With pens in hand and puns aplenty, reporters went hog wild Tuesday over Tulip, a black, fuzzy 80-pound porker who gained notoriety last year when the Pasadena Humane Society filed complaints against her with the South Pasadena Police Department.
The pig’s owner, Kalyn Baker, was in court Tuesday because she did not keep the animal on a leash.
But immediately after Superior Court Judge Elvira Mitchell called her court to order, she dismissed the charges “in the interest of justice.”
An hour later, more than a dozen reporters were on hand at a South Pasadena McDonald’s to cover the celebration party Baker threw for her pig.
Nick Ut, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photographer whose picture of a naked, napalm-burned girl came to symbolize the horrors of the Vietnam War, arrived early and waited inside the restaurant.
Another photographer asked Ut if he considered shooting the mug of a Vietnamese potbelly pig to be beneath him. “No. This is fun,” Ut said.
While television cameramen tried to capture the pig on film, Ut fed Tulip her favorite snack--French fries--and gave her a hug.
“Hey, you and me were in Vietnam together,” he joked. “Remember me?”
The case began a year ago when Humane Society officials contended that Tulip’s owner allowed the pig to waddle unharnessed during their daily outings. They cited a municipal code requiring dogs to be leashed when taken for walks.
But because a pig is not a dog, the Humane Society did not have a very good case, said Baker’s attorney, Robert Marcus. And the case didn’t get any better when the police chief simply advised Baker to keep a leash handy in case she needed it.
So the Humane Society tried a different approach: In February it convinced authorities to charge Baker with “herding an animal in public,” said Steve McNall, executive director of the Pasadena Humane Society.
“But herding automatically implies more than one animal,” Marcus argued. “So none of this makes sense.”
On the books, Baker was charged with an infraction known as “running at large,” Marcus said. But running at large is defined as allowing an animal to wantonly roam the streets, which again did not apply to Tulip, Marcus added.
Later, at the victory celebration, as reporters were monkeying around with the pig, some locals looked on in disgust.
“It concerns me that [the media] should make such a fuss about a pig,” said Socorro Huerta, who often sees Baker taking Tulip for a walk. “It’s just like everything else. All the irrelevant things get attention, and everything else gets pushed aside.”
But Marcus said all the publicity helped his case.
“I think the media attention finally got someone in a position of power or authority to dismiss the case,” Marcus said.
McNall also attributed the trial’s outcome to media coverage, but he called Baker’s victory Tulip’s loss.
“I’m worried about Tulip--which I love dearly--running into traffic,” he said.
“People have made fun of this, the media sensationalized it, but all [Baker] had to do was put a cute little leash on the pig.”
To that, Baker responded: “Tulip walks better without it.”