December 22, 2014

Elyria
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Pigs could get owner put in pokey

ELYRIA — A city woman is facing jail time if she doesn’t get rid of her two miniature potbellied pigs that neighbors contend are a smelly nuisance.

The pigs’ owner, Tammy Wilson, said the issue of the pig droppings is from a dispute with her neighbor, and she is reluctant to part with the animals, which she says are a part of the family.

Wilson and her friend, Angela Liddle, played with the 50- to 60-pound pigs named Fred and Diamond in the backyard of Wilson’s Boston Avenue home on Tuesday afternoon, feeding them potato scraps. The pigs gave snorts of approval on the food choice.

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Wilson received Fred from Liddle, who purchased the pig a year ago as a gift. Wilson purchased Diamond later in the hopes of breeding the animals for a little extra cash.

“I’ve always wanted a potbellied pig, and I’ve always wanted to breed them,” she said.

But Wilson faces the possibility of losing the animals after she was ordered by Elyria Municipal Court Judge Lisa Locke Graves to get rid of the animals by Monday. If not, Wilson will spend 20 days in jail.

The order came after the Elyria Health District contacted the city prosecutor regarding complaints of a large amount of animal droppings in Wilson’s yard. Those complaints were reported by Wilson’s neighbors, Cheryl and Wes Welton, who said they are fed up with the obnoxious odors that they say originate from Wilson’s yard.

“It got to the point where they wouldn’t pick up the poop,” Cheryl Welton said. “We’re the ones smelling it. We can’t have a cookout.”

The complaints against Wilson began Sept. 17, 2012, according to Elyria Health District reports provided by Wilson.

Elyria Health District’s Environmental Health Director David Oakes paid several visits to Wilson’s home after more than eight complaints made by Welton and an anonymous person, who Wilson said was Welton.

During a visit Jan. 28, Oakes wrote that there were “multiple piles” of animal feces, and he “had to use the sidewalk to step around it.”

Wilson was ordered to clean up the mess, and on a visit Feb. 22, Oakes noted no problems. Oakes returned several more times, and during a visit on June 9, Oakes wrote, “Ms. Wilson is trying to comply.” During that visit by Oakes, the complainant shouted from a window that the situation was worse during the time of the call, according to the documents.

Oakes said while he was not aware of any court action against Wilson, he said there were some problems at the house, but they appeared to be fixed during recent visits.

“The last few times, it wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t a big issue at the time,” he said.

He said the problems in January were enough to contact the city prosecutor, however, and a complaint was filed by Oakes in Elyria Municipal Court on Jan. 25 regarding a failure to bring the property up to code regarding sanitation.

Wilson pleaded no contest to noxious odor and property maintenance charges in Elyria Municipal Court in February, according to court documents.

On May 1, she was ordered to remove pig droppings at least once every 24 hours to avoid jail time, but after the court received a complaint that Wilson was not following through on her sentence, she was ordered to get rid of the pigs.

Locke Graves said, after testimony from a “credible witness,” it was found that Wilson had violated the terms of her suspended sentence. She said the option to get rid of the pigs was actually suggested by Wilson and her attorney.

“She can always go to jail, and she can keep the pigs,” Locke Graves said.

Wilson denied she made the suggestion, but she said she would get rid of the pigs as a last resort to avoid jail time. She said she thinks the jail sentence is unfair, however.

“I have clear proof from a city worker that I have been complying with my orders,” she said, adding that she didn’t think she had the opportunity to explain her situation in court.

She said she is having trouble finding someone to take the pigs. She said she’s contacted several Ohio animal agencies, but none have returned her phone calls. If someone doesn’t take the pigs, Wilson said she may be forced to euthanize them because of the court order.

“I really don’t want to do that,” she said. “They’re perfectly healthy and happy animals.”

The Weltons, who own a 9-year-old dog named Spanky, said they aren’t animal-haters. They just want a neighbor who cleans up after the animals.

“If you’ve got animals, you have to take care of them … There wasn’t an issue until they brought these pigs here,” Cheryl Welton said.

Cheryl Welton, who had pictures of the animal droppings, said the issue has gotten so bad that she’s been in contact with Elyria City Council and is working to push an ordinance banning farm animals in the city. According to Welton, there is no such law.

“Are we gonna have a horse in a yard? Or a cow in our yard next?” she said.

Elyria Law Director Scott Serazin said the issue of farm animals in the city has been addressed, but there is no law prohibiting them now.

“Eventually, we will address the farm animal issue, but that’s come up before and has been defeated,” he said. “The big problem is going to be, how do you define farm animals?’’

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