Florida Keys

What’s that smell? Pet pig is a stinker, next-door neighbor says

Sophia the pig nuzzles up to owner Lucy Mayer
Sophia the pig nuzzles up to owner Lucy Mayer

Sophia the pig has rested her snout inside one of the most coveted addresses in Key West for several years.

But a new next-door neighbor says the Grinnell Street pig owners, Lucy and Mark Mayer, have been seriously lacking in keeping the pig's quarters clean.

The Mayers, however, in online posts that have drawn more than 900 supporters in two weeks, say their new neighbor is trying to send their Sophia packing over one instance of stink that they resolved quickly.

City Compliance officers say the Mayers have been cited twice since January for keeping a litter box "that has a strong odor and quite a bit of feces" on their front deck.

The Mayers promised to move the litter box — and the pig — to the rear deck but the neighbor says the stench remains.

Sophia's owners are due before the special magistrate who handles code violations at a hearing set for 1:30 p.m. March 30 at Old City Hall.

"The city is not trying to have the pig removed," said Jim Young, director of Code Compliance. "We are attempting to have the owners be more responsible in removing the pig waste."

The city aims for compliance, not punishment, but the Mayers could face a $250 daily fine if found in violation.

Roger Jennings, an Illinois man who paid $750,000 for a two-bedroom home on Grinnell Street last May, said this week he has no problem with the pig.

It's the odor from its waste, Jennings said, intruding on his property to the point where he and his wife couldn't sit on their front porch.

In a series of e-mails with code officer Peg Corbett, Jennings at one point says the Mayers are making progress with clearing out the pig's waste.

But when told by Corbett there is little the city can do about the pig living there, Jennings wrote, "You mean we purchase a million-dollar home in Key West and we have to put up with a disgusting smell from an old sow pig? We came down here from Illinois to get away from hog confinement buildings and smell."

Lucy Mayer said Sophia, 5, was born on Sugarloaf Key and at about 100 pounds is a teacup pot-bellied pig. It's the family's second one.

She said the code complaint comes after Jennings and his wife called the city a dozen times and also called police over the spat. The pig, which three weeks ago was moved to the upstairs apartment, is litter box-trained, Mayer said.

"One day we forgot to clean it in the morning and it became this huge issue," Mayer said Tuesday. "They're still saying to people there's odor. The pig isn't even down there."

Mayer said they've never had a problem before. Now, passersby ask where Sophia has gone, she said.

"It's a shame," Mayer said.

Key West is quite liberal when it comes to what is allowed as a pet.

The city's ordinance defines a domesticated animal as any species "dependent upon man for food and shelter, including but not limited to dogs, cats, swine, cattle, horses, sheep and goats."

The city's law, like the county's animal law, essentially means even something considered livestock could be deemed a pet.

Some clarity in the law may help, said Tammy Fox, executive director of the Florida Keys Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which has taken in homeless pigs at times.

"If we're going to have an ordinance that allows for these types of pets, we should at least consider restrictions that would protect the welfare of these animals," she said. "In some instances, it's not going to be in the best interest of an animal to be living in 200 square feet."

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