatt who is fighting to keep his pot-bellied pig Ellie as an emotional support animal poses for a photograph at his home Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Canajoharie, N.Y. Village officials consider Ellie a farm animal, and not allowed in the village. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)
Image:
Wyverne Flatt says his pig Ellie is smarter than his dogs and can sense when he needs a snuggle. Pic AP

The village’s legal battle with Mr Flatt, 54, could go to trial next month but his fight has already caught the attention of animal welfare activists, who say the animals should be respected more as companions instead of being eaten.

The 110lb (49.9kg) pig helped Mr Flatt through a divorce and the death of his mother, he said.

“I could never dream of giving away somebody who’s part of my family,” Mr Flatt, who also have two cats and dogs, said.

“She’s very smart. She’s more intelligent than my dogs. I think she can kind of hone in on you when you’re feeling bad because she’ll want to come in and snuggle with you.”

Wyverne Flatt who is fighting to keep his pot-bellied pig Ellie as an emotional support animal poses for a photograph at his home Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Canajoharie, N.Y. Village officials consider Ellie a farm animal, and not allowed in the village. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)
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Officials in the New York village say the pig is a risk to public health. Pic AP

‘Breaking the village code’

Mr Flatt was living in South Carolina when he got the pig in 2018 when she was “about as big as a shoe”.

Ellie and Mr Flatt moved to Canajoharie in 2019.

A village code officer told him that he was housing Ellie illegally in October 2019 and six months later Mr Flatt was notified he was violating the local code, barring farm animals in the village.

Wyverne Flatt who is fighting to keep his pot-bellied pig Ellie as an emotional support animal at his home Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Canajoharie, N.Y. Village officials consider Ellie a farm animal, and not allowed in the village. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)
Image:
Mr Flatt’s lawyers say Ellie has helped their client cope with his divorce and the loss of his mother. Pic AP

Mr Flatt believes authorities are picking on his pig and several neighbours have signed documents saying they like Ellie.

Threat to public health

Mr Flatt’s lawyer argues that his client meets the village’s test, saying Ellie allowed Mr Flatt to get off medication and cope with anxiety.

Mayor Jeff Baker said the board has no comment while the court case in pending but a lawyer from the village wrote in court filings that the pig is a potential risk to the public health hazard.

She argued that if “every citizen were to openly scoff at the village zoning codes … we would live in a lawless society”.

Authorities said in court documents that while they are willing to make reasonable accommodations, Mr Flatt has never met the standard required to keep the animal.

A trial was scheduled to start on 22 March but has been delayed.

If guilty, Mr Flatt could face jail or have Ellie taken away from him, his lawyer said.

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