Why Sheldon the pig might be evicted from his home in the suburbs

Diane Hines is fighting to keep her pet pig Sheldon despite neighbour complaints. She says pet pigs are cleaner than dogs and simply misunderstood.

The pot-bellied pet is without a license and the city is considering its removal

Diane Hines is scared she may lose her beloved pot-bellied pig Sheldon over a bylaw dispute with the City of Hamilton. 

A recent complaint from a neighbour forced the 43-year-old to apply to get a license for the 80-pound pig, but due of a bylaw change in 2012, she was denied. Now, she's pleading with the city to allow her pet pig to stay.

We don't have kids. This is what we live for.- Diane Hines

"They're not farm creatures," she said. "He's not a barn animal by any means. They're extremely intelligent, very emotional."

Sitting in the backyard of her East Hamilton home, she pets Sheldon, a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, and describes how she may end up losing him because of what she calls "outdated" city bylaws.

Walking around the fenced-in yard of her suburban home — Sheldon following along behind her — she points out the fruit and vegetable plants growing specifically for Sheldon. She said her pet pig is quiet, kind and smart. Dogs, in comparison, are louder and much more dangerous, she said, questioning the purpose of the bylaw.

Hines and her partner, Jay House, were given Sheldon as a piglet in 2011. At the time, he was very sick. Hines said she spent more than $6,000 in the first 24 hours of having him, trying to save his life. 

Bylaw change

Diane Hines and her pot-belly pig, Sheldon, play in the backyard of their Hamilton house. (Chris Seto/CBC)

The city's prohibited animals bylaw was changed in 2012, forbidding the ownership of Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs without a valid license. After this change, new licenses for pigs were no longer issued but licensed pigs at the time were grandfathered in.

Hines said in 2012, she was too focused on keeping Sheldon alive to worry about licensing, and they never got it done.

Now that the pig is finally back in good health, he faces being removed from his home because he doesn't have a license. Hines said a neighbour recently filed a complaint with the city, prompting her to push for a license for Sheldon.

If the pig is removed from her home, it's unlikely he'll survive, she said. Because of his past health issues, he's on a strict diet of fruit and vegetables. If he doesn't get the proper mix of food, his health issues could return.

'Please don't give up fighting'

Jay House applies sunscreen to Sheldon the pig in the backyard of his Hamilton home. (Chris Seto/CBC)

Hines said she's working with Brad Potts, who is with the city's animal control services, to find some way to can keep Sheldon at their home. By gathering documents that prove when the pig first came to the city, she said she's hoping to get enough information to get him a license.

But even if she gets a license for him, Hines said she won't stop there. "We want to keep going to change the law back to the way it was."

People freak out when they find out Sheldon sleeps in bed with us, and it's like, he's cleaner than a dog.- Diane Hines, pig owner

Hines has started a petition online, requesting the City of Hamilton change the bylaws around keeping these pigs in the city. So far, the petition has 687 signatures.

"So many people have contacted me since I started this petition saying 'I'm heartbroken. I was forced to give up my pig. Please don't quit fighting.'"

People seem to think pigs are dirty or loud, but that couldn't be further from the truth, she said.

"People freak out when they find out Sheldon sleeps in bed with us, and it's like, he's cleaner than a dog. He can go wherever he wants in the house."

'This is what we live for'

Sheldon the pig lies down to nap in the shade at his Hamilton home. (Chris Seto/CBC)

If the city decides to take Sheldon away, Hines said she will just move him to London, ON. to stay with a friend until she can sell her house and move to another community that accepts pot-bellied pigs. She said she and her partner have been looking at moving to Guelph, Fergus or Elora.

If the city allows Sheldon to get an updated license, Hines said this would give her and her partner more time to search for a property outside of the city to support the animal hospice they run. Currently the couple runs Lazy Dazy Animal Haven Hospice out of their home, but are limited by city bylaws with to the number of animals they can take in. Besides Sheldon, they have three other dogs.

"We don't have kids. This is what we live for," she said.

Chris Seto | @topherseto