Residents push for pet ‘mini pigs’ in Tavares city limits

Tavares — Karma, the 2-year-old momma pig, loves to lounge on the couch and watch her favorite movie: “Kung Fu Panda.”

“She’ll watch that on the computer for hours and hours and hours,” said James DuMars, 38, who recently moved from Mount Dora to Tavares, where city code says it’s unlawful to keep livestock in city limits.

But he and his girlfriend, Robin Donnelly, 52, say their “mini-pigs” aren’t farm animals, but pets.

This week, Tavares City Council members directed staff to draft a rule change allowing up to two pigs per residence. The public can comment before council members take a final vote at an upcoming meeting.

If approved, Tavares would join Kissimmee and Orange County in allowing piggies as pets.

“This is for a pet, rather than for sausage and pork chops,” council member Kirby Smith said. “If we have an ordinance, it would specifically be for mini-pigs.”

Mini-pigs weigh 50 to 160 pounds, whereas farm pigs can weigh much more.

If the ordinance is not approved, Karma and her son, Mr. Pigglesworth, will have to move out.

“I know it’s a huge pain to have to find a place,” council member Amanda Boggus said. “But if he’s really a part of your family, that’s what you’ll do.”

She and council member Bob Grenier said during Wednesday’s meeting that they were hesitant to change rules for the city of 16,000 just for Karma and Mr. Pigglesworth.

Many couldn’t help snickering, but acceptance of the pigs as pets wasn’t universal.

“I’m against the pigs,” said Tavares resident Diane Aten, adding that it doesn’t improve the city.

About 20 cities in Florida allow smaller swine as pets — the American Mini Pig Association calls this “the era of the pet mini pigs.” Cities including Winter Park, Tavares and Leesburg prohibit them in city limits. Orlando only allows farm animals in agriculture zoning districts.

Unaware that Tavares council members had been discussing their future, Karma and Mr. Pigglesworth noshed on Cheerios and rolled in the mud in the backyard of the home DuMars and Donnelly share.

“C’mere booger, c’mere booger,” Donnelly called to Karma, whose tail was swinging to and fro like a dog’s.

“We got her trained in three days,” said DuMars, who manages a Hardee’s. “If she doesn’t go outside, she’ll use the litter box.”

Karma came to them by accident. The couple’s cat, Whinnie, was killed and they rescued a roaming pig of the same colors, sparking their interest in porkers.

After a while — and “out of respect” — they stopped frying bacon and pork in their home.

“Now, we didn’t stop eating it, necessarily,” DuMars said.

Learning to take care of pigs took some adjusting, he said, but they eventually became part of the family.

“Dogs, they look up to us; cats, they look down on us,” DuMars said. “But pigs, we’re equal.

“All they want is a place in the household.”

jruiter@orlandosentinel.com or 352-742-5927.