A fifty-four year old man is currently fighting to save his emotional support pig in New York.
Wyverne Flatt got the emotional support pig, named Ellie, in 2018 to help him cope with the death of his mother and his divorce, which both occurred apart from one another in a small window of time.
Ellie is a blackco Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. Flatt told AP News that when he received Ellie in 2018, she was “about as big as a shoe.”
Today, Ellie weighs approximately 118 pounds and is knee-high in length.
Although many may not think of pigs this way, “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,” said Flatt.
In 2019, Flatt and Ellie moved from South Carolina to the village Canajoharie, located by the Mohawk River in New York state. While Flatt sees Ellie as “family,” not everyone feels the same way. Some view Ellie as simply a farm animal and a possible food source.
In October 2019, Flatt was told by the village code officer during an inspection that he was illegally housing Ellie. A local code in Canajoharie bans anyone from having a farm animal in the village.
Despite being told not to, Flatt continued to keep Ellie at his home. Flatt was not formally notified that he was violating the city code until six months later when other residents reported seeing Ellie walking around.
An attorney for the village wrote in a court filing that Ellie “is a potential health hazard” according to AP News.
The attorney for the village stated in the court filing that if “every citizen were to openly scoff at the Village zoning codes … we would live in a lawless society.”
While current guidance states that reasonable accommodations, or exceptions to things such as village codes, in order to keep Ellie, Flatt will need to prove that she provides emotional support for a disability related need.
While Flatt’s attorneys argue that he meets the standard, representation for the village disagrees. The attorneys representing the village also argue that Flatt got Ellie registered as a service animal online for a small fee as opposed to a more formal legal procedure.
While Flatt has received offers from multiple people to house Ellie in areas where it is permitted to do so, Flatt remains in Canajoharie with Ellie, hoping to fight the dispute and win. Now, the two sides will have to battle it out in front of a court.
At the moment, Flatt currently faces a misdemeanor under New York state law for violating a zoning code. Flatt was originally scheduled to appear in court on March 22 of this year. However, the trial was delayed with no official news of when the trial will be rescheduled.
If Flatt is convicted, he faces losing Ellie for good as well as some jail time.