Eli the pot-bellied pig being moved to home in Ontario

The pig at the centre of a bylaw battle over pets in Sherwood Park is being shipped off to Ontario after a judge ruled he could not stay at home.

Family will continue fight to allow pigs as pets in Strathcona County

The get-together was the first -- and possibly last -- time Eli's supporters got to meet the pig in person. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Eli the pot-bellied pig spent what could be his last day in Sherwood Park napping on a cushion in the afternoon sun, surrounded by dozens of his closest supporters.

The popular pot-bellied pig has been at the centre of a bylaw battle with Strathcona County for over a year.

The county considers him livestock. His family says he's a pet.

The family was ticketed for keeping livestock in a residential home in 2014, which they fought. The case worked its way up to provincial court.

In May, a Court of Queen's Bench judge sided with the county, saying Eli could no longer live in the home. The family was given three months to get rid of the pig.

"There are dark nights where it feels pretty lonely .. but there has also been a lot of light from the positivity that people have given us," said Michelle Kropp, Eli's owner.  

Left with no other choice, the family will leave for a roadtrip early Sunday morning to drive Eli to a foster home in Coe Hill, Ontario.

There, Eli will stay with two other pigs — including Sparky, a former animal actor who starred in commercials for Telus. Kropp said they hoped to find somewhere closer to their home, but Coe Hill seemed to be the best fit for Eli.

Saturday saw a going-away party of sorts. Eli's story had attracted a lot of support from people on social media, so Kropp decided to invite many of them to meet the pig for the first time.

"It's interesting to get to meet people that you only knew their name on Facebook," she said.

"They feel there is an injustice and they want to help. And their help is truly appreciated"

Brenda Kambouroff didn't know the Kropps or Eli before hearing about their plight online. She became touched by the story and soon became a supporter.

Kombouroff came from her home in St. Albert, eager to meet Eli in the flesh.

"He doesn't seem to be problematic, whatsoever. He's seems very calm, low-key," she said.

"I felt sorry for the family. I really feel bad for the kids, mostly. They have to have their pet go elsewhere."

Fight for Eli not over

It was a bittersweet afternoon for Eli's owners. Kropp's daughter, Maggie, said that while the family will miss him, she's pleased that he'll get the chance to live in a home with other pigs.

"He means a lot. If he goes, there will be a lot of tears. But we chose a good place for him."

While Eli might be destined for rural Ontario now, the family hopes the retreat will only be a temporary one. Strathcona County's animal control bylaw is under review in the fall. Kropp will push to have it changed to allow pot-bellied pigs as pets.

She said she's supportive if the county requires greater fees or more scrutiny for the owners of exotic pets — as long as she has a chance to bring Eli back home.

"This is planned to be temporary, absolutely."