Man with emotional support pig protests Canajoharie village animal law
Wyverne Flatt has had Ellie, a potbellied pig of about 100 pounds, since she was a piglet. Flatt, 54, now a resident of Canajoharie village, said he had Ellie five years ago when she was a piglet small enough to fit in his hands. Flatt, who came to upstate New York from Charleston, South Carolina, says the pig has helped him get through some tough times in his life.
âAt the time, I was going through a bad divorce,â Flatt said. âAfter I got her, my mom passed away and she was with me all the time. She is smarter than a dog, she is very affectionate.
But for the past two years, Flatt says he has been engaged in a legal battle with the village of Canajoharie, which has an animal law prohibiting residents from having “farm animals” and “domestic cattle.”
The village council held a public hearing Tuesday evening on its proposed animal law, which would essentially clarify the current animal law, according to the mayor.
âIt would reaffirm our status in 2021,â said Mayor Jeff Baker. âWe update the codes periodically to keep up with changing times,â he said.
The case is being filed in Palatine City Court, and Baker said he could not comment in detail due to the ongoing legal dispute.
The proposed update of the Animal Law states that a “wave of violations of the current provisions of the Animal Law requires the clarification of village policy and aims to add consistency to the application of the provisions of the code relating to animals â.
The law says: âIt is illegal for any inhabitant of the village to keep, harbor, breed, breed or sell, or allow to live or reside on or in its premises, any animal other than ‘a legally authorized pet. He continues: “No farm animal, domestic animal or domestic livestock will be allowed in the village.”
But Flatt maintains that Ellie is a pet and emotional support animal, not a farm animal. While speaking in the hearing, Flatt was visibly agitated, raising his voice and pointing his finger.
In contrast, the village council remained silent during Flatt’s testimony, refusing to provide any explanation or comment, even when Flatt asked them to do so. At several times, the meeting room – which was reserved for people standing with people filling the doorway – was silent during pauses of nearly a minute.
Outside the boardroom after his testimony, Flatt was still passionate.
âMy pig lives inside. She’s broken house. She goes in and out at will. It has an exterior house which is fully insulated. She’s got warmth, âsaid Flatt. âShe gets on the couch with me. She will watch movies. She’s going to snuggle up. He is the most affectionate pig you have ever seen. I love this pig to death.
Flatt said if the pig was a nuisance or causing an inconvenience, he could understand the village’s complaint.
But the neighbors love Janet Stanley, owner of Lee’s Shops in Wagner Square, said she never had a problem with the pig.
âI never felt it, I never heard it. I didn’t even know it existed until all this hubbub in town started, âStanley said. âHe’s a pot-bellied pig. He’s not going to butcher a pig for bacon. It is a pet. It is a support animal for him.
Stanley said if Ellie was a different animal it would be a different story.
âI don’t want to have pigs in Canajoharie. I don’t want to have chicken coops. But I don’t see where they can classify a pot-bellied pig like cattle. ”
Flatt says he filled out papers to classify Ellie as an emotional support animal.
âYou have to fill out some papers. It’s a process, âhe said. “I showed the doctor’s notes where I left the anxiety medicine [with Ellieâs help]. ”
But in the end, the decision will be made in court. Flatt’s next hearing is Tuesday, December 14. Flatt says this will be his 14th court appearance on this issue, and he estimates he has spent 100 hours of his personal time battling the case. Yet he does not back down.
âI’m never going to get rid of my pig. I think they’re going to have to go through a jury trial. I think they violate my civil rights, âFlatt said.
He said he will continue to fight in court, even if the process is a bit ironic.
“My goal of having this pig is to be stress free, and all [the Village Board does] it’s stressing me out.
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.