Vietnamese potbellied pigs are about to be granted legal status in Monterey Park.
The City Council last week unanimously gave preliminary approval for residents to keep the miniature pigs as pets, one per household. The council is scheduled to take a final vote on the proposed law Sept. 10.
The pigs, which can weigh from 30 pounds to close to 200 pounds, are short and black, have bristly fur and sport round little bellies that hang almost to the ground.
Like many cities, Monterey Park had banned all types of swine, as well as cows, sheep and other farm animals. But city officials have decided the law is hogwash when it comes to potbellied pigs, which are smaller and more unobtrusive than their larger pink cousins.
Monterey Park council members were adamant about keeping the door closed to all other livestock.
"Hogs will not be permitted," Councilwoman Marie Purvis said. "Please don't run out and buy a hog."
Other cities are not so flexible in their treatment of miniature pigs. La Habra Heights, which allows farm animals in general, will permit a family to own a pig only on a lot of at least 20,000 square feet. Gerald and Kathleen Hartinger, who raised two miniature pigs on a 17,000-square-foot lot in the city, have said they'll move rather than surrender their pets.
Los Angeles residents are not allowed pigs of any kind unless the pigs are penned on land zoned for agriculture.
Known scientifically as Sus scrofa bittatus, the Vietnamese potbellied pig can be housebroken, Monterey Park Police Capt. Jim Strait said. Strait consulted with local animal control officials before recommending that the law be changed.
"It's a new fad to have miniature pigs as pets," Strait said. "They're very cute. You can keep them in the yard like a dog, train them just like a dog. You can teach them to come. They're supposed to be smarter than dogs."
They're also very expensive: $1,500 for a male, $5,000 for a female, Strait said. "It's not the kind of thing you'd just barbecue and eat," he added.
Consider Arnold, a 1-year-old potbellied porker who lives at the Monterey Park home of Sally McComb, sister of Fire Chief Allen E. McComb.
Arnold's favorite pastimes are splashing in a portable pool on a hot summer day, snuggling under his electric blanket when it's cold, and eating grapes and dog food, Fire Chief McComb said. He even shares a doggy door with the McCombs' German shepherd, Gretchen.
"Arnold has become attached to me," he said. "The pig, my nephew and myself celebrated our birthdays together."