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Md. county says potbellied pig has to go

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Gwendolyn, a potbellied pig about 20 years old, has been a resident of Berwyn Heights nearly her entire life. But after county officials learned of the pig, her owner, Pat Brown, received a notice saying the animal violated the zoning code and had to be removed.

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By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 1, 2010

Forget swine flu. There's a new pig going viral, and her name is Gwendolyn.

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The potbellied pig, about 20 years old, has been a welcome resident of Berwyn Heights nearly her entire life, says her owner, Pat Brown. But after Prince George's County inspected Brown's house recently, it was determined that the porker violated the zoning code and had to go.

Brown, a nationally known criminal profiler and cable news denizen, has appealed the order and sounded the horn for support. She has been on local television, contacted the National Enquirer and started a Facebook page in December aimed at stopping the "pigsecution" of her beloved pet.

The Facebook page is titled "Save Criminal Profiler Pat Brown's Pet Pig, Gwendolyn!" It has more than 2,000 fans.

"She is a geriatric pig," said Brown, 54. "I think the law is ludicrous. . . . My neighbors love Gwendolyn. . . . It's not an issue with anyone except a bureaucrat sitting behind the desk."

Brown received a zoning violation notice last month citing an ordinance that prohibits keeping "any animal that is not customarily a household pet" in her residential zone, language that Brown says is hogwash.

Thomas F. Matzen, deputy director of the county's Department of Environmental Resources, which sent the violation notice, said the county has reviewed this issue before. In the early 1990s, two attempts to get potbellied pigs codified as residential pets failed in the County Council, he said. Matzen also said the county would take no action until the appeal has been resolved, which, depending on whether the matter lands in court, might not be until late this year.

"I think there has been a question of, is a pig a part of a 'customary household pet,' and I don't believe that it is," Matzen said.

Matzen said Brown could apply for a special exception to keep the pig in her home -- a long, costly option Brown said she never knew was possible and would probably take longer than Gwendolyn has left to live. Experts say most potbellied pigs don't live past 15.

Rodney C. Taylor, chief of the county's Animal Management Group, said his agency investigated Brown's home after receiving an anonymous complaint, identified Gwendolyn as a potential zoning violation and referred the matter to zoning enforcement officials.

Taylor said Brown's situation is fairly rare, but the county has made residents remove pigs in the past.

"They love to be in mud, love to be in water, they love to root," Taylor said. "They need to be on a farm where they can really enjoy being a pig."


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