Decision expected July 6 on Canal Winchester emotional-support pig
Canal Winchester City Council is expected to decide the fate of a 30-pound Juliana pig at its July 6 meeting.
However, any council action might be moot because Charlotte no longer is staying with her owner, Courtney Elliott, who told ThisWeek Canal Winchester Times she and her husband have sold their residence on Sarwil Drive South and plan to move July 10.
"Charlotte is now at my parents on 13 acres with a barn, and we visit her every day," Elliott said. "She tries to follow my car when we leave ... but we will be together all the time soon enough."
Swine generally are prohibited in the city and permitted to be kept only on property zoned "exceptional use" for agricultural farm animals, but Elliott appealed the zoning violation given to her in March because she said Charlotte is an emotional-support animal that helps her cope with severe depression and anxiety.
Elliott did not attend the June 15 public hearing in which council members heard her appeal of the zoning violation, but her neighbor, Kathryn Santore, did.
"Swine are extremely destructive animals," Santore told council, describing how Charlotte had "rooted" under a chain-link fence and onto her property.
In a May 20 letter to council members, Santore outlined more complaints and has provided photos of damage to the fence.
"The swine next door to me is outside, unattended and roaming the yard for over 12 hours per day," she wrote. "I have observed it using the bathroom wherever it pleases (both urine and other excrement), especially along and urinating through the line fence that separates the properties.
"This waste is not collected by the owners for weeks at a time or is absorbed into the ground, leaving it exposed to rain, which collects along that fence, causing the waste and any diseases/parasites that could be contained in it to leach over onto my property which can present a health hazard for myself as well as my dog."
Elliott first appealed to the city's planning and zoning commission, which unanimously upheld the violation, and then to City Council.
She provided a note from her physician, which explained how her "quality of life is improved with this animal and the presence of this animal is medically necessary to help mitigate the symptoms she is currently experiencing."
State law provides for some protections for "animal assistants" that perform specific tasks, such as a guide dog for a visually impaired person or a monkey that retrieves items.
A 2019 Ohio Attorney General's Office newsletter discussed such animals but did not specifically address municipal ordinances.
"Another type of animal assistant is the 'emotional-support animal,' " the newsletter states. "This type of animal does not perform a task but nevertheless provides a therapeutic benefit to the person with a disability by simply being with the person. Thus, 'animal assistant' is an umbrella term encompassing both 'service animals' and 'emotional support animals.' "
During the June 15 hearing, several council members questioned how Charlotte is providing emotional support if she is outside more often than inside.
Councilman Bob Clark, who recused himself from the hearing because his property on Old Meadows Court is "10 to 15 yards" away from Elliott's residence, testified as a citizen.
"I have a Florida room, and I can see her entire yard from there," Clark said. "I've seen this animal roam 24/7. I've never seen anyone come by and touch it and pet it or anything. I'm not saying it didn't happen. I just have not seen any interaction with this animal."
Council Vice President Mike Coolman said he often walks his dog past Elliott's home.
"It doesn't matter what time of day, we've always seen the pig," he said.
Elliott painted a different picture of Charlotte in a letter to the city.
"She lives in my house and only goes outside to use the restroom," she wrote. "She is not bothersome like a dog who barks all the time. She doesn't cause harm nor could she attack or bite anyone like a dog could. ... If I was to lose Charlotte, this would be devastating to me!"