There are a few laws that affect pet pigs and you may have heard of some of them, but likely were not thinking outside the box to realize there are several more that may apply. You don't have to be a professor at a big University that teaches law to know that you have rules and regulations, as well as laws, if applicable. We have selected a few laws that may apply to you when you have an unconventional pet, such as a pet pig.
1. Wills and Estates Law
There was a case in NY several years back about a dog and the dog parent leaving ALL of her estate to the dog. Although contested, the family was quite shocked to find out that her will was legal and enforceable. The family contested, of course, and although they did win a portion, the bulk of her estate did, in fact, go to her dog. (If I am remembering all the facts correctly). This is an issue for a number of reasons...First, be sure to include your pig in any last will and testament you may have on file, including designation to who will care for your pig once you are no longer here to do so yourself. If you have assets, leave financial support for the care of your beloved porcine friend. Second part is to keep this document updated. It will do no good to name someone who is no longer with us. This is important for anyone who has a pet pig, but probably more-so for the rescue community who have large numbers of pigs that will need to be cared for long after they're gone. Always have back up plans for back up plans.
2. Travel Laws
We have said it before and now saying it again, you MUST check with the state you are traveling into to see what laws/regulations are in effect for pigs in that state. Some states require visible identification, some require blood tests such as brucellosis and pseudorabies before they will permit a pig to cross the state lines, others may simply require a CVI (certificate of veterinary inspection) also referred to as a health certificate. Whatever the regulations are, be sure you follow them. Click here to be directed to the USDA travel guidelines. The reason for these rules and regulations is actually to protect YOUR pig as well as other pigs from disease that can be carried over by an infected pig. This is also why the penalties are so steep for violations of these rules.
3. Zoning Restrictions
Each state is different in their ordinances regarding keeping pigs within city limits. Each county may have conflicting ordinances within the same state, but you MUST follow YOUR city/county/town ordinance. Many people have waged wars with their cities to try and have the ordinance amended to allow pigs to reside within the city limits. Some people have successfully had the ordinance changed or amended and some have not been successful. It is not worth the fight if you can find out beforehand or try and have the ordinance changed BEFORE you add a pig to your family. There is a lot of disappointment and heartbreak when you get a pig, find out the city doesn't allow pigs in the city and then have to find a new home for your beloved pet. Click here to read more about how to check and see if you're zoned to have a pig and also how you can work to change the city ordinance. All it takes is one jerk person to call and "report" you in order to get the wheels of justice moving. Do not get a pig if you have to hide it. That isn't good for you, your family or your pig.
HOA (homeowners associations) can also impact whether or not you are "allowed" to have a pig. Do not sign HOA paperwork that isn't clear on what is traditional and what is not. Sometimes the wording doesn't include or exclude pigs, but you need to be sure of what is included so you can avoid a court case to try and fight to keep your pig.
4. Divorce Law
Pigs are like our children and we will fight to protect them as such. If there are 2 loving pig parents and the possibility y'all will not live happily ever after, try to come to some kind of agreement prior to the nastiness of a divorce to determine who will retain custody of the pig(s). Pets have been included in prenuptial agreements in the past, although typically this refers to cats and dogs, we are pig people, so we encourage you to take in consideration your pigs thoughts and feelings too. Of course, neither kids nor pets can be split into pieces and distributed between the disagreeing parties to a divorce. Therefore, judges are being presented with, and many are approving, shared animal custody or visitation rights for husbands and wives, domestic partners and even roommates when they are faced with pet custody disputes.
5. Corporate Law
It can be big local news when a farmer is caught neglecting or abusing his farm animals. The local humane organizations and the animal control officer might show up and take the cattle, horses or sheep to a rehabilitator or foster home, but there usually isn’t a great deal of money involved. The situation is different, however, when some Fortune 500 company is accused of the same — that’s national news.
At one time, virtually no one had the resources to challenge a big company such as a billion-dollar, publicly held fast-food chain if one of these companies was caught treating food animals in an inhumane way. But now, very well-funded humane organizations and animal rights groups are pursuing (and winning) animal cruelty cases against these very large defendants.
And now that big-money cases and large potential jury awards have begun to revolve around animals, you can be sure that corporate attorneys are generally paying much closer attention to the precise meaning of animal-protection legislation. They want to know every nuance of these laws’ applicability to the millions of food animals under the control of their corporate clients. We see this mainly in the farming community, but there has been abuse/neglect/fraud in the pet pig world too.
6. Bailment Law
This is a legal concept that basically means that when the property of another person is placed in your hands, you have a duty to care for it and return it to its owner undamaged. For example, a "bailment" is created when a valet parks your car or when you check your luggage at the airline counter.
So, in the world of animals, what happens when Mr. Smith drops piggyy off to be groomed one morning at the local pet groomer and Mrs. Smith picks piggy up in the afternoon? There was never a problem when this happened for piggy’s first few grooming appointments.
This time, though, the pet groomer had no idea that the Smiths have become legally separated. Imagine the horror when Mr. Smith comes in to collect piggy and his pet is no longer there! The grooming business owner might not care that the Smiths are tied up in a terrible legal battle. What she should be concerned about is if she doesn’t carry bailment insurance and now has to defend herself and her business in a lawsuit lodged by Mr. Smith for his “suffering and anguish” attributable to her having relinquished his property - piggy - to someone not authorized to possess the pig. Same thing applies to boarding an animal. When you drop off your pig to be boarded for a week, you expect to return to a healthy and happy pig, what happens if thats not the case? What happens if your boarding facility neglects your pig resulting in your pigs death? They are liable.
7. Personal Injury Law
You may have the Best. Pig. Ever. BUT, if your pig is at a community event and gets agitated because some kid keeps putting their hands in its' face, your pig may headswipe or even bite...are you responsible? Of course you are.
First, be sure your pig is vaccinated against any disease that can be passed via an animal bite, like rabies to lessen the chances of something bad happening to your pig because of an accidental or even purposeful bite. Second, if your pig tends to bite, do NOT do community events! Do not set your pig up for failure by placing him/her in an environment with a lot of people if your pig is socially standoffish. Third, do stand there with your animal and remove your pig from the premises if you can see your pig is frustrated. Place signs on your pigs area cautioning people that your pig will bite if provoked. Do NOT let young children handle your pig without you being present or literally holding the pig while they gently pet the back or leg while your have a firm grip.
However, again, if your pig is not trained and socially inept, do NOT take your pig to events like "kiss the pig" or similar situations where your pig is expected to preform a service or act in a certain way for an audience. If your pig is not used to dealing with the public and seems a bit skittish, you will need to work more with your pig before having expectations of your pig being in the spotlight and being successful.
8. Property Damage
If you are a renter, this may be applicable to you. ALWAYS take pictures and do an inspection before you move in noting any areas of concern. Be sure your landlord knows you have a pig and you have written permission to have a pet pig in a rental home. There may be preexisting damage that your pig didn't do, that you are being blamed for. Pigs dig, pigs root, pigs will tear up walls and floors. Pigs will accidentally break doors where food is stored. Pigs will accidentally remove flooring when they're bored. Just know these things can happen with a pet pig and if you're visiting someone or renting a home, you may be on the line for damages as a result of your pig being in that home.
Always keep an eye on your pig in unfamiliar areas and provide enrichment to bored pigs. This will lessen the chances of destruction caused by YOUR pig and hopefully, in turn, reduce your liability in regards to damage that could be caused by your pig. Always do a routine inspection of the area inside and outside of your house to easily identify possible toxins and removal of these potentially hazardous items from your pigs environment. See our blog from last week that discusses bored pig problems and solutions by clicking here.
We’ve just touched on a few of the basic areas where animals impact the law and vice versa, but there are many others. The message here is that, in a legal sense, owning, caring for or even just interacting with animals has become increasingly complicated in recent years. It pays to be aware of the laws and what your risks and rights are depending on your role and always err on the side of caution when it comes to you and your pig. Always know what the laws are in YOUR area, protect your pig.
Our names are Brittany Sawyer and Nicole Cox and we are pig parents, pig advocates and also the authors of the "Dear Pig Whisperer" blog. Follow our blog that will feature topics to help you become the best pig parent you can be...along with some other fun things. We will also feature guest bloggers from time to time who want to share their life experience or knowledge with anyone who is interested in learning.