November 23, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
43°F
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Grafton man says neighbor shot, killed his pet pig

GRAFTON TWP. —  Larry Plas and his son Michael ran around the pond in their backyard Thursday afternoon, followed by a small potbellied pig named Dobby.

Dobby, whose short legs made it hard to keep pace, eventually gave up and went to sniff a bush, perhaps hoping to find a snack after the brief exercise.

Larry and Michael Plas often took the same run with their pet pig Snork, who also had a hankering for chocolate chip cookies and belly rubs. That is, until he was fatally shot in January after a neighbor mistook the 120-pound pig for a wild boar.

The case is now going through Elyria Municipal Court, and Larry Plas said he wants the person who shot the pig to take responsibility for the act.

“(Snork) was looking for a good time, and he got shot for nothing. He was shot for fun,” he said.

Gary Cunningham, a neighbor who lives five houses down from Plas, was charged with cruelty to animals and killing an animal for the death of Snork. But Cunningham said the pig was hostile, and he believed it was a wild boar, not a pet.

“Had I known it was somebody’s pet, I would have tied a rope around it and tied it to a tree,” he said.

Cunningham was arraigned Friday, and his attorney, James Skelton, filed a motion to dismiss the case. That hearing will be Wednesday.

“I think the whole case is odd to me. The state has a very difficult case to prove,” Skelton said Thursday. “If anything, it’s a civil matter. I would anticipate the matter to be resolved shortly.”

Although Elyria City Prosecutor Matt Mishak said he believes Cunningham is responsible for the pig’s death, questions remain about who actually shot the animal.

Cunningham’s friend, who Cunningham said shot the pig, has not been charged. The man did not return a call for comment on the incident.

A teenager Plas said he believes is responsible for the pig’s death has not been charged, either. Plas said the teen was bragging about killing the pig on Facebook, and he had posted pictures with the dead pig, but the Facebook page has since been taken down.

Mishak said Cunningham was charged with the pig’s death because he admitted to shooting the pig, and he had written an apology letter to Plas. Mishak was unaware that anyone else had been involved in Snork’s death.

“If there was another person involved in killing this pig, it would be something we would look into,” he said.

Charges were filed after Mishak determined that the pig could be classified as a “companion animal,” because the pig was kept indoors as a pet.

The shooting occurred Jan. 30 after Snork escaped a pen where he was being held outside. The pig wandered into Cunningham’s yard, approximately five houses down and a four-minute walk from Plas’ home.

Cunningham said the pig tried to attack him, and he has proof — there is a hole in his front door and his outdoor air conditioning unit is broken allegedly as a result.

Cunningham said the pig was “clapping his jaws” and charged a neighbor who was standing across the street.

“Anytime a pig does that with his jaws, claps them together, he’s mad, according to National Geographic and everything I’ve seen and read,” he said.

Cunningham said, fearing for his safety, he called a friend to come over and shoot the pig. He said he had permission to shoot the animal from Randy White, Lorain County wildlife officer.

White said he didn’t recall the phone call, however.

“Nobody called me and said, ‘Hey, this is what’s going on,’ ” he said.

White acknowledged that there is a problem with feral pigs in Lorain County, however, especially in Wellington, LaGrange and Grafton. He’s advised hunters to shoot the pigs in an attempt to eradicate the growing number of pigs that are released illegally in the area.

“It’s publicly known that we have a problem with this issue,” he said.

White said a feral pig could be mistaken for a pet pig, because all feral pigs look differently, but in general, feral pigs aren’t known to attack.

“Feral pigs, in general, want nothing to do with people, but if you corner one, it’s going to fight,” he said.

Plas said he doesn’t believe that Snork would attack Cunningham. Snork would chase him around the yard, Plas said, and he believed Snork was probably trying to play with Cunningham.

“The fact that it followed you into the home, don’t you think that it was a sign that it was a house pet?” Plas asked.

Snork was docile and lovable, according to Plas. The pig did tricks and took trips to Crystal Waters Retirement Home in Strongsville to entertain residents.

“He started coming around when he was a little piglet. So he was tiny, just like a little puppy. Residents just got a kick out of it,” said Stephanie Chambers, community program director at Crystal Waters.

Chambers, who called Snork a “gentle soul,” said some of the residents at Crystal Waters were devastated to hear about Snork’s death. Others she didn’t have the heart to tell.

“We’re horrified. We haven’t told all the residents, because that would really upset them,” she said.

Snork was buried in the Plas’ backyard, but not before the animal was butchered.

After contacting Cunningham, Plas said he wanted the pig’s body back. The pig was returned later that day by Cunningham’s friend who had gutted the carcass.

“To me, it’s as if your dog got shot,” Plas said. “I wanted to bury him.”

Plas said he’s tried contacting the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office to pursue charges on the person who actually shot the animal. A report from the Sheriff’s Office states that the matter was considered a civil one, and Plas was told to contact the courts so he could be compensated for the pig.

Plas said he isn’t concerned about money, however, and he just wants someone to take responsibility for the death. The loss of Snork has been especially hard on him, because he considers the pig a pet like any other dog or cat.

“Pigs are smart. I read a story where the average pig has the intelligence of a 3-year-old,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a stranger to pigs. You’re just a friend they haven’t met.”

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.