Texas Family Can Keep Their Porky Friend

     (CN) – Every pig has his day. For the Vietnamese potbelly pig Wilbur it was Monday when a Harris County judge ruled he could stay home with his family, and stopped a homeowners association from evicting him.
     Alex Sardo bought Wilbur as a Christmas 2010 gift for his wife Lee Ann “Missy” Sardo.
     “I have this thing about pigs,” Missy Sardo told Courthouse News in October while the case was in discovery. “I don’t know why, I’ve just always loved pigs.”
     Wilbur, 7 weeks old when he came to the Sardos’ home in Spring, Texas, outside of Houston, quickly became a member of the family.
     “He slept in the bed with us until he got too big,” Missy Sardo said. Goldie, their golden retriever-Labrador mix “just loves him,” and so do the Sardos’ teenage children.
     The Thicket at Cypresswood Community Improvement Association homeowners association sent the Sardos a letter in April 2011 saying they had violated its rules after neighbors complained about Wilbur.
     The HOA gave the Sardos 30 days to get rid of Wilbur last July and threatened them with a $200 fine for each day they kept him, claiming he is livestock and against its rules.
     The Sardos sued the HOA on Aug. 30 seeking a declaration that Wilbur is a “household pet,” and not a violation of the HOA’s deed restrictions.
     The Sardos’ attorney, Mitchell Katine, who specializes in HOA law and has done so for 25 years, wrote in his request for declaratory judgment: “Wilbur is a household pet and not ‘livestock,’ as demonstrated by the following:
     “A. The definition of ‘Livestock’ refers to animals raised in an agriculture setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. Potbelly pigs are not raised for food, fiber or used for farm labor.
     “B. The State of Texas assesses taxes to the purchase of potbelly pig chow because such chow is not considered by the State of Texas as livestock feed.
     “C. Potbelly pigs are sold in pet stores, not livestock auctions.”
     But citing its rules which define household pets “as “domestic animals commonly and traditionally kept as household pets and shall not include any wild, semi-wild, or semi-domesticated animal,” the HOA insisted Wilbur had to go.
     Harris County District Judge Mike Engelhart ruled in Wilbur’s favor Monday finding his breed is clearly considered a domestic pet, and not used for commercial purposes.
     “Katine said Monday’s ruling marked the first time a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig has been recognized as a pet in court, but it also set a precedent to let homeowners associations know they cannot micro-manage their residents,” the Houston Chronicle reported.
     Katine said he knows of only one other pot-belly pig previously involved in litigation in Texas, and that dispute was resolved by a statue of limitations.
     The owners were able to keep the pig because it had lived in the neighborhood beyond the four-year statute of limitations before the community said anything about it, Katine said.
     Katine said he doesn’t expect the HOA to appeal.
     “They haven’t indicated that and I hope that they don’t,” Katine said. “I’m really hoping this is over.”
     Katine said he’s working on submitting his attorney’s fees for approval by the HOA now, and if it objects there will be a hearing on the matter.
     A message left with the president of the HOA’s management company asking if it plans to appeal went unreturned as this article went to press.

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