Nicolle Burrell with Ruby, her pet pot-bellied pig

A Fort Mill woman is petitioning the town council to change an ordinance to let her keep a pot-bellied pig as her family pet.

Nicolle Burrell has had her “pet mini pig” for almost four years at her home on Myers Street without any issues from her neighbors, she said. But she recently received a letter from code enforcement claiming a violation of a town ordinance making it unlawful “for any person to keep or maintain any hog, chicken or other fowl within the town.”

Burrell said the town gave her 15 days to get rid of her pig, Ruby. She got an extension of a week to let her take the case to the town council, which is scheduled to meet Monday night.

Burrell argues that the ordinance that refers to “hog” was written in 1984 before pot-bellied pigs were introduced into this country. She plans to present her case Monday and request an amendment to the outdated ordinance.

Ruby, a pet mini-big owned by Fort Mill resident Nicolle Burrell (Contributed photo)

“When this was written, the only pigs that were present were in fact just swine and hogs,” Burrell told the Fort Mill Sun. “Zoning laws at that time were simply to cover farm animals and livestock (hence the term used: HOG) which weighed up to 800 pounds and are much different than the companion domestic pot bellied pig. My pot bellied pig, Ruby, is fully grown, the size of a medium dog and the mere weight of 120 pounds.”

Burrell said Ruby is not a hog. She is a family member.

“Ruby is my baby,” she said. “I am heartbroken over this entire situation and am going to do everything I can to keep Ruby in the only home she has ever known.”

The Fort Mill resident said she is not sure why the town made an issue of Ruby. But Burrell recently had a problem with a guy who came over to check her air conditioner, and she suspects he reported her pig.

Meanwhile, she has been gathering letters and petitions signed by neighbors in the Sharon Hills neighborhood. She says they love Ruby and come to visit her regularly.

Background. Burrell moved to Fort Mill from Northern New Jersey in 1997. She is a single mother of an 11-year-old girl who attends Banks Trail Middle School.

Several years ago, Burrell wanted to grow the family. Previously, she had dogs of all sizes and didn’t want another one. After lots of research and talking with people, the mother and daughter decided on a pot-bellied pig.

“They are similar to a dog in some ways but very different in others,” she said. “They are extremely intelligent, can learn all sorts of tricks, are very mild tempered, are hypoallergenic, don’t smell at all and don’t shed on an ongoing basis.”

According to Burrell, Ruby is spayed and up to date on all vaccinations. Ruby’s favorite past times are napping in the sun, belly scratches and eating the bird seed that falls from the bird feeder, Burrell said. The pet owner is a member of the American Mini Pig Association, she said.

“Pot bellied pigs and their people have a bond that benefits people and communities everywhere,” she said. “It teaches compassion, instills a sense of responsibility, prevents loneliness and depression, provides comfort to those with Autism and PTSD. They are recognized and registered as emotional support animals and are used in schools, hospitals and nursing homes to provide entertainment and comfort to everyone young and old.”

From Nicolle Burrell: “Here she is as a spectator at the Fort Mill Christmas parade. I apologize to anyone that was in the parade, but she stole the show. Everyone loved meeting her and learning all about her. When we are out in public we stop to answer everyone’s questions and try to talk to as many people as we can about the type of pet she is and the care she requires. This event showed me first hand the lack of education surrounding these amazing pets but they are so worth the time to teach everyone.”

Burrell said the thought of losing Ruby is heart wrenching.

“We need to realize this town and the world is different than it was back in 1984, heck it’s different than it was when I moved here in 1997,” she said. “It’s time to make a change. Let’s at least have something good come out of 2020.”

Greg Rickabaugh

Greg "Ricky Bobby" Rickabaugh has lived in the Fort Mill and York County community since 2006. He has covered the area while a reporter for The Charlotte Observer and a freelance writer for The Fort Mill...