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Pot-bellied pig at center of Akeley controversy

Heather White may have to bid farewell to Tilly due to a city ordinance forbidding pot bellied pigs. (Jean Ruzicka/Enterprise)

AKELEY - The city council here is all in a tizzy over a pig named Tilly.

The Vietnamese pot-bellied pig received a brief reprieve last week when the council couldn't agree on what to do about the pig owned by Tania Sorvisto and her daughters Heather, 5, and Danielle, 7, White.

Sorvisto has told city leaders that Tilly is litter box trained and considered a house pet.

But if the council can't agree to amend the city ordinance prohibiting farm animals - including pot-bellied pigs - from living in town, Tilly may have to pack her bags and go.

Specifically, the city ordinance states "farm animals" - including pot-bellied pigs - must be kept within an agricultural district in the city or on a residential lot of at least 10 acres.

Sorvisto's home doesn't meet those requirements and her yard is not fenced.

City leaders first learned of the pig's presence when a neighbor squealed to police.

"That's my first pig complaint in 14 years," Police Chief Eric Klein said of his tenure in law enforcement.

Council members were divided over whether the pig should be allowed to stay during a meeting last week, with two tilting toward allowing the pig lawful residence and two who leaned against it. A fifth council member was absent.

Council member Jennifer Mitchell sides with the pig, saying she thinks pot-bellied pigs are considered domesticated.

"They're sold in pet stores," she said.

Mayor Scott Vettleson and Councilor Jon Johnson, however, were concerned about setting a precedent.

"I'm concerned with possible diseases they could be carrying," Vettleson said. "This is an unknown that I feel uncomfortable with. If something happened, and we let her in, we could be held responsible."

Because the council last week couldn't come to a resolution, they voted to table the issue, allowing the family to keep Tilly pending further investigation.