News Local

Victoria man fights to keep his pigs

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Mike Downey and his 'kids'. 

Mike Downey and his 'kids'. FACEBOOK PHOTO

A Victoria man says he’s been given an ultimatum by city hall to remove his potbellied pigs from the municipality, as having farm animals as pets are prohibited.

Mike Downey has had his “kids” — that’s how he affectionately refers to his pigs — for about two and a half years in a Victoria West group home where he runs a day care focusing on special needs children.

In a lengthy Facebook post, Downey described how he paid about $2,000 to have the pigs OK’d by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, but ended up being told by Victoria City Hall that they were not permitted.

In an interview, Downey said the pigs became an issue after animal control was called one day when one of his pets wandered outside the home's gate — and a neighbour began complaining of the smells emanating from the pets' washroom area. 

He even relocated the pets at one point, before the city told him he could keep them at his home until Sept. 30. 

"I'll do whatever it takes in order to keep my pets, I want to stay close to my family and I want to be able to stay in the same house to look after the people I look after," Downey said. 

"Not be forced out because I have a pet that people like to eat."

Victoria’s animal control branch referred questions to its director of legislative and regulatory services, who did not respond by press time.

Anna Pippus, director of farmed animal advocacy with Animal Justice, said she was contacted by Downey to help persuade the city to change its mind.

“I don’t think their (the city’s) hands are tied, I think the goal of their legislation is to prevent people from turning the city into a farm,” she said.

“But potbellied pigs are not normally raised for food, they’re strictly considered pet animals ... you can go to Whole Foods or certain grocery stores and get rabbit meat, but you can also go to the shelter and adopt a rabbit — it’s the same for potbellied pigs.”