- Wyverne Flatt has been to court 13 times to protect his right to have a pet pig.
- Ellie, a three-and-a-half-year-old potbellied pig, is registered as Flatt's emotional support animal.
- His New York village has claimed that he is harbouring an illegal farm animal.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
In the midst of a messy divorce, American Wyverne Flatt fell in love with an energetic little pig named Ellie.
Ellie, a potbellied pig, was about the size of a Gatorade bottle when Flatt got her from a friend who had a litter to spare, he told Insider. He didn't realise she'd grow to weigh 100 pounds and become like a member of the family.
When Flatt moved from South Carolina to a village in New York, he couldn't imagine going without Ellie. He registered the pig as an emotional support animal in May 2020 just in case he needed to take her on a plane.
The trip went off without a hitch — Flatt ended up driving the 13 hours while Ellie dozed in the back of his truck. But when they arrived in Canajoharie, New York, they would face a legal battle that is still ongoing to this day.
The village has strict laws about keeping nontraditional pets. Namely, no livestock are allowed on residential properties in the village, so Flatt received a citation for "harbouring an illegal farm animal" shortly after he and Ellie moved in.
Flatt said the pig doesn't cause any problems: no smells, no noise, and she's content to lay on the couch. But that hasn't stopped the town from taking legal action against him 14 times. His next court date is December 14, and if he doesn't give up Ellie by then, he once again faces the threat of criminal conviction.
Ellie is a registered emotional support animal
Flatt maintains that Ellie is no farm hog — she's "just a sweet little pig" who happens to weigh more than either of his dogs and is probably twice as smart, he said.
Potbellied pigs require about the same training as a puppy, but they typically pick up on house training more quickly, according the blog Pet Helpful. Ellie was quick to learn how to use the litterbox, Flatt said, and she even seems to pick up on emotional cues, like when she snuggles up next to him after a long day.
Two different judges and a doctor signed off on Flatt's right to keep Ellie as an emotional support animal. Flatt says he has stopped taking his anti-anxiety medication since getting the pig, which helped quantify how she has helped him through the divorce and the death of his mother.
"In my world, unless you're just a really mean, cruel person that hates animals, all of your pets are emotional support animals, whether they're registered or not," Flatt said.
Flatt said his neighbours haven't complained
For the most part, Ellie hangs out inside the main house or in her insulated pen that Flatt built in the backyard.
Flatt said his neighbours haven't had a problem with the pig. "She's not looking to run away or try to break your fence or nothing like that," he said.
Ellie even gets to drink a beer every once in a while when the vet comes over to check her out or trim her hooves.
The 54-year-old carpenter also has two dogs and a couple of cats.
"The cats absolutely love her, and she loves the cats," he said. "They sleep together. They like to ride around on her back."
Even though he didn't know a lot about pigs before he got Ellie, he said she turned out to be a "very affectionate, very smart, very trainable animal."
"I'm not a crazy pig advocate," he said. "I got her and it just turned out that she ended up being somebody I cared a lot about. She's part of the family."