Local News

New ordinance would let pot-bellies inside the house

— If a proposed ordinance is adopted, pot-bellied pigs may be redefined as household pets.

That suits Rick Haberman, who owns ChinaDoll Farms on Butler Road, east of Avon Park. But it doesn’t solve his problem.

At a 3 p.m. Tuesday meeting at the County Government Center, Highlands County Planning & Zoning Commission will discuss whether to recommend a new ordinance to the county commissioners.

Haberman appeared before the Highlands County commissioners in May, seeking relief from Code Enforcement.

On a 10-acre mini-ranch near the Air Force bombing range, Haberman raises miniature goats, horses and Zebu cows.

“Everything is miniature. The pigs are about the size of a football,” Haberman said.

“These extremely intelligent animals are easy to train and housebreak,” says www.chinadollfarms.com. “They are clean, loving and more fun than a barrel of monkeys. From $85.”

However, two years ago, a neighbor complained about ChinaDoll’s operation. Highlands County allows any number of horses or cows but restricts pigs, chickens or goats to three, even on farms.

“It took (Code Enforcement) a year to investigate, and by then the neighbor had moved,” Haberman said. “They were going to write a citation, but they put it on hold because they were going to rewrite the ordinance. Then another year went by, and they wanted me to get rid of the animals or I would be fined.”

That’s when Haberman appealed to the county commission.

However, commissioners can’t legally grant a variance, County Attorney Ross Macbeth said in May. However, Haberman’s code enforcement case was set aside while the matter was referred to P&Z.

“Technically, I’m still in violation, but so are a thousand others. My neighbors — there are probably 40 or 50 farms around me in violation. It’s a stupid ordinance. I can have 150 cows, but I can’t have three goats, sheep or pigs.”

If a farm is properly prepared and kept, “You can’t smell the farm from the next house,” said Haberman, who also runs a petting zoo.

The proposed ordinance would allow “one pure-bred pot-bellied pig,” neutered or spayed, weighing 80 pounds or less, “in a one-family dwelling.”

“The area where the pot-bellied pigs are kept must be cleaned of feces and urine and sanitized daily,” the ordinance proposes. “Upon request from Highlands County, the owner shall verify pedigree providing purebred lineage and a veterinarian’s certificate, renewed annually, that indicates the pot-bellied pig’s weight and that the pot-bellied pig has appropriate vaccinations and is free from parasitic disease.”