JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Two potbellied pigs, seven chickens and one neighbor’s complaint. A local family is upset they have to get rid of their animals for being out of compliance with the city of Jacksonville.
The homeowner tells Action News Jax he didn’t know he needed to have a permit or exception. He said he has owned the pigs for nearly four years and the chickens for over two, saying they’re family pets.
He said there has never been a problem in the several years of owning them until now and he doesn’t believe it’s fair they’ll be taken away.
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“They’re my pets and I don’t want to get rid of my pets,” owner James Leverock said.
Leverock said his family has lived in the home for roughly 30 years and they were grandfathered in. Leverock said he has never had any issue until someone filed a complaint to the city and he received his first violation.
His violation says a zoning exception is required for animals other than pets in a residential low-density district, requires him to remove the two pigs and indicates that he needs a permit for the hens.
Action News Jax looked up the city of Jacksonville’s ordinance code, which says residents can keep up to five chickens with a permit.
A city ordinance to have pigs as pets says residents are only allowed to own purebred miniature Vietnamese potbellied pigs, or sus scrofa vittatus, that are registered with a purebred registry that’s recognized by American Care and Protective Services.
The pig must also only be kept to provide human companionship.
It says residents are not allowed to own more than one potbellied pig per acre or portion thereof, and no more than two potbellied pigs.
Leverock said that considering he has had his pigs for so long, the fact that he was unaware of the rule and how nobody had ever complained before, he believes it’s wrong he must immediately get rid of them.
“I don’t want my pigs to die,” he said. “They’re my pets, just because they’re labeled a pig doesn’t make them different than a dog.”
Concerned neighbor Constance Snavely said she was the person who filed the complaint, claiming she saw a chicken get mauled by a dog on a walk once and doesn’t think these types of animals should be in a residential area.
“It’s clear what they’re going to do with those pigs, they’ve got smokers around in their backyard,” she said.
Action News Jax asked Snavely if it was a fact or an assumption that they put the pigs in smokers.
“It is an assumption, but what else do you do with thousand-pound pigs in an 8×8 pen with smokers nearby?” she said.
Leverock denied the claims that the pigs would go in the smoker, called it ridiculous and said his family would never do that. He also said a chicken didn’t get mauled by a dog and that their family’s chickens aren’t allowed on the same side of the yard as their dogs.
Neighbor Ariel Beese says their family loves the animals and has never been bothered before.
“I think it’s a little sad because they’re going to have to basically give up a family member,” Beese said. “I do understand the code and regulations, nobody wants to be against the law but I certainly haven’t complained.”
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Leverock said he’ll do anything to keep his beloved pets.
“I think we should be able to keep our pigs. I’m willing to pay for a permit and pay for a course,” he said.
Neighbors like Beese said they’ve never seen the chickens go into anybody else’s yard. They also told Action News Jax they didn’t even know the Leverock’s pigs were in the backyard because they’re so quiet.
The Leverock family told Action News Jax they’ll be taking courses, working to get a permit for the chickens and are hoping they get an exception for their pigs.
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