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Pigs OK in Sierra Madre, not in Seal Beach

Sierra Madre allows Neil the pig to remain in town. Seal Beach adopts an anti-pig law.

November 03, 2013|By Steve Marble
  • Katherine Emerson gives a kiss to Neil, her 17-year-old Vietnamese potbellied pig, at their home in Sierra Madre. City officials recently ruled that Neil is a pig and not a hog, so he will not be evicted.
Katherine Emerson gives a kiss to Neil, her 17-year-old Vietnamese potbellied… (Mel Melcon, Los Angeles…)

Lucky for Neil he lives up by the foothills, and not down by the seashore.

The corpulent Sierra Madre resident recently escaped eviction when the tiny town's police chief decided that Neil was actually a potbellied pig, not a hog.

Which was a good thing for Neil, because hogs are illegal in town.

Any of Neil's relatives enjoying the good life down in Seal Beach, however, may be in for a different fate.

The Orange County beach city this week adopted an anti-pig law, adding it to the list of animals that are illegal to keep. Hogs — along with goats, horses, cows and mules — were already banned in the city limits, "regardless of size, kind or sex."

Neil, a Vietnamese potbellied pig, had apparently been in hog heaven rooting around in the backyard of Katherine Emerson's Sierra Madre home until an animal control officer peeked over the fence one day. The officer was in the neighborhood to check out reports that another resident had a rooster, also illegal in town.

The pig, incorrectly labeled a hog in the officer's report, was marked for certain eviction until residents and fans started up a social media campaign. Whether he knew it or not, Neil suddenly had his own Facebook page and Twitter account.

Eventually, the city's police chief intervened, ruling — after much study, he said — that Neil wasn't a hog at all. Just a perfectly legal pig, albeit a hefty one.

"He gets to stay the iconic symbol of Sierra Madre," Police Chief Larry Giannone declared.

The good news rippled through town and a planned "Save Neil" protest quickly morphed into a celebration instead. One person suggested the now semifamous pig be named the grand marshal at the city's Fourth of July parade next year.

In the meantime, Seal Beach has definitely been scratched off Neil's vacation itinerary.

Steve.marble@latimes.com

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