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Town of Akeley says family's pet pig won't be sent packing

Heather White will not have to bid farewell to Tilly after a city ordinance forbidding pot-bellied pigs failed on Monday. Jean Ruzicka / Park Rapids (Minn.) Enterprise

AKELEY, Minn. - Thanks to a split vote last week by city leaders here, Tilly the pot-bellied pig may continue to call Akeley home.

The council approved on a 3-2 vote changing the city's ordinance to allow pot-bellied pigs to be classified as domesticated animals, meaning Tania Sorvisto and her daughters, Heather and Danielle White, 5 and 7 respectively, will be able to keep their beloved pig.

Tilly's plight came before the Akeley City Council in May when the city's police chief reported about the animal living in town. He'd received a complaint about the pig living in town and told the council about it at its May meeting. At the meeting, Councilor Jennifer Mitchell championed Tilly's cause and made a motion to change the city ordinance to make it legal for Tilly to live there. But the motion died with a tied 2-2 vote, with one council member absent.

However, the council did agree to table the issue until this month so that everyone could study the issue.

Meanwhile, the pig was allowed to stay at owner Sorvisto's home until the council made a decision. Now Tilly can stay permanently.

Despite Mayor Scott Vettleson's argument that other area cities don't consider pot-bellied pigs as pets, the issue passed during the council's June meeting held last week.

Mitchell countered that many cities do consider pigs domesticated, and so does the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In fact, she said, the Minnesota Department of Tax Revenue charges sales tax for their food.

"In the government's eyes, they're not considered farm animals," she said.

City Councilor Cliff Johnson, who voted to allow Tilly to stay, said he sees more problems with dogs than he does with pigs.

"I see a lot more dogs than pigs running around," Johnson said, noting lizards and birds are more disease-ridden than pigs. "I have no problem with this if it's licensed and kenneled."

And so, while Sorvisto's daughters had to endure a bit of a civics lesson as the council discussed other business before taking up the issue of Tilly during last Wednesday's meeting, ultimately they were pleased with the outcome.

Tilly is slated to participate in Akeley's town festival, Paul Bunyan Days, later this summer.