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Council approves pet pig ordinance, making Mitchell a hog friendly city

"Everyone wants to say pigs are clean, pigs are smart. They absolutely are. But what also comes with that intelligence is the need to be stimulated. They have to be entertained,” said Jenna Scheich, a pet pig owner who urged the council to proceed with caution before adopting the ordinance.

Ace, a miniature pig, is kid favorite at Birds of a Feather Pet Boutique and Lounge. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Ace, a miniature pig, sits at a Mitchell boutique.
Republic file photo
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MITCHELL — Mitchell became a pet-friendly city for pigs on Monday night.

After a pair of pet pig owners offered much different views on the city’s ordinance proposing to allow Mitchell residents to house one pet hog, the Mitchell City Council had much more knowledge on what the ordinance could look like prior to making a decision.

Heading into the meeting, the council heard positive remarks in support of pet pigs from Rachela Dirksen, a new Mitchell resident who has a pet hog that prompted the council to consider adopting the ordinance. Dirksen touted her pet pig, Bruce, as “very smart” and well-behaved.

Jenna Scheich, an area resident who lives near Mitchell with a pet pig, had a much different outlook on allowing pet pigs within city limits. While Scheich didn’t dispute Dirksen being a great pet pig owner, she indicated there are plenty of pet hog owners who don’t provide that same level of care and training for the animals.

“There are some pretty big decisions being made pretty quickly upon the impression given by one pig. Everyone wants to say pigs are clean, pigs are smart. They absolutely are. But what also comes with that intelligence is the need to be stimulated. They have to be entertained,” she said.

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Scheich claimed roughly 90% of pet pigs in the U.S. are re-homed before they reach 2 years old due to what she said is people “not realizing what they are getting into.”

“Reasons being the size, they can become aggressive and the zoning laws,” she said during the council meeting.

According to Sheich, veterinarians in South Dakota treat pet pigs as farm animals. And that causes problems when it comes to neutering and spaying pet pigs, she said. A condition of the city’s ordinance states pet pigs are not permitted for breeding purposes.

“I don’t know there is a vet here that will fix female pigs. Pigs are a breeding agent at 4 months old. Even though you’re not allowing them to be bred, what happens when they are not,” Sheich said.

As part of the regulations in the city’s hog ordinance, a pet pig cannot exceed 200 pounds and will be subject to the same animal nuisance codes like other pets such as dogs. Scheich said it’s common for pigs to rapidly grow in size. She addressed a concern about what would happen if a pet pig exceeds the 200-pound limit?

“Where do these pigs go when they are too big?” Sheich implored.

Dirksen didn’t disagree that there are neglected pet pigs that can become problems, however, she emphasized there are dogs, cats and a myriad of other animals that aren’t properly trained and cause problems but are still allowed to reside in the city.

“Bruce is a domesticated animal who has been trained. He’s not a wild animal. Yeah, there may be that one that isn’t following all the rules and guidelines, but it would be just like that annoying dog behind the fence. I shouldn't have to suffer for somebody else's irresponsibility,” Dirksen said.

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Council member Jeff Smith said he’s heard mixed support on allowing pet pigs in Mitchell since the ordinance was introduced in early October, and he noted it’s worth giving it a try.

“I’ve heard from both sides, with some saying we should or why would we want to bring farm animals into town? I'm willing to try this out,” Smith said.

Although Dirksen assumed pet pigs were allowed in Mitchell when she moved, she learned it wasn’t the case. Rather than issuing Dirksen daily fines for housing the pet pig, Mayor Bob Everson waived the fines until the council makes its decision on whether pet pigs are allowed as a pet in city limits.

During the first reading of the ordinance in early October, Mitchell Police Chief Mike Koster had no issues with adding pet pigs to the city’s animal ordinance, noting they would be regulated in the same type of fashion as dogs are.

After hearing different perspectives on the pet pig topic, the council unanimously approved the ordinance to allow one pet hog per home.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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