In an earlier blog post we discussed a zoning case from Lebanon County, Pennsylvania that involved the keeping of ducks as emotional support animals on a residential property.  In that case, the zoning hearing board determined that the ducks were permitted on the property as pets and that the keeping of ducks as pets was not an agricultural operation as alleged in the enforcement notice.  Last month, a zoning hearing board in a York County, Pennsylvania municipality was asked to determine whether the keeping of pot-bellied pigs as emotional support animals on a residential property is permitted.

According to an article published in the York Daily Record, a family acquired two pot-bellied pigs as emotional support animals for their son.  The family also has two dogs and three cats, and all the animals live in the house with the family.  The family received an enforcement notice from the municipality that alleged that the keeping of pot-bellied pigs on a residential property in the municipality’s Residential Medium Density District was “animal husbandry” which is only permitted in the Agricultural District.

The municipality’s zoning ordinance defines the term “animal husbandry” as the “care, raising and keeping of livestock (animals such as cattle, sheep and swine) and poultry.”  The term “livestock” is also defined in the zoning ordinance as any “wild or domestic animal of the bovine, swine or sheep family.”  Animal husbandry is only permitted in the Agricultural District and is specifically prohibited in residential zoning districts.

The hearing on the appeal highlighted the difficult zoning ordinance enforcement issues raised when certain types of animals could be considered as either pets or as livestock or farm animals.  According to the article, the Pennsylvania Livestock Association told the family that pot-bellied pigs are not considered to be livestock.  Pot-bellied pigs are considered by many to be pets.  Just ask the North American Pet Pig Association.  However, if pot-bellied pigs are part of the swine family then they would fall within the zoning ordinance’s definitions of “livestock” and “animal husbandry” and would not be permitted in a residential zoning district.

One option for municipalities to consider would be to clearly define what types of animals are permitted as pets so that there can be no confusion over what types of animals can be permitted in a residential district.  Here, the municipality does not define the term in the zoning ordinance.  Rather, there is a separate animal ordinance which defines the term “household pet” as any “dog, cat or other small animal normally and ordinarily kept in or permitted to be in the dwelling of its owner.”  If the governing body of the municipality determines that pot-bellied pigs should be permitted as pets, then the definition of “household pet” should be amended to specifically include pot-bellied pigs.

This case serves to highlight and emphasize the need for municipalities to continually review and update their zoning ordinances to reasonably accommodate and regulate new and emerging issues and uses.   Please contact any member of the McNees Wallace & Nurick Land Use Group with questions regarding this post or for assistance with any land use issues.