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Going Hog Tame : Residents Can Keep Vietnamese Potbellied Pigs as Pets

TIMES STAFF WRITER

They’re short and black, weigh less than 100 pounds, and they’ve got round little bellies that hang almost to the ground.

They’re Vietnamese potbellied pigs, and they are about to be granted legal status in Monterey Park.

Like most urban communities, Monterey Park bans all types of swine, as well as cows, sheep and other farm animals.

But city officials have decided the law is hogwash when it comes to potbellied pigs, which are smaller and more unobtrusive than their much-larger farm cousins.

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So the City Council this week unanimously gave preliminary approval for residents to keep the miniature pigs as pets, one per household. The council is scheduled to take a final vote on the proposed law Sept. 10.

Council members were adamant about keeping the door closed to all other livestock.

“Hogs will not be permitted,” Councilwoman Marie Purvis said. “Please don’t run out and buy a hog.”

Known scientifically as Sus scrofa bittatus, the Vietnamese potbellied pig ranges from 30 to 90 pounds--about as big as a medium- or large-sized dog--and can be housebroken, Monterey Park Police Capt. Jim Strait said.

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Strait consulted with local animal control officials before recommending that the law be changed.

“It’s a new fad to have miniature pigs as pets,” Strait said. “They’re very cute. You can keep them in the yard like a dog, train them just like a dog. You can teach them to come. They’re supposed to be smarter than dogs.”

They’re also very expensive: $1,500 for a male, $5,000 for a female, Strait said. “It’s not the kind of thing you’d just barbecue and eat,” he added.

Consider Arnold, a 1-year-old potbellied porker who lives at the Monterey Park home of Sally McComb, sister of Fire Chief Allen E. McComb.

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Arnold’s favorite pastimes are splashing in a portable pool on a hot summer day, snuggling under his electric blanket when it’s cold, and eating grapes and dog food, Fire Chief McComb said.

He even shares a doggy door with the McCombs’ German shepherd, Gretchen.

“Arnold has become attached to me,” he said. “The pig, my nephew and myself celebrated our birthdays together.”


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